Yesterday, Google unveiled the first official screenshot of Chrome OS to the world, stating that it was not even in Beta stages yet… Before releasing a downloadable taster version a few hours later.
The web based OS is completely free to download, but you’ll need to run a virtualisation program in order to get it working – VMWare or VirtualBox have both been reported as working, and people’s opinions are flooding in from all over the world.
For the less geeky among you, the difference between Chrome OS and the conventional operating systems of today is an important one: ChromeOS is built entirely round an internet browser. Files are not saved to your machine’s hard drive – instead they’re stored remotely – As are the applications you’d use day in, day out. Clicking “new document” opens up Google Docs, and Googlemail is the default email of the OS.
Whether or not this can be seen as copying Apple’s often controversial control over what programs are used on their (Don’t forget, software isn’t actually installed on the machine itself) is debatable, although considering the hassle Google have recently had with their iPhone apps, it would seem a little hypocritical if that was their reasoning for creating ChromeOS in this way.
Early testers have reported that the system is fully usable in around 15 seconds (including login), which is a marked improvement on Ubuntu, and makes most Windows’ startups seem positively pedestrian, although general performance seems to range between acceptable and very, very slow – but with the current strain the servers are undoubtedly being put under, this is partially understandable. Many people have reported the system as being “rough round the edges” too, claiming that parts of the OS are buggy, and that things are vanishing after logging out and back in.
Still, this is a very early version of the system yet, so who knows what the Mountain View whizzkids will squeeze out of it between now and release, but I think the bigger question is whether they will make it compatible with a wider variety of computer hardware than it currently is – At the moment it only works with a select number of processors, and only on SSD hard drives.