Google Chrome Operating System

PDF version of this report
You must have Adobe Acrobat reader to view, save, or print PDF files. The reader
is available for free

Chrome Operating System

by Michael Gariffo

Docid: 00021950

Publication Date: 2012

Report Type: PRODUCT


Google’s Chrome is an open-source, lightweight operating system (OS) designed
to run on Chromebook laptops as
well as on lightweight desktop clients. The philosophy behind the OS is to provide just enough client-side
software to accomplish accessibility without weighing down the machine with excess storage or large amounts of locally-installed software. The
source code for Chrome OS has been available for several years as the
open-source Chromium project. In addition to Google, hardware manufacturers such
Acer, Dell, HP, Samsung, and several others offer Chrome OS-based devices.

Report Contents:


[return to top of this report]

Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system designed to work with Web

Related Faulkner Reports

Google Company Profile
Chromebook Product Report

Announced on July 7, 2009, and released as an open-source project named Chromium
OS in November of that year, the Chrome operating system is essentially an
expanded version of Google’s Chrome Web browser to which a local file manager, media player,
and select other components have been added. It is within this browser instance that all local software is
housed and tasks are performed. These
tasks are handled using Web-based applications similar to the Google Apps catalog,
which the company has cultivated for years.


Google Inc.

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
+1 650-253-0000
Type of Vendor: Internet Search, Computer and mobile software, Web
Founded: 1998
Service Areas: Worldwide
Stock Symbol: NASDAQ: GOOG
London Stock Exchange: GGEA

While a knee-jerk reaction to this type of
framework might be to say it suffers from limitations due to lack of support for
traditional software, Chrome OS actually benefits from the increased
prevalence of cloud services, Web applications, and HTML5 (the
most-recent version of the HTML markup language for content on the Web). This
allows it to replicate much of the functionality found in Windows, Linux, or Mac
OS portables.

Chrome OS is also aided by the presence of
Chrome Web
, which includes downloadable basic and advanced software apps to
cover most of the tasks required from the average laptop computer. Photo
and vector editors, productivity software, news readers, and social
networking tools are among the thousands of apps available. Major publishers
such as Evernote, Dropbox, Microsoft, Pandora, Spotify, and others all
have a presence within the Chrome Web store.

Chrome OS is not a conventional operating system like Windows that one can
download or buy on a disc and install. As a consumer, the way to acquire
Chrome OS is to buy a Chromebook, a form of laptop computer, that has Chrome OS
pre-installed, or a "Chrome Box," a similarly stripped down desktop PC, designed
to work with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.


In addition to Google’s own branded Chromebooks (the Chromebook Pixel and
Pixelbook lines),
Chromebooks and Chrome Boxes are currently being manufactured or were recently
manufactured by Acer, Asus, HP,
Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, Toshiba, Google itself, and others. 

A more comprehensive list of current hardware providers and their offerings
can be found within Faulkner’s Chromebook buying guide.


[return to top of this report]

Google Chrome OS enables access to essentially any Web-based applications that are available via
the Internet.

For most business users, a Chromebook cannot replace a conventional
PC, but certain casual users, such as students, may be able to adopt the Chromebook
model exclusively, especially if their schools allow access to Google Apps, a
cloud-based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite.

More significantly, perhaps, the concept of cloud computing combined with
Chrome OS is advancing the dream of information technology as a utility, in
which the consumer "plugs into" the Internet in the same way we plug
household appliances into a wall socket. In this respect, Chrome OS
represents another step in simplifying the client-side component of cloud


[return to top of this report]

Based on the Google Chrome browser, Google Chrome OS is essentially a browser
that runs natively (i.e., not atop another operating system like Windows) on a
special thin-client hardware platform called a Chromebook. Chrome OS is
designed for an increasingly large percentage of PC users that conduct all of their
business – e-mail, news gathering, shopping, education, and even office functions (via Google
Apps and other SaaS utilities) – over the Internet. There is no significant local
storage and no locally installed apps in the traditional sense because all activity is conducted in the cloud.
In this sense, Chrome OS is a cloud-based operating system.

The sole exception to this cloud-only approach to applications came in 2014
when Google unveiled App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) a software tool that allowed
applications originally designed for Android to be used within Chrome OS. This
originally required the apps to be modified to work with a pointing device and
keyboard as not all Chrome OS devices sport touchscreens. However, since that
time, Google and several other manufacturers have begun producing Chromebooks with built-in touchscreens. This makes native support for Android
applications and their touch-based interactivity an even more important part of
Chrome as users now have full access to the app library
of Google Play in addition to the Chrome Web Store.

To support this additional functionality, Google announced in 2016 that the Google Play Store, Android’s
official app and media storefront, would be coming to Chrome OS. Rather than
running in an ARC environment, the new source of Android Apps on Chrome would
work with a standard version of Android’s framework running within a container
that Chrome OS can handle natively. This results in Android apps being emulated
on a deeper level, providing broader compatibility with a wider selection of
apps and input device scenarios. This greatly broadened the number of Android
apps that were usable within Chrome OS by eliminating the compatibility
issues that could arise when a single app is expected to run on a variety of
devices with varying resolutions, input options, CPUs, memory, and more.

As the advent of touchscreen-enabled Chromebooks began to flourish, several
manufacturers also started making "convertible" models, meaning they
include a screen that can be folded almost a full 360 degrees. This creates a
tablet/laptop hybrid usable in multiple physical modes with access to the
applications of both operating systems. If there were any doubts that Google
fully supported this form factor as the future of ChromeOS, they were put to
rest when it announced that the successor to its Chromebook Pixel would be the
new Pixelbook and its successor, the Pixelbook Go. Like offerings available already from several other
manufacturers, the Pixelbook line was able to fold flat, providing either a
traditional laptop or tablet, with full support for a pressure sensitive stylus.
Google further expanded the marriage of Chrome OS’ keyboard-based world with
Android’s touch-based interface when it later released the Pixel Slate, the
first tablet to be based primarily on ChromeOS. Like the Pixelbooks, the Pixel
Slate supported a pressure-sensitive stylus, and included several optional
keyboard covers that allow it to operate like a laptop when the user chooses.

Google’s most recent updates to Chrome OS have focused on further marrying
the operating system with its Android and smart home offerings. These have
included enhanced browsing controls for touchscreen-enabled Chromebooks; the
ability to quickly send links between Chrome OS devices, Android devices, and
Chrome browser installations; and, perhaps most importantly, the continually
deepening integration of the Google Assistant into the Chrome operating system.
Although it primarily started out as a component of Android, Google Assistant
has come to power not only the company’s range of smart speakers, but is also
now an integral part of many Chromebook devices. Most recent models even support
hotword activation phrases, allowing users to simply say "hey, Google," or "OK,
Google" to their Chromebook in order to issue a voice-based query or command.
Although ChromeOS and Android remain completely separate entities, Google
continues to try to make the experience for users switching between the two
platforms as seamless as possible. In many ways, it is a race between Google’s
integration of ChromeOS and Android and Apple’s integration of iOS and MacOS,
with the winner being the first to truly eliminate any and all obstacles a user
of both that company’s platforms faces.


[return to top of this report]

Google offers support for Google Chrome OS and, more specifically, Google
Chromebooks on the Chromebooks support page.


[return to top of this report]

Google Chrome OS competes with all major operating systems, including
Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. Google Chrome OS is, itself, a variant of Linux.

[return to top of this report]

About the Author

[return to top of this report]

Michael Gariffo is an editor for Faulkner Information Services. He
tracks and writes about enterprise software and the IT services sector, as well
as telecommunications and data networking.

[return to top of this report]