Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Google OS is already here

As you all probably know Google recently announced that they are going to build a natural extension to Chrome. Obviously, a natural extension to a web browser is an OS (and no this is not a joke). Well, I wonder when I will get to use this.... I just hope I will manage to restrain myself from installing the first beta version available to the public.... Sometimes I feel that I love installing software a bit too much. But anyway, lately I feel that the final release of Google OS will be more of a formal step than anything else. The reason for this is that the services provided be Google are already close to being a real on-line OS. Before explaining what that means, lets look on a typical online OS. For example, Glide. If you look on it (here is a little video), you will see that it is basically an attempt to clone a regular OS on the web. The reason I am saying this is simple - just look on the way it looks. It is just like Windows. Obviously some details are different, but the overall idea didn't change. And this is a problem. There is no reason for an online OS to look like a regular OS - the whole point in the transition to online OS is to find a new concept, a new look for the OS. Moreover, the system offered by Glide is nothing more than an remote desktop. The only advantage it has over a normal system is the fact that it is available from any computer with Internet. But this is not enough for a system to be an online OS. Actually, if you want you files to always be available, you can install an operating system on you mobile phone, and then you will be able to use it on any computer with an USB port- even an Internet connection is not needed. Obviously this is better than what such an "online" OS offers.

Google on the other hand is close to making a real online OS. Even now their web services cover most of the things we expect from an OS. To better understand this point lets look on what we expect to get with an install of Windows and attempt to find the corresponding functionality in what Google currently offers. Naturally we will be only looking from the end user point of view.

The most obvious thing we get when installing Windows is "My Documents" folder. In the two latests releases there are attempts to further divide this folder into pictures, documents music and videos. Google provides us with Google Docs, YouTube, Google Video and Picasa Web Albums. Each one of them is meant for only one type of content and they are much better for managing your files that what you get with a default installation of Windows. (I don't know any good place to store music online, but I am sure that there are ways to do this as well, although it is not provided be Google). It is important to remember that while right now Google doesn't do mass file storage, there are sites on the Internet that do just that, and there are rumors flying around the Internet for years about Google storing 100% of our files. Besides, any really large files (like video longer that what you can put on YouTube) you probably don't want to store on the net because getting it from there takes a bit too much time with current Internet connection speeds.

The second thing we get is Office (and notepad, for those who use it). It is not provided be default but it is a basic enough product. Google gives us Google Docs which are for most users a good enough replacement for Microsoft office. Also if you don't like Google Docs you can use other products like Zoho for example. On this note, it is also possible to do light photo editing on the web. While I don't know about sites good enough for professional graphic design, I do know about a nice site for simple graphic editing - FotoFlexer.

The third and final step is communication. This is not something provided be Windows, but the reason we buy computers is to be able to communicate with other people. Since we are talking about an online OS, things like communication become something that is only natural for an OS to provide. And Google does just that. We get Gmail, Blogger, YouTube, Google Video, Google Docs and etc.. All of these products are either build for communication or have the option for collaboration like Google Docs. Right now we view them as services but for an online OS, those are major components.

The only thing Google is missing right now is a "frame". In order for all those services to become an OS we need something that will put them together and offer them to the public as an OS. The building of this frame is being done in three stages. The first stage is the links to other Google products that appear on the Google main page. Those links make all those services connected and easy to reach from each other. The second stage is the browser. The browser has a lot of importance. The way it works and looks is extremely important for an online OS (the reasons should be obvious). For this we now have Google Chrome. Did you notice that by default it has only two lines of menus compared to Firefox five lines? It is obvious that the developers attempt to make it even look like a frame, like the status bar in Windows.
The third and final stage is the Kernel. It is rather pointless to have two OS on one computer in the same time. If we are too use Google OS from Windows (or a Linux distro) we are basically using one OS to connect to another. This is something that needs fixing and Google is now doing just that - they are making a desktop component for the online OS, a component that will remove the need to use two OS in the same time. The only thing that this component needs to do is to boot up, start Google chrome and connect to the Internet. This simplicity is also the reason why they say that the OS is a natural extension of the browser. All it has to do is to make the browser start without anything else on the computer. Obviously, this also means that all the configurations that are needed to be done for the computer to work will be done from inside the browser (at least I think so). Doing this will require a lot of work on Google Chrome, but with Google resources and the help from the Linux community this project will almost surely receive, doing this all in a reasonable time is perfectly possible.

There was an interesting comment on this post that caused me to write another post about Glide and the functions it provides. The post is titled Storing files on the Internet.


Murtaza Moiz said...

I didn't noticed it that way

Murtaza Moiz said...

but yea its true

William said...

I am a longtime Glide user and don’t really think that Glide is an attempt to clone a regular OS on the web. In general most OS’s have proprietary aspects that create a certain amount of incompatibility with other OS’s and between devices and consequently others you would like to communicate and share with. What drew me to Glide is the fact that the system is designed to circumvent this very issue automatically and behind the scenes so I never experience the difficulty of say sharing a word document with a Linux user who does not have Word installed on his computer or sharing a Quicktime video with a someone on a mobile phone running the Windows Mobile operating system. With Glide it is as easy as uploading or creating a file without regard for what OS or device you are on and sharing it with with others regardless of what device and operating system they are on. If you are a Windows desktop user ask yourself, what would I have to do to share a WMV with someone on an iPhone. If you are a Mac user ask yourself, what would I have to do to share a Quicktime movie with someone on a mobile phone running Windows Mobile. These tasks take seconds using Glide. These are only a few of the many ways that Glide’s deep integration and automatic compatibility allow me to easily work with others who are on different OS’s and devices.

You also said that The Glide OS is nothing more than a remote desktop. Access via remote desktop gives you access to the files on one computer remotely. Glide has a downloadable synchronization application for Windows, Mac and Linux that allows you to synchronize all of your computers to Glide making all of your files accessible from any device running Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris, Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm, Symbian and Windows Mobile. Your example of carrying a USB cable and downloading files from all of your computers to your mobile phone would probably not be that convenient and your phone would not be automatically updated as files were added or edited on your different computers. It also would not address sharing with others. How would you share a 1GB video with someone in a distant location when you were traveling with your mobile phone away from all of your computers?

The collaboration and sharing applications in glide are extremely powerful because of Glide’s deep integration. Google has used an acquisition strategy regarding developing their applications sometimes even acquiring two companies to create one application and as a result they do not exhibit anywhere near the level of integration of Glide. In many ways the depth of Glide’s functionality is not readily seen in in a cursory tour. The Glide OS runs behind the scenes in all of the productivity and collaboration applications. There is a compatibility engine translating files in the background to serve them up in the right format based on the device that Glide is being accessed from and there is a granular rights management system that protects files and tracks them and provides control even after they have been shared. Since I travel quite a bit and have office and personal laptop and desktop computers Glide has become indispensable to me for having access to my files and collaborating with others from my mobile phone and laptop when I am on the road.

Anatoly said...

Hello William. Thanks for commenting. I just finished writing a long and detailed response to your comment, but it turned out to be longer than the maximum length of a comment allowed. I can split it into two comments, but if it is fine with you I would like to make it a post instead.
Naturally the post will be linked from this one.