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The Hardware & Early Conclusions

In fact security in general should be a key benefit of Chrome OS: it shifts the onus from the end user to the app makers and Google. For the latter Chrome OS updates automatically so users are never stuck with an out of date version. It could mean no antivirus software, certainly Google has indicated it doesn't think any will necessary.

On the flip side Google still seems to be at a loss on how it plans to accommodate those of us who like to line up our windows: eg Google Docs on one half of the screen, the web browser on the other. It may not matter to laptop users with small screens, but could hinder take up on desktops with larger screens.

The Hardware
To quote Sundar Pichai, product management leader for Chrome: "It doesn't matter whose laptop this is".

He wasn't actually referring to the CR-48, Google's unbranded Chrome OS reference laptop, but to how users can log into any Chrome OS machine and it will be setup with their own preferences in seconds. Cheap, slick hardware with the ability to instantly become any user's personalised machine is certainly a glimpse into the future so the deliberately generic (though if you ask us, appealing) look of the CR-48 fits right in.
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Google claims the CR-48 will never go on sale (it is only giving out samples to developers and trialling it with some lucky businesses and consumers - apply through the Pilot Programme) but it is an interesting look at Google's mindset. Much like the Nexus One it clearly points out where Google wants manufacturers to go: portable (12.1in screen), connected (integrated 3G and WiFi - a must for all Chrome OS devices), long battery life (over eight hours active, over eight days in standby) and more Web useful keys. Among these is dropping the caps lock key (Pichai says Google is "optimistic it will improve the quality of comments all over the web") in favour of a dedicated search key and no Function keys.

As for actual mainstream consumer products they won't start appearing until mid 2011 with Acer and Samsung leading the pack, but it will be interesting to see whether they take Google's hints or build the same old netbooks just with a different OS. The latter would likely fail since they would offer minimal price differentiation between a Chrome OS or full Windows laptop... something which killed off much of the smartbook sector before it had a chance. In fact - depending on how committed hardware makers are to Chrome OS - manufacturers will likely have the key say in whether the platform thrives or dies.
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Early Conclusions
The timing of Google's Chrome OS announcements are welcome, if overdue as doubts were growing and despite addressing a number of them fundamental concerns still remain. Is there really a need for Android and Chrome OS to co-exist? Are there more than two major manufacturers interested in the platform? How much will devices cost? Will Chrome OS be adapted for tablets or left to netbook style laptops? ...to name but a few.

What can be said, however, is Chrome OS is a platform we would like to see succeed. Partly this is because Cloud Computing - despite its knockers - really is the long term future of computing and Chrome OS could prove a key driver. In addition seeing Microsoft, Apple and Google go head-to-head on desktop/laptop operating systems should only intensify competition and fuel innovation.

Despite this the question remains: will Chrome OS be a success? And at this stage we can only answer: dunno.

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