The open source project Chromium OS is showing some considerable progress. Graphically, the look is simpler, cleaner and most likely even less process intensive as the previous reviews. Additionally, the team working on Chrome OS is likely to be close to completion either on the Fall or later. The main focus at this point is whether to support file compression (more specifically, zip files). Additionally, it is most likely going to allow users to browse without having to login to Google services, which initially was assumed not to be allowed.
We were able to grab some screenshots. A description is provided after each screenshot:
Browsing in Chrome OS: the top bar containing the tabs goes away in favor of a side tab bar. At the bottom of the tab bar there is a mini system-status bar that indicates wireless signal, battery charge remaining and time. The first icon seems to be a smiley, but we are not sure what it means. It could be some sort of notification service, but we could not confirm.
We are not sure if the tab bar hides after a particular amount of time, but personally I think that it takes too much screen real estate uselessly when it is not being heavily used. On the other hand, if you happen to be browsing 25 – 35 pages at once (with as many tabs open) you could read most titles from all of them. Still, it seems overkill to take about about 15%-16% of the screen just for showing tabs… let’s just hope it automatically hides after a set period of time.
Google Chrome OS Options: this is what the settings form is looking like at this point. I am saying “at this point”, because as you know Chrome OS is still work in progress, and in the next few months, the look and feel of this configuration form may see substantial changes.
This particular form does not show much about the user interface as one would expect… according to this one screenshot, it could perfectly be a configuration form from Windows, Mac OS, Linux… it’s nothing revolutionary, just plain cookie-cutter form design.
User Selection and Login Screen: Simple, no-borders or heavy delimiters to the user interface. this means that it should perform faster on slower (cheaper) hardware. Should we bring our hopes up for the sub-$100 Chrome OS Netbook? Who knows at this point… As long as screens take less and less computing power to render, the better it will run in the cloud. The simpler the screens are, it means that there may be less information to transmit from the cloud back to the device and a consequence of that will be that it will be less complicated to process and display the resulting screen on the device. In my book, simple is always better; especially with OS design. The login screen is also shown here where you can enter your credentials. You’ll be able to notice that these are two very slightly different versions of the same screens. They are not very different, but if the team is looking at these tiny differences, they very likely closing in on the final look and feel for this particular screen.
Session-less Browsing: It looks like you will not need to login into the OS in order to do basic browsing. Please have in mind that this particular screenshot is showing what we believe to be the old tabbed browsing user interface, so we are not sure if this will still be a feature or not in the final version.
The implications are that you could take a computer with Chrome OS, make it look and configure it however you want it to be configured and use it for (at least) browsing. Obviously, after you shutdown, you will lose any changes you have made to your settings, but that will only be because you never logged in in the first place. Will this give you some sort of “anonymous browsing” capabilities? Remember the servers know who you are when you log in because you are using an OS that lives in the cloud – on the servers- and not your computer as it is with the current generation of devices where you can remain anonymous by staying off line. In a cloud based OS, like Chrome OS is, this is not an option… because very little exists on your computer and most of it exists in the cloud.
Google seems to be testing Chrome OS pretty heavily in low level devices. A particular reference was made to sub-par hardware. Maybe even hardware commoditized to a point that would be extremely cheap to come by. How cheap or how commoditized it would be is a matter of speculation.
Chromium OS does not support zipping and unzipping files right now, but there seems to be two clearly divided camps. Some don’t believe it to be necessary while others seem to believe it is absolutely needed. This is a hot topic of discussion for the developers right now.
The OS will provide features for a screensaver and a lock-screen in case you step away from your computer. These are basic features, so no big news here.
Overall, Chrome OS seems to be making great progress, so let’s wait a few more months to see what comes out of this project… Who knows, maybe we’ll see the first products featuring the OS for the holiday season.