I’m writing this after building Chrome OS from scratch and running it from a USB drive. In fact, what I built and ran wasn’t Chrome OS but instead Chromium OS. There’s a big difference not just in the name. According to Google:
Today we are open-sourcing the [Chrome OS] project as Chromium OS. We are doing this early, a year before Google Chrome OS will be ready for users, because we are eager to engage with partners, the open source community and developers. As with the Google Chrome browser, development will be done in the open from this point on. This means the code is free, accessible to anyone and open for contributions.
They close the paragraph by saying that “this is the initial sketch and we will color it in over the course of the next year”. This, I believe is the single piece of information that contains the clues to what will happen to Chrome OS.
Going back to my first experience with Chromium OS, I immediately saw a bunch of people talking about issues and problems with this first version. One of the biggest concerns was about a supposed lack of support from Google:
In addition to excellent support, which I don’t think of as Google’s specialty, users of Chrome OS are going to want their netbooks to work seamlessly and instantly with their printers, digital cameras, smartphones and more.
But Microsoft spent years trying to catch up to Apple in terms of automatic hardware detection and installation with its Plug-and-Play initiative, and Apple users will tell you that it never quite succeeded. Is Google about to find out what a huge headache it can be to support an operating system? History argues that will be the case.
I sincerely don’t agree with this concern. Here’s what I think the future of Chrome OS will be:
- Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) has a partnership going on with Google for the development of Chrome OS: “In the interest of transparency, we should declare that Canonical is contributing engineering to Google under contract”.
- Google launched Chromium OS early so that the open source community could jump in and contribute.
- In 2010, Google will launch Chrome OS (not Chromium) on a list of selected devices. This will be done with the help of Canonical, of course: “we will be working with Google on Chrome OS based devices”.
- Asus will be the first device manufacturer to officially promote Chrome OS.
- Giant HP will be next. They were already thinking about moving to Android earlier this year, so this is the obvious path.
- Many others will follow during 2010.
- Chrome OS will use Ubuntu One as its official cloud synchronization.
- Chrome OS will be official supported only on selected devices, by the device manufacturer with help from Canonical and Google.
- Chromium OS will still exist as a pure, unsupported, open source OS that anyone can use at their own risk.
So, if I’m correct, 2010 is going to be a huge year for the netbook market. Get ready!