The big news of the night is that Google is building an operating system (no, not Android) that’s based on Chrome. I’m not entirely sure of all of the details but I think it’s cool at first glance. It sounds like it’s going to be designed initially for netbooks and I like how they describe the OS:
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
I think Google gets it: Netbooks are going to be huge and they’re going to be a place where the web can “beat” the desktop. In a lot of ways they’re the perfect combination for the next generation of the web. The devices are small, portable, probably going to be connected most of the time, and have memory and resource requirements that require an optimized experience. I love Windows 7 and think it’s beautiful, but I do wonder how well it will run on netbooks. Microsoft seems tepid in how much it’s going to support or encourage netbook use.
Netbooks: A Boon for Rich Internet Applications
But people moving to the web-centric netbook experience are going to want a close approximation to the desktop environment. User experience is still going to be important on these small devices. We’ve seen how important a great user experience is (and how much of a selling point it is) with the iPhone. Google is a lot of good things but they aren’t user experience gurus and they don’t get design.
So what fills the gap? If only we had a good, lightweight layer for this new operating system that could play video, support games, enable real time communication, and let developers create beautiful user interfaces that felt like desktop applications with a much smaller footprint. Oh wait, we do, it’s the next generation of rich Internet application technologies like Flash and Silverlight.
Isn’t the netbook: a hybrid mobile and PC device, the perfect fit for RIAs: hybrid web and desktop technologies? You get the audio/video aspect, a framework for building very rich user interfaces, real-time web connectivity, and an existing ecosystem of developers and designers. All in a small package that’s meant to run with less resources than a full operating system requires.
I think netbooks are going to be a big deal for RIA developers. I think it’s a large addressable market and things like Adobe’s work with ARM to optimize Flash for their chipset are going to pay performance dividends in a big way. Throw in the cross-platform aspect and you’ve got the perfect way to build applications for a hybrid web-desktop-mobile device like the netbook.
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