Google’s IO keynote is over. One day was dedicated to Chrome OS, another to Android OS — one day for each of Googles operating systems. Here’s what thay said about the next Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich:
Our goal with Ice Cream Sandwich is to deliver one operating system that works everywhere, regardless of device. Ice Cream Sandwich will bring everything you love about Honeycomb on your tablet to your phone, including the holographic user interface, more multitasking, the new launcher and richer widgets.
So naturally, people are asking: if the goal is one OS for all devices, why does Chrome OS exist?
Which is a good question. But it’s not the right one. Without spending too much time diving into the semantics of Googles wordplay, what Google meant to say was “one Android OS for all Android devices”; I doubt Google will adobt a Microsoftian “Ice Cream Sandwiches Everywhere” motto.
The right question is: who’s Chrome OS for? Which I’d like to try and answer here.
For your long-distance phone salesman
Chrome is a whittled-down, fast, web-browser. It’s really easy to use, and when you get Chrome in a Chromebook it’s just the browser and nothing else. It updates itself without asking your permission, so it’s pretty secure through its own doing.
Ever been called up about savings on your long-distance? Did a Best Buy employee ever tell your parents they needed a top-of-the-line PC for emails, documents and uploading photos? Did you ever try and explain to your neighbor why she should really upgrade her IE6 browser, even if it’s only for Facebook?
Each of these use-cases could involve a Chromebook. The Sprint long-distance call-center could probably save a buck on ditching Windows XP, since their call-system is web-based anyway. Your parents could probably do with a Chromebook for what they do, and you’d be saved hours of uninstalling smiley-apps when you visit them come Thanksgiving. And your Facebook-crazy neighbor would love her Chromebook so much she’d call it her Facebook.
No, Chrome OS is not for you. You need the gaming or content creation oomph that’s not yet ready to be done on the web. Yeah, with WebGL, you can do some pretty cool things in the browser, but I won’t argue that any one of you content creators still need a truck for your work. But if all you do is Facebook and email, a Chromebook is perfect for you. It’s got a full-size keyboard, and arguably the best browser in the world. Sure, there’s a good argument that for Facebook and email, an iPad might be an even better choice than a Chromebook.
For your mom
The killer use-case for the Chromebook is any place that uses web-apps only yet would benefit from transparent, automatic security. There’s a plethora of places that buy bulky PCs and proceed to run Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 only to book appointments in a web-based system. Think cubicle-laden warehouses full of people with headsets staring at blue E’s all day long and a sysadmin that lacks sleep because he has to update the computers constantly and make sure the firewall and antivirus is running. This sysadmin is dying to get a Chromebook. And so is your mom.
For the man behind the curtain
Googles sneaky little goal with Android appears to be taking on every OS out there. Android will soon run on PCs, and it’ll certainly get both Chrome and Chrome web-apps. Google’s going to push Android wherever it can, and if Google gets its way, many people will soon both play their games and create their content on Androids. Yet, Google thinks there’s a market for ripping Chrome out of the operating system and putting it on its own little cheap device. Just the browser and the web-apps of the future. Android is where the white rabbit will take you, but Chrome OS is for the man behind the curtain.