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7/8/2009
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Google Chrome OS: Vaporware Or Victory?

Chrome OS, Google's newly announced operating system, isn't just a swipe at Microsoft. It's an attempt to realize the cloud computing future that Google's been predicting.

In announcing its forthcoming Chrome OS open-source operating system for netbooks and other computers, Google is attempting to create the cloud computing future that it's predicting.

Google characterizes Chrome OS as an attempt to redefine the operating system to address simple pain points: epic startup times, constant security problems, endless patching, and declining performance over time, to name a few such issues.

But Chrome OS also aspires to bring the change that Google has proclaimed. It aims to certify that the Web has become the dominant development paradigm.

Google executives have declared that "the Web has won," but the traditional desktop programming model staggers on, and it is likely to do so through a few more rounds in the ring. Despite massive improvements in JavaScript performance and Web applications, computationally intensive applications like Adobe Photoshop and high-end games still perform better as local applications than in the cloud.

That won't always be the case, or so Google believes. In an interview broadcast on public radio's Marketplace show, Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt foresees a future shaped by Moore's Law. "[I]n ten years, the computers you use, the networks and everything you use will be a 100 times faster, a 100 times more capable, or a 100 times cheaper," he said. "Think about what we can do with that kind of an insight."

What Google can do with that kind of insight is prepare for a world where software runs in the cloud. And if, in the process, Microsoft's business model gets kneecapped by a free open-source operating system that offers a better user experience and stronger security than Windows, you can bet no one at Google will shed a tear.

Microsoft, of course, hasn't been sitting on its hands while Google evangelizes the virtues of Web applications. Some industry observers see Google's operating system announcement as an attempt to steal the thunder from an upcoming Microsoft announcement, possibly related to Windows 7, an online version of Office, an experimental Web browser referred to as "Gazelle," or an operating system research projected known as "Singularity." Bing isn't the only card Microsoft has to play.

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