The Google Internet OS Is Called Chrome

I’ve written extensively about Microsoft being threatened by the development of an internet-based operating system that would make Windows optional. My premise is that almost all applications are migrating online. When Windows is optional and non-Microsoft applications are a free download away, Microsoft will be in big trouble. Many of these articles are collected under this site’s GOOG label.

Guess what? The internet OS is now available from Google. It’s called Chrome and is being billed as the best browser on the market, but it’s much more significant than that.

I’ve downloaded it and was so impressed with it as a browser that it became my default over Firefox 3 within ten minutes of test driving. That’s a big testimonial because we have a rule at our office: no new apps just for the fun of it. There has to be a compelling reason to risk our perfectly functional way of getting work done to stick a toe in the notoriously risky waters of new software.

My interest in Chrome was not big. I just wanted to see how it displayed our sites, how it differed from Firefox and IE, and to generally keep on top of things for our usual ongoing research. The fact that Chrome convinced us to switch to it whole hog within ten minutes of the supposedly cursory test drive shows just how fantastic it is. Even more, though, is pondering how fantastic it will become.

We’re still in the Chrome-is-a-great-browser portion of this article. I haven’t forgotten the future OS angle, but it’s important to understand how Google will sneak its future OS platform onto everybody’s computer and then casually mention one day that it’s a full-fledged OS.

Here’s what converted our office from Firefox to Chrome in ten minutes:

  • Chrome is fast, fast, fast!

  • It has a clean interface that makes it easy to show/hide bookmarks and frees up a ton of screen space.

  • Its address bar is more awesome than the childishly named “Awesome Bar” of Firefox 3. Chrome searches any engine you want, brings up recently visited websites, and — most impressively — converts to a site search at places like Amazon.com.

  • Its handling of tabs is elegant and powerful. Drag one off the browser and it becomes a new browser window. Drag it back and it becomes a tab again. Having many tabs open does not slow things down.

  • The new tab page, which can be set as the home page accessible from an optional button on the address bar, shows your most visited sites in a thumbnail grid. Very helpful.

  • There’s an “incognito window” option that keeps all activity in it private from the computer you’re using. No history. No cookies. No trace of anything you did.

  • In case you missed this point: it’s fast!

So, that’s how Chrome will win the hearts of millions and earn itself the default browser slot on computers everywhere. What happens after that?

People will immediately have a much better experience with Google’s own Ajax applications like Google Docs and Gmail. Why? Because Google designed a whole new Javascript engine that makes Ajax apps scream, and keeps them in steel-belted tabs so one crashing and burning takes out only its single tab instead of the whole browser. If something locks up, just close its tab.

Then, there’s the ever improving Google Gears for offline access. It’s so good that MySpace used it to offload much of the processing for its messaging inbox and friendslist. Previously, people had to wait for requests to be received, processed, and sent back from the server. Not now. Thanks to Gears, much of the processing happens on the user’s own computer and working with MySpace is nearly as fast as working with a native desktop application.

Take Chrome with its Ajax supercharging Javascript engine, add on Gears, and you’re not too far away from a full-fledged operating system. It’s almost like they planned this.

People much tech savvier than I are already talking about the ease with which they can now bypass the Windows part altogether and just develop applications for the browser. That was being prepared for some time now, but the preparation is officially over.

Chrome/Gears is the platform.

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