Chromium OS is true minimalism. Some may say that their OS is the internet in a decade, but the world simply isn’t ready for Chromium OS, but everything has to start somewhere and I truly believe that Chromium OS as well as Chrome itself has a bright future ahead of it.
One of the main reasons is the sky high data prices with most people being stuck on a 1gb or 3gb plan in Europe and the USA, the two primary audiences for Chromium OS as well as the need for a consistent internet connection which just isn’t possible across many places in Europe, even within the UK where 3G coverage is still patchy in a lot of places.
Google is attempting to remedy this with an offline mode for several of the applications, but it’s at this point where Chromium OS stops being a cloud OS and starts becoming a standard OS and a very stripped down one at that with very little advantage to using it. With so many people moving from Windows to Ubuntu or Chromium OS, it seems that Linux is blossoming once again, so this gives Microsoft and Apple some healthy competition.
Some things to pay attention to in Chromium OS
Chromium is purely a Chrome browser; Every application is a web app and you need to visit the URL in order to see it and you also have to rely on that website not having any issues. Hosting your entire life in the cloud is not necessarily a good idea due to security and availability issues.
Don’t get me wrong, web applications are very clever, but at present, they simply are not yet a viable alternative to fully featured desktop applications; Especially in a laptop based scenario.
The main advantage of Chromium OS is the ‘instant on’ functionality, this means that you can start surfing pretty quickly, but this is where tablets have an advantage; You don’t have to find a surface to put them down on or even open them up.
Though instant-on is available, the time you save not going through a long boot sequence is soon lost through waiting for applications to load. 3G Internet connections are not really fast enough yet for fully featured web applications.
Chromium OS is not a suitable OS to install on a tablet at this present point in time, but the instant on functionality is where that could prove to be useful. Though it is unlikely that Google would ever push Chromium OS towards tablets as they wouldn’t want to cannibalize their Android usage. Android is a very fragmented OS and Google continue to fragment their operating system space with the introduction of Chromium which does something very different yet should be just another flavour of Android, though Google are attempting to tie the various Android devices together with one consistent OS now.
Over-the-air updates are also a big feature, but should a bad update ever be pushed out, you could have some issues for a long while.
Advantages of Chromium OS
The only advantage to Chromium OS at present is that all of your files are available from any computer with an internet connection providing that Google or said web app host isn’t having issues at the time, though you do have to question yourself; How often do you have the chance to actually utilize Chromium OS on somebody else’s computer? And why would you not have access to your own? If nobody carries around their Chromium device then the ‘lend-a-puter’ system doesn’t work.
Chromium OS can be installed on a USB flash drive and used on any computer which can prove to be very useful and a great way to keep access to your personal life with you. Though the world has yet to realise that the world will always have personal electronics. There will never be a communal system.
What does the future hold for Chromium OS?
The way of the future is in tablets, desktops and laptops. But that future is in portability and versatility. Laptops may one day be the ultimate crossover of tablet with a keyboard and trackpad shell with video out and all of the usual ‘desktop’ functionality, but that future is a few years off yet. For the next few years, tablets will continue to accompany your laptop and they will occupy this ‘instant’ space that cell-phones currently occupy. Rather than open up your laptop, wait for it to boot, connect and get doing what it is that you’re doing, tablets let you instantly fulfil that task.
Though it does shave mere minutes off the task, the fact that it can be accomplished instantly makes life a lot smoother for everybody. Replying to an email on a tablet whilst waiting for your coffee to brew or whilst waiting on a train is a big development. It isn’t just the instant on functionality either; It’s the ability of being able to stop doing what you’re doing then continue later, exactly where you left it.
After all, Chrome OS is just a browser and nothing really makes the device your own. The configurations and your data are all synced to and from the cloud.
Chromium OS probably isn’t aimed at the ‘average’ consumer, it’s probably aimed at children, internet cafe owners, silver surfers and the like. I can see Chromium OS taking off in the education system in some places, especially third world countries where software licenses are just far too expensive, but this leads to another issue; Internet connection speed and availability.
The current lack of malware for the OS is pretty big, but it would only take some cleverly written malicious script to jeopardize your entire cloud of data. As with every OS; Eventually people start writing malicious scripts for it. Ubuntu was a huge example of this where users boasted about the lack of malware and now there is a lot of it.
Chromium OS breathes life into old hardware that you don’t have a use for or the license for another copy of Windows (Or the knowledge of a Linux distro). It makes for a great ‘guest computer’.
Google Docs is not yet a viable alternative to something like Microsoft Office or even Apple iWork with pivot tables only being introduced several days ago. You can see what features are available in Google Docs through guides freely available online.
It is clear that Google is aiming at the corporate market with their Apps suite and of course Chromium OS, but for me and my colleagues, it just isn’t hitting the mark yet. Not anywhere near to it.
The major disadvantage of Chromium OS is that I can’t do anything with it whilst I’m taking the train through the underground system where there are no cellular repeaters.
This is time that I would have otherwise been using for responding to emails or doing some file organising or just something. Time that I would like to pass whilst doing something relatively constructive on a full physical QWERTY keyboard.
Vendors of laptops and desktops have now started shipping with Chrome OS preinstalled or with an option to have it installed as it is a cheap alternative to a license for Windows. This makes it possible to sell off old stock which is great for the environment as well as the electronics industry where investing in stock has previously proven to be a very risky business with hardware becoming outdated in merely weeks and then being impossible to sell.
A lot of people do live in their web browser, we at Previous Magazine aren’t those people. In fact, I use very few web applications these days; It has become progressively less and less due to advertising being on even premium services which is why I would rather purchase a piece of stand alone software that can be used offline.
Your average computer user now doesn’t just want to search or answer emails; They want to edit videos and edit photographs. Quite a bit more than in previous years. In fact, this is expected of most users these days. Sure, there are web applications available, but this just isn’t a great solution due to bandwidth restraints.
You can check out Chromium OS here, completely free and open source. Go on, challenge yourself with Chromium OS and attempt to live in the cloud!