Wow. Just wow is all I can say about the past two days for Google. The Search Giant turned all around software badass has turned it up to 11, announcing new services, software, and hardware for every corner of its market. Android, Chrome OS, new features in YouTube, and whole new way to consume music. Plus, there have been some major policy changes that should make being an Android user far more desirable.
Starting with Android, Google has announced Honeycomb 3.1, which should be adding some much needed refinement to Google’s tablet-only OS. Major improvements include massive support for peripherals and devices through the Open Accessory API. Based on USB, the API will allow Android to interface with a nearly endless about of devices like Xbox controllers and mice and keyboards. Google has also announced the ADK (Accessory Development Kit) that allows developers to build any device they want to interact with Android. Best of all, it’s based on Arduino – an open source circuit board that provides USB controllers, memory, processor, add-on pins for additional modules, and the software needed for interfacing with Android. The options here are pretty incredible and should allow Google to effectively launch their own version of “Made for iPod.” 3.1 also includes performance enhancements, UI refinements for widgets, and upgrades to the standard applications. It will also be hitting Google TV, if that matters. Continue Reading
We all think of Android as “the Google OS” but did you know the search giant’s ambitions don’t stop in the mobile market. Last year Google previewed the Chrome OS: an operating system completely dependent on Google’s cloud services and based on Google’s Chrome operating system. Google wants to change how we use our computers – shifting away from local software to online application. As well, Chrome OS plans to set a new bar for low impact software – able to run on low-end hardware with little local storage.
Google is in a unique position to possibly change the way we use computers. They already have a bevy of online productivity software replicating local software counterparts with Google Docs, Picasa, Maps, Talk, Voice, Calendar, and GMail. While these online services may not be the most powerful and advanced applications out there, they have one major advantage: cloud syncing. Being saved on an online server allows content to be accessed throughout the world, and could end the age-old problem of forgetting a document when on the move. The Chrome Web Store will allow developers to create HTML5 applications that can also run in the cloud, or in an offline mode.
Google’s Chrome browser is an interesting choice as the framework for an entire OS. Mostly because it’s never been done before. The Chrome browser has extensive processing control with its inherent separate process model. This keeps tabs in their own isolated process so if it crashes, it won’t bring the entire browser down. Essentially, it means that the Chrome browser already had the rudimentary needs for multitasking and kernel access. Chrome OS simply takes this farther by installing a kernel directly into Chrome for hardware and memory control. The interface though is just a browser living in a ROM.
It makes for an OS that runs are very, very limited hardware. As of now, Google has only announced one reference design under the name Cr-48 (an isotope of Chromium). The no-frills laptop will run low-end hardware – probably an Intel Atom processor or mobile ARM chip. Google is, in many ways, taking the approach of light OSes used in tablets back to the PC, with a focus on cloud connection. It remains to be seen if this will work out, but I’d love to have a return of low-footprint operating systems in a world where their overhead only increases.
Chrome OS should be shipping on special hardware by 2011.