In November of 2009 Google announced its intentions for the Google Chomre OS. This was not an official release. The full version of Google Chrome OS is, according to Google, not to be released until late in 2010. However, Google did release the source code for developers, which means in effect that Google Chrome OS is available for those who wish to use a beta version. Currently the Google Chrome OS can be downloaded from Gdgt and requires VMplayer to run.
With the Chrome OS now available, many tech-saavy individuals are wondering they should download it rather than paying to upgrade their netbook or nettop to Windows 7. It does seem like an appetizing thought. This article details the many differences between the two operating systems so users can know what to expect.
Google’s Chrome OS is radically different from any other operating system ever released. The only real application which runs on the Google Chrome OS is Google’s Chrome web browser. In essence, the Chrome web browser is the entire operating system. Everything is accessed through the web browser including all applications because the only applications which Google Chrome is built to use are web applications. For example, on a normal Windows based system someone who wants to write a letter would open Microsoft Word. On the Google Chrome OS that person would need to use Google Docs through the Chrome web browser. Even the operating system’s few offline functions, like accessing USB drivers, are accomplished through the browser.
What this means is that the Google Chrome OS is the first true cloud operating system. The interface is very slick and easy to use, and fells somewhat similar to using Android on a smart phone, although more polished. Everything looks very clean and because you’re using the Chrome browser to accomplish every task there is little confusion about where you need to go to accomplish something. It is intuitive, particularly for a pre-release version of a brand new operating system.
However, most of the functionality becomes disabled if an internet connection is not available. This is obviously a big difference from Windows. Although Windows 7 revises the task bar so that it is based more heavily on the use of Icons, it is still a taskbar and functions much as it always have. The taskbar is, in my opinion, a far better method of handling multi-tasking, but Chrome does look very elegant so long as you’re not one to open twenty applications at once.
When it comes to speed during regular tasks there is no doubt that Google’s Chrome operating system is the clear winner. Because it is built for such a specific purpose a huge amount of fat can be trimmed away. The Google Chrome OS only really needs to worry about the Google Chrome browser and what it is doing. The Chrome OS loads in the blink of an eye, compared to Windows 7 which can take about a minute to boot into the login screen. There is even an overall snappier feel which is similar to the feel of using Windows 7 on a good solid state drive.
That said, the fact that all applications are accessed through Google Chrome makes many other performance measures irrelevant. The Google Chrome operating system can’t run offline games, can’t utilize complex database programs, and can’t be used for video editing. This means that Windows 7, despite feeling slower in many respects, wins by default in the many categories of performance where the Google Chrome OS chooses not to compete.
One problem with cloud computing is the possibility for security to be compromised. The Google Chrome OS appears to be taking security very seriously for this reason and it has a number of security features which are rather innovative. One is that, due to the constantly online nature of the Chrome OS, the operating system always keeps itself updated. There is no option to download new updates – you simply must. The Chrome OS also takes a look at itself during this process to make sure nothing appears compromised. If anything seems to have been tampered with, the Chrome OS grabs corrected code from the internet and repairs itself.
Google Chrome also has an advantage because nothing except for the operating system’s core components run locally. Since all applications are web applications it is very easy for the operating system to detect a program which is not supposed to be running and kill it before it does anything malicious. This is a luxury that Windows 7 simply can’t have because applications are stored on disk and Windows 7 is therefor required to give them some level of trust.
The only downside is that low-tech security breaks can be a larger issue. In theory, someone using Google Chrome OS is effectively guarding their entire computing life with a password. Should someone find that password out they would be able to access absolutely everything without physical access to the victim’s computer or even an online connection to the victim’s computer.
But don’t discount Windows 7. With automatic updates and user account control Windows 7 is the most secure version of Windows yet. In addition, the maturity of Windows 7 gives some comfort. Remember, the Google Chrome OS is currently a pre-release version, and even when the Chrome OS is put out for mass consumption it will still be the new kid on the block. New code is bound to have bugs, so some security holes are likely.
The usefulness of Google’s Chrome OS will ultimately depend on what exactly you intend to do with it. It isn’t hard to see that in all three areas – interface, performance, and security – the overall tone indicates that in the battle of Google Chrome OS vs. Windows 7, the Chrome OS scores some victories. The interface of the Chrome OS is sleek and simple, the performance is snappy, and security is tight. That’s not to say Windows 7 is bad in those areas, because it isn’t. But the Chrome OS is better.
However, the Chrome OS is also limiting in what it can do when compared to Windows 7. If you can’t run it in a web browser you won’t be running it in Chrome OS. Period. And you’ll need to always be connected to the internet to gain any use from a netbook or nettop using the Chrome OS. If you just want to do some offline writing, Windows 7 will let you, but Chrome OS won’t.
But as it turns out, the battle of Google Chrome OS vs Windows 7 isn’t one at all. Being a pre-release version that isn’t exactly easy to install, the current Chrome OS is free. And it is expected to remain free even after the public release. In addition, the very small size of the Google Chrome OS means that it can easily share a hard drive with another operating system. So rather than picking one, do yourself a favor and learn to love both.