Brin, an outspoken Russian-American computer scientist, gained fame and glory
as one of Google Inc.'s (GOOG)
"big three". He co-founded the search firm with Larry Page, who
recently took over for the departing Eric Schmidt at CEO.
In the wake of Google's unveil of Chrome OS (Operating System) PCs at
its annual I/O developers conference,
Mr. Brin unloaded on the world's leading operating systems maker, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT).
At a Chrome OS launch event he began friendly enough, stating, "I don't
think there is anything inherently wrong with Windows. Windows 7 has some great
From there, though, his critique of his competitor grew more pointed.
"With Microsoft, and other operating system vendors, I think the
complexity of managing your computer is really torturing users. It's
torturing everyone in this room. It's a flawed model fundamentally. Chromebooks
are a new model that doesn't put the burden of managing the computer on
Brin's rhetoric seems more than a little confusing and contradictory.
He does get one thing right, though -- Chrome OS is certainly a unique take on
the operating system experience, though. The new OS starts off ordinary
enough, built on a stripped down Linux environment.
From there the experience veers from past designs, by funneling the user's
entire interactions with the system through a web browser -- Chrome -- to be
The technique offers certain challenges -- particularly the difficulty of
writing fast applications given that you have to deal with a secondary
interface layer (the browser). Modern web technologies, though, somewhat
mitigate these issues.
On the plus side putting applications in the browser allows them to be
sandboxed. This protects against system crashes and certain types of
security problems -- e.g. viruses (though some malicious programs like
keyloggers could, in theory still work, depending on the precise details of the
sandboxing scheme and how clever the malicious app's authors were).
The other unique aspect of the OS is that it will offer online backup of all
information on the computer. This cloud-based system means that if the
computer ever suffers physical damage or a malware attack, restoration can be
accomplished in a much easier fashion.
Google has partnered with Citrix Systems, Inc. (CTXS)
and VMware, Inc. (VMW)
to offer in-browser virtualization. This could eventually allow Chrome
users to access common Windows productivity tools like Microsoft Office.
Google claims that in a recent survey of 400 companies that it conducted,
75 percent said they would be able to switch from Windows, given the right mix
of internet apps, offline accessible apps, and virtualization.
Microsoft has toyed with the notion of a similar cloud-driven operating system,
releasing a test version of Windows dubbed
Windows Azure. While Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 offer
some cloud integration, they lack full, automatic backup to the extent of
Laptops with Chrome OS will be available June 15 from Best Buy Co., Inc. (BBY)
and Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN).
Google has announced two models thus far -- a 11.6" from Acer with 6
hours of battery life ($349 for Wi-Fi only, more for the 3G version) and a
12.1" from Samsung with 8.5 hours of battery life ($429 for Wi-Fi only,
and $499 for a 3G version). Both laptops pack dual-core Atom CPUs from
Intel Corp. (INTC).
The laptops may be a bit pricy for the curious buyer. A smaller screen
version with an ARM CPU could possibly hit the $200 mark, but at present no
such option is available. Still, some may jump at the opportunity to
escape Microsoft's "torture".