A while back Google announced they'd be working on their own Operating System (we all knew it was a matter of time before it happened eventually). At the time I was pretty excited by the prospect of trying out an Operating System released by one of the worlds most well known companies. However there wasn't much to see except for a few stick diagrams. Since then (almost a year), things have changed and we actually have something to look at and play with!
I got myself a VMWare disk image built from the source found at www.chromium.org and made available as an image by gdgt.
Firing up Chromium on my VMware workstation I was presented with the following screen
I was a bit baffled on what to type for a username and password until I looked it up on some of the online forum's. Its your Google username and password aka your Gmail account details! Thinking about it, it made a lot of sense. The Chromium OS is supposed to be a web based operating system and what would make more sense than to hook it into your Google account details, think about it a bit more and you suddenly see yourself being hooked into a platform. Its not just the operating system you are hooked into its the infrastructure that one company provides that the OS needs to live - sound familiar?
BTW if you have UK keyboard setting you will need to press SHIFT + 2 to get the @ symbol for your email address.
After logging in you see the following screen, and all of a sudden I fully get what Chromium is all about.
If you've used Google's Chrome browser you've pretty much experienced what Chromium OS is like.
Chromium is effectively an OS with one application, you guessed it! Google's Chrome Browser. The browser is the operating system and yes this also starts to make a lot of sense. Google I suspect will be investing a lot into this platform being a web based company, a browser is all they need to get to their customers. If you make it cheaper by releasing a free operating system (open source) you pretty much cut out any dependence on the likes of Apple or Microsoft for your browser to run. You control the software technology stack between you and the user.
Playing with other apps I use quite frequently on Google such as Google Docs reminded me that the OS is pretty much still new and it would tend to hang on some applications every now and again. In the image below it hung on initialising Google Docs. Although I wasn't sure if this was my VMware host acting up or the OS itself.
Bouncing the virtual machine and logging in again I get the familiar screen below.
I attempt to access Google Docs again and everything works as it should! I then decided to fire up YouTube and yes it all seems to work. Although I was unable to work out if the video was playing with Flash or using a native HTML 5 player.
Verdict so far is that its a great idea and you can see its take up being pretty big, especially in third world countries where they can't afford expensive OS's such as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Its a simple operating system that's easy to use and its very cleverly following the cloud paradigm where any computer you log into can be your workstation and all of "your stuff" is stored in the cloud. You're free from hardware, your laptop or PC just becomes a way for you to get to your web based OS. I'm not too sure how the OS will work without the Internet though and its not too clear how I can work offline or store my files for use later. Will there be support for me to plug in my USB stick to transfer files or pictures I'd like to email? Will the OS use cached user credentials to log me in if I don't have Internet access at the time?