What About a Command Prompt and Other Questions

By Jeff Cogswell  |  Posted 2009-07-08 Print this article Print


Google tells us the OS won't be a windowing system and that the Chrome Browser will be the GUI. As a power user, this gives me concern. I hope that they would include various file management tools. And what about a command prompt? I may be an old holdout, but I do a lot of my work inside the command prompt. I want to be able to go into a directory and manually edit and modify the files myself. But if the operating system isn't a windowing operating system and the browser is a GUI, how do I open my favorite text editor (nedit in Linux, scite in Windows)?

And what about development tools? One reason Microsoft is incredibly successful is because it creates free development tools. Now I would be willing to bet the development tools for Chrome OS will be free (based on open-source GNU). But Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make its development tools incredibly accessible to developers everywhere. I would bet that a version of Eclipse will be available, but then we're back to the other issue about this not being a windowing platform. Will the tools have to somehow run inside the browser? While that's an intriguing possibility, it does give me great concern about its feasibility (and whether such a tool even exists yet).

Now elsewhere I've pointed out that the majority of our work today is done within the browser. That may be true at home, but not at work. Obviously, corporations are going to stick to Windows and Linux for their operating systems of choice. I would bet that Google has already considered this, but then we have an issue of people using a different OS at home. (And what about people working from home? Will there be a VPN client for Chrome OS?)

Next, what about drivers? I have some pretty great gadgets that came with USB cables and Windows (and sometimes Linux) drivers so I can plug the gadgets into my computer. Will the Chrome OS support such devices? Perhaps it will if, at heart, it is really just something similar to Ubuntu, which already has most of the drivers you would need. But if it's truly a scaled-down, lightweight OS, then it likely won't have the drivers. The gadget manufacturers will have to create the device drivers. How long will that take, if ever?

Creating office applications that run in the Web browser is one thing. Creating a full-fledged operating system is another thing altogether. Can they really do it? How much thought have they really put into this? Personally, I'm incredibly skeptical that, from both a technical and business perspective, they can make it happen. It sounds more like a cool Google Labs project but not necessarily a viable business model.

I remember the time a co-worker of mine at a previous job suggested we skip purchasing Oracle and just "write our own relational database management system." He added, "I mean really: How hard can it be?" How hard indeed. If it were that simple, we'd see far more competitors to Oracle than we see right now.

Remember Microsoft Bob? Remember Microsoft WinFS? Remember Microsoft Cairo? And many of us don't remember when Microsoft tried to get into the toy industry (outside of their own business) with its failed ActiMates product. There were times Microsoft ventured out of its main line of business, and, for various reasons, had to throw in the towel.

Google can certainly learn a great deal from Microsoft.

Jeff Cogswell is the author of Designing Highly Useable Software (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0782143016) among other books and is the owner/operator of CogsMedia Training and Consulting.Currently Jeff is a senior editor with Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to joining Ziff, he spent about 15 years as a software engineer, working on Windows and Unix systems, mastering C++, PHP, and ASP.NET development. He has written over a dozen books.

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