Google Chrome OS: What We Might See

In just a few hours, the tech world's attention will shift to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California where the company will offer a developer preview of Google Chrome OS. We should learn a fair amount about what the new OS will be able to do, and what Google's future plans are. I was able to uncover a few tidbits about predictions in advance of the Chrome OS unveiling; here are some things to ponder while we wait for Google to show their hand.

Robert Scoble Holds Court

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, blogger Robert Scoble spilled some Chrome OS details over the Twitter wires that he says comes from a reliable source.

HTML 5: Scoble says Chrome OS will be all about HTML 5 standards. HTML 5 is the newest version of the markup language used to create Web sites. HTML 5 is still a work in progress, but the most notable promised addition is a universal video standard that will remove the need for browser plugins (translation: no more Flash).

Two Versions: Another logical conclusion from the Scobleizer is that Google will have two versions of the Chrome OS: an open source Chromium version and an official Chrome OS. Since Google already does this with the Chrome browser, extending this setup to the operating system makes sense.

Not for heavy lifting: Chrome OS is not going to be capable of running memory intensive native apps like Photoshop. No surprise there, but it will be interesting to see how Google plans on integrating the work of third-party developers into Chrome OS.

Chrome OS will be cheap

One of the biggest assumptions out there is that Chrome OS is going to make computers cheaper. ZDNet even suggests we may see a $100 PC, thanks to Google. Since Chrome OS will not involve any licensing fees, the thinking goes, computers will be cheaper.

Unfortunately, we already have a test case that disproves this theory--and its name is Android. Just like Chrome OS, Android is an open-source platform that Google licenses to manufacturers for free. But where are the super cheap Android handsets today? Motorola's Droid costs $200 with a two-year contract, and many other Android handsets have similar prices. There just isn't a super-cheap Android phone right now. If Dell's new handset hits the U.S. it might be cheaper, but have you seen the rumored specs for that thing? Not impressive.

Bottom line: Chrome OS will make it even cheaper to produce a netbook, but prices will likely stay the same while profits improve.

Fireballing Chrome OS

Over at Daring Fireball, John Gruber notes that Google is developing Chrome OS under the assumption that the Web is "the most important software platform in the world today." He then goes on to wonder why it's being left to Google to popularize the older-than-dirt Web OS concept? Why don't computer manufacturers like Dell and Sony have the guts to dump Windows and deliver tailor-made operating systems based on universal Web standards?

It's an interesting question, but maybe Chrome OS will be personalized and streamlined by each manufacturer. That's what phone makers are doing with Android, and the same thing could happen with Chrome OS.

Only a few hours until Google pulls back the curtain, by then we should know enough about Chrome OS to see if this is a serious challenge to the old way of doing things or just a lot of hype.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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