Later this year Google will release their Linux-based Chrome OS operating system. They first announced it a year ago when XP shipping on Netbooks was the most talked-about subject in IT circles. Back then there was no talk of tablets beyond a few people saying how nice it would be to be able to properly utilise the multi-touch features in the, brand new, Windows 7 operating system. We'd never even heard of the iPad.
Now though it appears that Chrome OS could be the right product launching at excatly the right time. Back then, for it now seems such a long time ago, it was heavily criticised by many people for not supporting local storage or local apps and forcing people to go online if ever they wanted to do anything.
Now though things are different, gone are the comments about buying an expensive paperweight for the next time you're out and about, and in come cries that it' what we've all been waiting for.
So what's behind the shift? Quite simply the introduction, or should I say reintroduction of tablet computing has made all the difference. These are devices that most people will use for light commuting tasks around the home. Taking myself for example, for I shall no doubt buy a tablet later this year, I want one for when I'm crashed in front of the TV and want to do nothing more complex than a little light web browsing or email, but don't want to be hunched over a laptop or sat at a desk in front of a PC. In fact I've deliberately moved a PC out of my living room for this very reason.
For these tasks, most of what a tablet will be used for, it's perfect. A small, lightweight device for using in the home in front of the TV.
The problem the iPad and other tablets have is that, for these purposes they're simply too expensive. Apple and other tablet manufacturers have touted them as take-anywhere devices, and have included features such as 3G connectivity to help with this. I can't see most tablet users dragging the thing around with them though, we all have smart phones for that.
The big advantage that Chrome OS will bring is price. Google have already announced that their free OS is aimed at small, low cost, low power machines that will save on price by foregoing the local storage they don't need. This would bring the tablet down to the kind of price range that would finally appeal to the masses, and the iPad could be facing some VERY serious competition indeed.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.