The operating system (OS) is the basic software that organises the circuit boards, transistors, wires and chips in your computer into something that we can actually use. For example, it turns your monitor from a blank screen into a series of windows and icons. It is the building blocks upon which other programmes (such as Word, Excel, and Firefox) can sit.
It’s long been the area of the PC where Microsoft completely dominates the market. Microsoft’s OS – called Windows (until 2004) and then XP, and now Vista – is installed on over 90% of all computers. It makes Microsoft the gatekeepers to computers the world over. Nothing can happen on a computer until the Microsoft OS is installed. And as a consequence, it comes pre-installed on 99% of all PCs sold. You can’t imagine a market more dominated by a single company.
Microsoft isn’t the only option. Macs run on their own OS called OSX. And the super nerdy can choose to download and install Linux. But for the rest of us, there’s just Microsoft.
So there has to be a few people at Microsoft HQ who were a little perturbed by the news that Google plans to develop their own OS, to launch in 2010. Its long been thought to be in the pipeline, especially since Google launched an operating system for phones, called Android.
Google have said that initially their OS is going to be tailored to smaller ‘netbooks’, computers that are designed purely to access the Internet, and carry out few other tasks.
But since Google’s vision for the future of computing is in the ‘cloud’ – where all the applications that normally go on your PC actually sit on the Internet – the netbook OS is the perfect fit.
Google reckon there is no point in having loads of software installed on every PC in the world, necessitating all PCs to have loads of storage and processing power. Far better, they say, for there to be a single version of the software on a server on the Internet, and allow users to access it whenever they need to.
The Google OS will be called the same name as their browser – ‘chrome’ – and is supposed to be as ‘fast’ and as ‘lightweight’ as possible. It’s supposed to have no bells and whistles, similar to both their browser and search engine.
The news will be hugely welcomed by PC owners frustrated by the slowness of their PCs, and by the frequency with which they crash. Microsoft software has also been criticised for slow loading times and their vulnerability to viruses.
Google reckon that the problem with current OSs is that they were designed in an era when there was no such thing as the Internet. They’ve been adapted and developed, but that fundamental design flaw still exists.
The other key thing about a Google OS will be the fact that it will be open source, which allows other developers to create applications that will run on it.
To help developers, Google said the source code for their OS would be released at the same time as Microsoft launches its new OS Windows 7. This will give developers a chance to start working with it so as to have applications ready for the launch date.
Would you make the switch to a Google OS? Or are you a big fan of Microsoft? Are you worried that Google is going to end up dominating all things computer led in the same way that Microsoft always has? Leave us a comment below.