Will Google Chrome OS Run on the XO Laptop?


Now that Google has announced that yes, they are working on a netbook operating system, what might Google Chrome mean for the XO laptop - the netbook category inspiration?


Will Google Chrome run on the XO?

From what Google says, I expect that it should run damn fast on the XO. Just listen to the specs from the announcement - that's a perfect XO OS for adults:

We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds... [W]e are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple - Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform.

Will it be better than Sugar Learning Platform?

Now this is the bigger question. Ever since Aquatic Sugar, people have been thinking up ways to re-envision the Sugar interface, and yet the little XO guy surrounded by activities has stood the test of time, even onto Sugar on a Stick. So I think it will hold its own against Google Chrome.

But enough of me - what do you think?

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Who uses Google Doc's or other office programs in a regular basis?

Yes, then it is for you!

No, then keep what you have now!

uh, I do...

Part of my ideologically-dependent use of the XO for as much as possible is that I prepare conference presentations and many documents in the XO, using Google docs. Yes, even Stallman gave up, but not yamaplos, no no ! :-)

There are a couple of hurdles to cross with this. One is that the OLPC doesn't really have a standardized Linux distribution - you either get the OLPC distribution, which is a custom version of a fairly old kernel, and has good power management, or you have the newer kernel with not as good power management.

So I think there would be a substantial cost to Google if they wanted to support XO, simply in terms of coming up with a distribution that had all the necessary toys in it. In principle the XO would be a great platform for this, but in practice it's hard because the XO is so different than a netbook from the PC/BIOS lineage.

The other problem is that Google Chrome is kind of big. The XO only has 256M of memory. I don't know why Chrome uses so much memory, but it does - it has a substantially bigger footprint than Firefox, which isn't exactly dainty.

So while I'd personally love to see this happen, I'm not holding my breath. If you're really into it, I'd suggest that when Google releases the code, you try to make it work yourself.

It will probably be a good choice for grown-ups who just wanted something cute, cheap and rugged to surf the web with, and haven't gotten rid of their XO after finding that it didn't do such a good job at that.

That's the Google Chrome target market I'm thinking of. The very same one that's viewed Teapot's Ubuntu on the XO post over 156,500 times and counting. Demand is there...

The interesting question is not whether Chrome will run on an XO. We know it can, if a few Open Source developers decide to make it their project. Much more importantly, someone can make Sugar run on Chrome OS, which is based on Linux, in the same way that Sugar runs on a variety of Linux distributions today.


At some point there will be an ARM version of Sugar for the XO-2, and that can be ported to the ARM version of Chrome OS. Now we have to wait for the centipede to start dropping shoes, the centipede being the vendors of netbooks and other devices that can run Chrome OS.


Sugar on Chrome OS will probably be possible, but somewhat pointless -- if Chrome is simpler and outperforms a standard Linux distro (which would seem to be the point of it), it will be because it doesn't have as much overhead, perhaps a lighter windowing system than X, almost certainly not a desktop environment like GNOME, probably an extremely minimal window manager (essentially the Chrome browser itself), no GTK, etc. Using Sugar will require turning a lot of that stuff back on, which will make it a lot more like a regular distro. You might be better off running Chrome the browser on Sugar than vice versa. Regardless, to the end user it would be a wash.

Until I see chrome running natively in Linux (in the works...), I feel ChromeOS is really vaporware.

Part of the motivation for ChromeOS is probably that the engineers working on Chrome really don't like the choices for GUI toolkits on Linux. Chances are that part of the reason you don't see Chrome running on LInux is because they're rather solve the problem right than shoehorn a solution in where it doesn't fit nicely.

I have built Chromium on Linux, and it works, but plugins are a problem, and the toolkit situation isn't pretty. So I kind of don't blame them for taking their time with it. When you look at how much trouble goes into making web pages look nice these days, wrapping that in old newspaper is, understandably, not a very attractive option.

Chrome on Windows doesn't seem to use native widgets either, so it should be very portable, and its core functionality works just fine now on Linux. They clearly designed it for portability. I've been using it as my primary browser on Linux, and the noticeable bugs are a cut/paste bug and (surprise) some Flash issues.

Those are the kind of bugs you expect in integrating with a new environment otherwise it is fine. I'm not expecting any problems there.

Like the XO-2 vaporware?

Sorry, I'm not following you. What does XO-2 have to do with this?

So far the XO-2 is vaporware, just like Chrome. Neither have been seen in the wild yet.