posted by Kris Shaffer on Thu 24th Mar 2005 19:07 UTC

"Google OS, Page 2/2"
Students can more comfortably use computer labs, knowing that everything will be right where they left it, no matter what machine they use. You can replace a machine without copying and reconfiguring everything. Any web-enabled computer can handle most home users' desktop computing needs with relative consistency. You can experiment with or switch to a new operating system (Yahoo, MSN, .Mac) without buying a new machine or partitioning your hard drive. Ads--not consumers--pay for consumer-grade software, and since more apps will be web-based, you can try out these proprietary programs on any machine at no cost, and without the process of downloading and installing. And, as creepy as it may sound to leave your data permanently on a server, this would actually be more secure than the data on many computers out there today.

Now for the fun. Right now, open source programs like Firefox boast some killer extensions that make browsing a lot more fun and a lot more productive. Imagine the kinds of plug-ins and extensions one could write for this Google OS, were it based on open standards (this past week, Google released much of its code as open source, and posted some key APIs at Perhaps you mouse over a URL, and a preview of the page pops up in the corner. A couple mouse clicks or a keyboard shortcut puts a graphic or media clip from the web right into your slide presentation. When working on a research project, you can bookmark sites of interest right into the outline of your paper. Or imagine a database of freely-downloadable music, from top artists, television shows, news videos, etc., paid for by inconspicuous Google text ads.

Every user could have a personal database where you can put information about yourself, with varying permission levels. Anytime your screen name shows up in an email, a letter, a website, mousing over it will preview your data. If someone not in your access list does this, it merely shows a link to your home page. For those in your address book, it shows your full name, location, a flattering picture (maybe it's even one of you!), and links to your blog and your favorite websites and activities. For certain close friends and family members, your phone number, IM account, and email address popup, so they can communicate with you instantly with one click. Any document you create can be instantly uploaded to a community database, indexed by Google, and accessed by anyone, or only those of your choosing. And not just text documents and spreadsheets. Oh, no. Posters, magazines, songs, animated shorts, even feature-length movies! All powered by software hosted on the servers, paid for by ads just like the ones you already have in your Gmail account and your Google searches. And for projects requiring professional software running on a studio machine, the server can still act as a central storage area—tied to a webpage outlining the project details and timeline—where files can be checked in and out as various project members work on them.


When taking a step back and soaking in all that has developed in the last couple years, it is not at all far fetched to hypothesize the kind of innovation and integration I have suggested, especially for a company like Google. Nor is it far fetched to imagine Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, and others pushing each other towards and beyond such a goal. Personally, I am excited to see what will happen in the next few years. I am taken aback to remember when a word processor was its own machine, when software—and even the OS—ran off of floppy disks, when a computer didn't boot—it turned on, and when a monitor that looked as good as a TV was a big deal. But I'm truly looking forward to the time when I will be surprised to remember when a computer was its own machine, when software—and even the OS—was run off of a hard drive, when a computer didn't turn on—it booted, and when a TV and a monitor were two different things! All the indications are saying the same thing: the next few years in computing technology will not be merely a faster version of what we're already doing. It's time for a revolution. Simplicity, elegance, functionality. It works for Google; will it work for you?

About the Author:
Kris Shaffer is a musician from Chicago, IL, who likes to tinker with Linux, Mac OS X, and web design in his spare time. He has a Master of Music degree from the Chicago College of Performing Arts and will soon begin doctoral study at Yale University. His home on the web (including papers and recordings) is

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  1. "Google OS, Page 1/2"
  2. "Google OS, Page 2/2"
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