Google OS: Reporters' live chat transcript

A panel of browser and OS experts will be gathering at 2 p.m. to discuss the new Google OS. Got questions? Join the chat.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
11 min read

It's an understatement to say that the CNET newsroom is abuzz today over Google's announcement that it's going to release its own mainstream PC operating system. See all the stories so far. All the experts here have opinions beyond what they've put in their news stories. Want to hear them, and talk with the reporters about this bombshell of an announcement? Then join us at 2 p.m. PDT for a live chat.

I've arranged to have CNET's top tech reporters participate in an online panel today on the new operating system. Joining me will be Ina Fried, our Microsoft expert; Stephen Shankland, covering browsers and Web technology; Tom Krazit, our Google company reporter; and Erica Ogg, who covers hardware. I'll be moderating and taking the consumer's view, and Josh Lowensohn will be the community manager for this discussion.

Want to send some questions to us ahead of time? Send them to me at rafen@webware.com, or you can ask them live, in the chat room, at 2 p.m. when the discussion kicks off. We'll see you then!

This live chat occured at 2:00 p.m., PDT on July 8. A transcript is below.

Chat transcript

Rafe: Welcome to our reporters' roundtable on Google OS. This was quite a bombshell announcement last night, as you can tell by the volume of stories we've churned out already.

To discuss this further, I've gathered the writers of many of these stories for a live chat. You'll be able to ask us questions in just a minute. We will post the questions that we are able to address and that we

Our panelists today are: Ina Fried, our Microsoft expert; Stephen Shankland, covering browsers and Web technology; Tom Krazit, our Google company reporter; and Erica Ogg, who covers hardware. I'm Rafe Needleman, and I'll be covering the consumer angle and moderating this discussion. Josh Lowensohn will be community manager and Jason Howell is directing the audio and video stream, where you can watch our back-channel discussion.

Ok? Let's get going! I'll start before I open it up to questions. Reporters: What will this do to Windows?

Ina: I think this ups the long-term threat that has been there all along. At the same time, the challenge is the same--they have to make the client OS matter. So far the pace of innovation has been the Web guys who have been going faster. They've been adding new cool things to do on our PC. For MS to be talking about the importance of windows five years from now, it's all about the next app.

Desktop tools did the things that people wanted to do better.

Tom: Apple shows a lesson: they were willing to make a clean break with the past. Microsoft isn't really able or willing to do it.

Stephen: Microsoft is not completely at sea here: they have next version of Office coming online.

Comment From Kekkonen: Is Chrome OS based on any existing Linux Distro or is it all Google code? Stephen: Google hasn't said anything much about the nitty gritty details about what they're using under the covers, but I think it's safe to assume it'll be their own version of Linux. Bear in mind that the foundation for Chrome OS applications is the Web, not Linux, so it doesn't really matter whose OS is underneath, because there's no Linux binary compatibility to worry about.

Question via e-mail: What PC manufacturer will most likely to be the first to introduce a Google OS based PC?

Erica: Asus would be the most obvious choice since it's been the pioneer in Netbooks and hasn't been afraid to cut Microsoft at least partly out of the equation of making a PC by offering Linux-based Netbooks early on. We've also heard that Google and Lenovo are talking.

Comment From Kekkonen: Will Google OS be totally open source or will it have proprietary components? Tom: Chrome OS will be totally open-source. Stephen reminds me to point out that the code won't be available until later this year.

Comment From MichaelC: Question for the roundtable: What point (if any) is there to running ChromeOS on a 'real' computer? Is this going to be for Netbooks only?

Stephen: This is for Netbooks at first, but Google wants it to be for more powerful machines too. I suspect that's because people expect a non-glamorous experience with Netbooks. Google is working on technology such as O3D and Native Client that will bring more computing power to Web applications, making Chrome OS better suited to more demanding applications and games--assuming programmers figure those technologies out.

Question via e-mail: How is Google going to make money with a free OS?. Using Google Ads?

Tom: Google always says that whenever they can encourage more people to get online, they make money. (For example), the more people who can get online and like staying online, the more inclined they are to search.

Comment From Brandee: What is Google's main objective or goal in releasing their OS?

Rafe: Kill Microsoft?

Tom: See above, Brandee.

Stephen: They want more people on the Web. The more people who use the Web, the more people use Google search and see Google search ads. They want people to live on the Web.

Tom: But they also want to force Microsoft to defend themselves. They'll never acknowledge it, but they don't really like those guys.

Stephen: Secondarily, they want people to use a lot of Google applications like Gmail and Google Docs.

Rafe: They still make money from ads, right?

Ina: I think it's fair to say that this could make life more difficult for Microsoft, but I don;t think that's Google's only target.

I think they want to see people online as much as possible. that's where they make their money. Anything that gets in the way of that hurts them

Comment From Ban-player: Does anyone know the system requirements of the Google OS?

Tom: The answer is no, but it's supposed to be lightweight for Netbooks and such. Ina notes that it will also be able to run on ARM and x86.

Comment From Franco: How does Google intend to distribute the Chrome OS to places that have limited internet connectivity?

Rafe: I don't think Google is interested in systems with limited connectivity

Ina: Fair to say, if you have limited connectivity, Google's OS won't be for you.

Comment From kenwarf02: How does this compare to the new Microsoft Gazelle Browser that is trying to isolate different processes running within a web page? Couldn't it become something very similar very easily?

Ina: A couple things. First of all, Gazelle is a working research prototype from Microsoft. At this point it's not even a product.

Assuming Microsoft does release it though, it still requires Windows at least for now. It makes the browser more like the OS, but isn't an OS.

Comment From Hank Reardon: Was there any mention of the timeframe for a beta release?

Stephen: Regarding beta availability, expect code this year. Google wants others involved in this since it's open-source software. But as with Android, Google will probably be leading with a firm hand.

Comment From Jonathan K.: Will Google OS and Android share a similar codebase? Will one application be able to run on both Google OS and Android?

Tom: In a word, no.

Stephen: Chrome OS apps run on the Web--HTML, JavaScript, etc.. Android apps (written in Java) run on the Android operating system.

Comment From Zaaptar What about the hard drive? in the future we will save our data only over the Web or can it be saved in the local HDD?

Rafe: This is Chrome in an OS - it supports HTML 5, which is supposed to have an offline component.

Stephen: And it won't run OpenOffice until there's a version of OpenOffice that runs online. Chrome OS is a conduit to Web apps, not an OS for running Linux applications directly.

Comment From Harrison: How do you think Google will monetize the OS? Adsense? What's their ultimate goal?

Tom: Monetization is still all about ads. Google wants to get the entire planet on the Web, and the thinking is that if they continue to offer a premier search experience, people will search for information on Google, and see search ads.

Stephen: Plus of course Google is into display (graphical and video) ads these days, too.

Tom: I think they might also experiment with paid versions of Google Apps for consumers, or Netbooks for businesses that cost extra for certain features, etc. But that's all off in the distance.

Comment From Ravi K: I hope they don't track people's computer on what they installed and how much %% of Google tools / apps are being used

Rafe: Well yeah. Google tracks everything on the google services, so it can serve appropriate, targeted ads. It stands to reason they'll be tracking activities in the OS. The question for users is: Do you trust Google with that data? Have they screwed you yet?

Stephen is noticing that people in the chat room are "obsessed" with using Chrome OS offline.

Tom: Yeah, the problems we're having in this chat show us how messed up things can be when you have spotty connectivity.

Stephen: To those who are interested in the question of using Chrome OS without an Internet connection: the short answer is no. The Web is where the apps happen. You'll probably have some abilities to sync data on your machine so it'll work offline, but fundamentally you'll need a network connection.

Tom: We're a long way from always-on connectivity. There's going to have to be usage model for offline apps if they really want people to get going on this thing.

Comment From Giacobbe: The Google blog has this about Chrome OS: "users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates." How is that going to be possible?

Stephen: If you don't execute the code on your machine, then it's less vulnerable. Or rather, the kind of attack changes--phishing, spam sites. "We substitute one set of malware for another." But it's less likely your computer will be taken over by a botnet or something

Comment From Kuba: Will we finally see a Google Drive with the release of Google Chrome OS to store all our files?

Stephen: Oh yes, the fabled GDrive...the hard drive in the cloud. I'm skeptical about it. But when you have Chrome OS, you're kind of doing it already...docs in the cloud, music in the cloud, etc.

Rafe: Is the concept of files and folders archaic?

Stephen: Pretty much. With a Web OS, you replace files with bookmarks, which point to docs inside apps.

Tom: I think this is a big thing for Google. They have all these great ideas to move people forward, but the people may not be ready.

Stephen: New users may think labels are the most normal thing in the world.

Comment From Ron Feldman: Music seems to be the big missing link in web apps. Do you think Google has a music service up their sleeves to fill the gap in Chrome OS? Otherwise no iTunes would be a big gap?

Tom: iTunes is so unweildy.

Stephen: Google Has YouTube.

Rafe: Google could buy Pandora, eh? (We/CBS already have Last.fm)

Stephen: Google's talked about pay-per-view with YouTube.

Comment From James of San Francisco: I have grandparent who never used nor have computers. They are terrified of them. They would consider trying out their new digital camera with a possible new computer. Unfortunately, Windows and Mac OS X still intimidates them from buying their first computer. In a newbie point of view, will Chrome OS be approachable or user friendly to new PC users?

Tom: Excellent question. Like Stephen said, if you don't know any better, maybe you'll see it as the best thing ever.

Rafe: We still don't know what it will look like. Our sources say it will be a radical new UI model. Not folders/files.

Tom: They want you to think about info in a different way.

Stephen: I think it won't be a dramatic step up in usability, based on existing Web apps. It might be easier in some cases, harder in others, but I don't think it'll be easy. I've seen too many people struggle with supposedly easy-to-use computing services. But at least you won't have to install software.

If your grandmother is intimidated by Macs and PCs today, I think she'll be intimidated by Chrome OS tomorrow.

Rafe: I don't think you can move UIs too far, too fast. People freak out.

Tom: iPhone!

Rafe: OK, true

Comment From Ryan Leisinger: Will it be capable of supporting a touch screen interface?

Comment From Mike M.: What is the future of voice command?

Rafe: The interesting thing about UI stuff like that, especially voice, is that you need some horsepower in the CPU to do voice rec.

Stephen: Touch screen seems perfectly feasible to me, but Netbooks are low-cost and touch screens (good ones at least) are expensive.

Comment From Neil Adam: Won't the voice rec been run on the web, if wanted?

Rafe: If you have enough bandwidth, sure.

Comment From Techpriest: Won't Google have to really step up to improve bookmark management? bookmark management is still hasnt changed much since Netscape, and if bookmarks are your portal to your sole apps, then surely they have to be good?

Rafe: Amen, brother.

Although with the Awesome bar, and the omni box (i forget which is where), bookmarks are less important.

Stephen: Bookmark management is weak in Chrome--it's not even implemented in Mac OS X or Linux.

Comment From Chris: Since ChromeOS is planned to be a free OS, does that me we could see a $50 low-end Netbook?

Erica: Definitely. When HP started adding Vista, the cost went up. But the XP netbooks brought the price down. When you have a free OS, you can bring the cost down to $199, not even counting subsidizing.

Stephen: Google might even subsidize Netbooks to get the OS out there.

Comment From steve84: With google planning to push its own applications such as gmail, google search, maps, etc. with ChromeOS it sounds like the antitrust case Microsoft recently is facing with Windows 7 in Europe. Isn't bundling all there products even with an Internet based OS the same thing Microsoft is doing and facing heat for?

Rafe: I think in many ways what Google is doing takes the heat off Microsoft. It means they're no longer a monopoly

Tom: But once you start doing stuff like this, it raises eyebrows. Although, best case, the share for Google Chrome in 5 years is what--10 percent?

Rafe: Tom thinks that this will increase the behind-the-scenes stone-throwing from Microsoft to Google. I think Microsoft is secretly delighted.

Tom: Yeah but they still have to make money off Windows and Office, and I think they'd still like to do that.

Rafe: OK, I'm going to wrap this up.

Thanks, reporters! Thanks, audience!

Thanks for tolerating our experimental live project.

Comment From MichaelC: GREAT experiment! Do this again!

Comment From Todd: Thanks to all of you

Comment From WaldyfromMexico: Thanks guys, really interesting discussion.

Comment From steve84: Thanks for the great live interview fellas love spending time and hearing from you all :)

Comment From steve84: *waves*

Rafe Thanks and bye.