Understanding Chrome OS
Key to the operation of Chromebook computers is Google’s Chrome operating system, also known as Chrome OS. The Chrome OS is a web-based operating system, in that it relies on a variety of web-based services and applications to work; it doesn’t run traditional desktop applications. It’s designed to be used on computers that are wirelessly connected to the Internet.
As such, Chrome OS is a “lightweight” operating system, in that it doesn’t have a large footprint in terms of file size or memory or processing requirements. It can fit quite easily within the limited internal storage space of a typical netbook computer, and is automatically updated whenever the computer is connected to the Internet. It’s also relatively fast and efficient, which results in short startup times and sprightly operation.
The Chrome OS interface closely resembles Google’s Chrome web browser; there is no traditional desktop, as found in Microsoft Windows or Apple’s Mac OS. Applications are launched in individual tabs within the Chrome browser; system operations are accessed from a single Command and Control menu. Using Chrome is more like browsing the web than it is navigating a complex operating system, such as Windows.
Figure 2 The Chrome interface: The browser as the desktop
In fact, if you’ve used the Google Chrome web browser, Chrome OS is going to look and feel very familiar. Using Chrome OS on a Chromebook is almost identical to using the Chrome browser on a traditional computer, complete with its multiple tabs and address box. The big difference is that Chrome OS not only displays web pages in its tabs, but also web applications and system operations; you use the Chrome OS address box to enter and search not only web URLs but also web apps.
As befits its browser-like look and feel, Chrome OS runs only web-based applications. It does not and cannot run traditional software programs. This means that you can’t use programs like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop – which presents the biggest difference between using a Chromebook and using a Windows or Mac PC.