Linux community concern over Chrome OS

Linux community is concerned that Chrome OS could lead to fragmentation in the free software community
Linux community is concerned that Chrome OS could lead to fragmentation in the free software community

While many Linux developers tentatively welcome the news that Google is set to introduce its own operating system, largely targeting Linux-based netbooks next year, there is concern that it could lead to fragmentation in the free software community.

Editor of Linux Format magazine, Paul Hudson also welcomed the news, telling TechRadar he was "always glad to welcome new Linux initiatives, and certainly one couldn't wish for a better partner than Google."

However, at the same time, Hudson questions whether or not there really is a need for a Google OS.

"Sure, years ago when it was just rumour, we didn't have netbooks, we didn't have Moblin, and we barely had Ubuntu, so the idea of one fresh new take on Linux from an internet supergiant such as Google seemed likely to revolutionise the desktop landscape," says the Linux Format man.

"But now, the Ubuntu team are already hard at work porting their distro to ARM, Intel, Nokia and others are collaborating to make Moblin a true standard, and we're finally starting to see distros standardising around a single Linux core.

"Will Google OS use that same core? Will it be heavily Java-based, like Android? Will people be happy just living inside Chrome? All this has yet to be seen, and if worse comes to worst we may find further fragmentation in the Free Software community – something that Microsoft would be more than happy to see."

Genius vertical integration

Google has already shown with its Chrome browser "that it is a big enough contender to wrestle fans away from Microsoft," noted PC Format Editor, Alan Dexter.

"This announcement is a clear indication that [Google] is gunning for the Redmond giant, and we could finally see a real alternative to Windows championed by a name consumers recognise," added Dexter.

"That it is initially for netbooks, isn't too exciting as these low powered machines are already awash with Linux-based operating systems ­it's the idea that this will eventually make it to desktops is far more appealing."

"Google's OS is certainly big news for Google," agrees PC Plus Editor Martin Cooper.

Cooper adds: "At the technical level we'll have to wait and see what more it can offer above and beyond one of the big name Linux distros.

"Beyond the technical and looking at the business angle, Google's jump into making its own OS appears to be a great piece of vertical integration. It will own everything from the OS, the browser, search and even online apps.

"Google's shareholders must be quivering with excitement. And I'm willing to lay a bet that competition commissions the world over will now be looking very closely at Google."

Whatever the world's competition commissions eventually make of Chrome, one thing is for sure. Google has just broken one of the biggest tech stories of 2009.

"It looks like Microsoft is in for a ride," agrees Oliver Lindberg, Associate Editor on .net. "We've been waiting for a Google OS for quite some time, and now it's finally here. It's an ambitious project but that it's open source and on the cloud is only to be welcomed. It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft will react. Big news indeed! "

Adam Hartley