Chrome OS bears the same name as Google’s Web browser, called Chrome. In fact, Chrome is used as the primary interface for Chrome OS. You can see how Chrome, and therefore Chrome OS, has evolved over time through all the different versions that have been released.
Target Audience for Chrome OS
Chrome OS was targeted initially towards netbooks, super small notebooks designed primarily for Web browsing. Although some netbooks were sold with Linux, the consumer preference tended toward Windows, and then consumers decided that maybe the novelty wasn’t worth it. Netbooks were often far too small and far too underpowered.
Google’s vision for Chrome extends beyond the netbook. The operating system might eventually be a real competitor to Windows and Mac operating systems.
However, Google doesn’t consider Chrome OS to be a tablet operating system. Android is Google’s tablet operating system because it’s built around a touch-screen interface while Chrome OS still uses a keyboard and mouse or touchpad.
Chrome OS Availability
Chrome OS is available for developers or anyone with an interest. You can even download a copy of Chrome OS for your home computer, but you have to have Linux and an account with root access.
Tip: If you’ve never heard of a sudo command, you should probably just buy Chrome pre-installed on a consumer device.
Google has worked with well-known manufacturers, such as Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba.
Google launched a pilot program using a beta version of Chrome installed on a netbook, called the Cr-48. Developers, educators, and end-users could register for the pilot program, and a number of them were sent the Cr-48 to test. The netbook came with a limited amount of free 3G data access from Verizon Wireless.
Google ended the Cr-48 pilot program in March of 2011, but the original Cr-48s were still a coveted item after the pilot ended.
Chrome and Android
Although Android can run on netbooks, Chrome OS is being developed as a separate project. Android is designed for running phones and phone systems, so it’s not really designed for use on computers. Chrome OS, on the other hand, is designed particularly for computers rather than phones.
To further confuse this distinction, there are rumors that Chrome is indeed destined to become a tablet OS. Netbook sales have been eroding as full-size laptops become cheaper and tablet computers like the iPad become more popular. However, iPads have declined in popularity in American schools while Chromebooks have gained popularity.
Chrome uses a Linux kernel. Long ago there was a rumor that Google planned on releasing their own version of Ubuntu Linux dubbed Goobuntu. This isn’t exactly Goobuntu, but the rumor is no longer quite as crazy.
Google OS Philosophy
Chrome OS is designed as an operating system for computers that are only used for connecting to the internet. What this means is that Chrome OS is usually used for Web browsing, streaming video and music, online document editing, etc.
This is vastly different than other operating systems like Windows and macOS, which are primarily used on desktop devices and can run full programs like MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc. Those kinds of programs cannot run on Chrome OS as easily as they can on most other desktop operating systems.
Rather than downloading and installing programs on Chrome OS, you just run them in your Web browser and store them on the internet; these are often called Chrome extensions. While this does drastically limit the kinds of programs that can run on Chrome OS, there are actually lots of alternative apps made specially for Chrome OS.
In order to make that possible, the OS has to boot up very quickly, and the Web browser has to be extremely fast. Chrome OS makes both of those happen.
Some Chromebooks also support Android apps from Google Play Store. This means that if you have a supported device, you can install Android apps on your Chromebook much like you can on an Android smartphone.
Is this OS enticing enough for users to buy a netbook with Chrome OS instead of Windows? That’s uncertain. Linux hasn’t made a huge dent in Windows sales, and it’s been developed for much longer. However, cheap devices and a simple, easy to use interface provided by Chrome OS may just entice users to switch.