Is Google Chrome OS a Windows killer? Or just a Jolicloud killer?
And that makes sense, because most of Google's applications are web-based. Think Gmail, Google Docs, Google Talk, Google Reader, and so on. Heck, even Google's desktop applications like Picasa and Google Desktop have online components.
In the official blog post announcing Google Chrome Operating System, Google also mentions that all development for the platform will be web-based. So if you want to create a new office suite or a farting application, you'll write it for the web, and the apps will be available for Chrome, Windows, Mac, or Linux.
What remains to be seen is whether Google Chrome will run any desktop applications at all. The operating system will be based on the Linux kernel, but that doesn't mean it will be able to run Linux applications like OpenOffice.org, or Pidgin.
The web-app approach makes a lot of sense for netbooks, cheap portable computers that are generally considered secondary PCs instead of primary machines. Because if your email, office documents, and other data are stored on the web, there's no need to continually synchronize your data between a netbook and your primary machine. And in fact, Google says that netbooks will be some of the first devices to run the operating system, with Chrome-powered netbooks due out in the second half of 2010.
But would you be happy running web apps as your only applications on your primary computer? Or even on a secondary machine. What happens when you're on an airplane without WiFi? Does your computer become useless?
While some folks will inevitably call Google Chrome a Windows-killer, because everything that's ever introduced clearly has to kill something else for its survival (/end sarcasm), it looks to me more like a Jolicloud killer. Jolicloud is a Linux-based, netbook-specific operating system founded by Tariq Krim, the guy behind the Netvibes personal start page.
Netvibes brings a whole slew of web and social networking-based elements to a desktop operating system. Users can install "applications" that are web-based including Meebo, Google Docs, or Twitter to their desktop. Once installed, you can launch a Mozilla Prism-based browser that will open those web apps by clicking on a desktop icon. You can add contacts to your Jolicloud profile and track what apps your friends are using.
But Jolicloud, which is based on Ubuntu, also lets you install full Linux desktop applications. You can install media players, office suites, or image editing software and use your netbook even when there's no internet connection around. Of course, by eliminating these options, Google Chrome Operating System may be able to be lighter weight, taking up less space, fewer system resources, and booting faster. But I kind of wonder whether Chrome has what it takes to best Jolicloud, let alone Windows or OS X. How far will the Google name alone take this operating system?
As The Business Insider points out, there's another challenge facing Google Chrome Operating System as well: Google's history of introducing really cool products and then kind of forgetting about them a few months down the road. Think Jaiku, Google Notebook, Google Browser Sync, Lively, Dodgeball, and the other Google services that have died in recent years.