Google Chrome OS. Or, how KDE and GNOME managed to shoot each other dead

A lot of people at the moment are immensely intrigued by Google Chrome OS. I won’t hide that I am one of them. Google promises a much needed shift in the way small computers work. Problems like software updates, backups, installation, maintenance, viruses, have plagued the world for too long: a shift is way overdue. To me, however, the change about to happen shows us what many people have refused to believe for a long time: KDE and GNOME shot each other dead. I write this knowing full well that I am going to make a lot of people angry. This might be the first time a writer receives very angry responses from both camps — KDE and GNOME’s users might actually (finally?) join arms and fight just to show everybody how wrong I am!
So, let’s go back a little bit — not much: just a year or so. You are Google and you want to provide the operating system for the next generation of users, the ones who didn’t start with Excel and Word, but with Facebook and Flickr. The obvious choice is GNU/Linux for the kernel — Google knows it well, helps improving it, and obviously likes it. Then, the next question: what desktop environment would you feed those new users? KDE? GNOME? Both? What about programs looking different? What about the broken audio system? (Pulseaudio anybody?)

The question was a tough one. The answer was simple and painful: neither of them. Painful, because I am intimately sure (although I can’t prove it) that if GNU/Linux had one set of desktop libraries, one desktop environment, one set of standard for playing audio and so on, we would have those libraries in Google Chrome OS.

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11 Responses

  1. I believe that you are absolutely wrong in your premise. In fact, I think you missed the point of Chrome OS entirely. Google’s decision to create a web-based OS wasn’t forced by a lack of compaibility or coordination between desktop environments. Quite simply, Google reigns supreme on the web, and they know that the only way to make a strong splash in the desktop market is by playing on that strength.

    GNOME and KDE have nothing to do with it. Google could have used one of the many other DEs like Xfce or Enlightenment. They could have written their own DE from scratch, for what it’s worth. But that’s not what they want. They want the desktop to fade into the cloud. That’s why they did away with the Desktop Environment: their environment is beyond the Desktop, it’s the Web, where the wide array of Google applications is already rooted, configured and ready to go. They want you to use GMail, so why worry about Thunderbird or Evolution? They want you to use Google Docs, so why waste resources on KOffice, AbiWord or OpenOffice? It goes against the purpose of Chrome OS, which is to redefine the web experience on-the-go.

    I’m not saying that I agree with their view, but I do think it’s at the very least a very interesting experiment. Google has never let circumstances affect their ideas, they’ve always pushed what they wanted. Why would Chrome OS be any different? If they wanted to make a traditional desktop do you really think they looked at the KDE/GNOME mess and decided to chyange their minds? No. They wanted a cloud-oriented OS from the start, and that’s what they’re making.

  2. James Cain says:

    @Paul – I wholehartedly agree. I wrote a response along those same lines:

  3. Makurosu says:

    I agree with Paulo. Comparing Gnome and KDE with ChromeOS is comparing apples and oranges. Actually, the fact that Linux has a diversity of desktops shows its strength, in my opinion. It also forces greater modularity between the presentation and system layers, which is so problematic in Windows.

    The author is making the same claims that people were making in the mid-1990’s when they were saying that thin-client would rule the desktop. That didn’t happen then, and it’s not going to happen now. There’s a much-needed place in the world for ChromeOS, but it shows an ignorance of history and the purpose of these OS’s to say that there can be only one at the end of the day.

  4. Fr33d0m says:

    Dead? Thats a bit premature. Lets not get our collective panties in a twist just yet over a new OS that holds high promise.

  5. bitzer says:

    I agree!

  6. Palle says:

    Are you shure you really need an equivalent to GnuCash with all your financial data in the google cloud? Because just of the easy-to-go-webbased-OS without installation trouble? And all your documents, your work, your mails… You don’t need to be paranoid to hold on for a minute and start thinking about google’s aims. Not only for those reasons I’m happy with gnome/KDE and pulseaudio (works fine by the way).

  7. TerryP says:

    Google Chrome OS serves the long-term business strategy of Google – not the requirements of the user. Do you really want everything to reside on Google servers? If so you will replace a world dominated by Microsoft by a world dominated by Google.

  8. Ras says:

    TerryP: I dont think google has any ill intentions, and I very much believe that their designs are based on the requirements of users …. for now. However I agree with you on the last statement .. noone should be entrusted with that much information (/power).

  9. Googleverse says:

    Wait for few years, then only you can see the real purpose of Chrome OS

  10. fred says:

    If one company produces cars, and there is another company starts producing motorbikes, does it mean that cars market is threatened?

    Chrome OS seems to serve different purpose from ‘traditional OS’, so comparing Chrome OS to traditional OS (with traditional DE) is like comparing apples and oranges.

    Afterall, why people get so excited about Chrome OS if it is not really an open source OS? Sure you can see the kernel source and the base OS code, but can you see the online apps source code? Or even the server side source code? Do you just trust everything on the cloud?

  11. Bubba says:

    The Chrome OS is just the browser so far, not very impressive even by itself. I for one will never store anything in a cloud, and I don’t trust Google in any form, they are funded by advertising most of all and are part of the problems with competitive consumerism, granted a small problem but, enabling is just as damaging as being a user. The capital based free market system is a mirror image of a pyramid scheme and will fall eventually.

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