Right now Google Chrome OS is little more than a Google Chrome web browser running on top of a Linux kernel. There’s no desktop or taskbar, and there aren’t many native apps built into the operating system unless you count the file browser or media player which open in in browser tabs.

But Google may be planning to make its Chrome operating system look more like… well, more like an operating system soon.

For the past few months developers have been working a project called the Aura Shell which gives the operating system a desktop and window manager. It’s possible to build a version of the open source version of Chrome OS (called Chromium OS) from source with Aura, but the new environment isn’t yet ready for Google or its partners to deploy on Chromebooks such as the Samsung Series 5 or Acer AC700.

Even with the Aura Shell, Chromium OS is designed first and foremost to run web apps, not native apps. But your apps and settings can appear on a desktop instead of a browser tab. There’s also a taskbar and system tray, or “uber-tray” which lets you access some settings quickly.

It may also be possible to store documents and other files on the desktop. Google recently rolled out the ability to synchronize your Google Docs with Chromium OS, so that all of your spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents are available on the go whether you have an internet connection or not.

The Aura Shell makes Chromium look and act a bit more like a traditional Windows or Linux desktop operating system while retaining an emphasis on cloud storage, web apps, and quick boot speeds.

At the same time, we’re starting to see companies producing Chromebooks with higher caliber hardware which should improve performance.

Samsung recently started showing off an upcoming Chromebook which uses an Intel Celeron processor rather than an Atom chip. And Google is reportedly testing Chrome on computers with Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge processor.

Chrome OS is still a tough sell. Almost anything you can do with a notebook running Chrome OS you can also do with a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer running the Chrome web browser.

Google Chromium OS with Aura Shell

But Chrome OS offers tighter security, since users don’t download and install apps — instead they’re hosted online. Also, since all of your data is associated with your Google account, if your Chromebook is lost or stolen you can pick up another computer and start working right where you left off.

While those features could be attractive to some consumers, Chromebooks might be most useful in business and education settings. Users can check out a computer, sign into their account, and start working right away whether they’re using the same machine they were issued last time or not.

via OMG Ubuntu

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8 replies on “Chromium OS gets a desktop and window manager, looks like a proper OS”

  1. Being like the others is no way to differentiate yourself. 

    Why don’t they try chromeless browsing. Why must all of the tabs be visible all of the time? They could momentarily appear on Ctrl (anticipating a +TAB). 

    The same holds true for the url stuff. Ctrl+L gets us there when it’s needed. 

    In short: learn the iPad lesson (and please make it better than the iPad itself)! 

  2. If they’re going to do this, why not simply use an existing lightweight desktop solution?

    This takes away the only thing that excited me about the OS in the first place (barebones web) and makes me wonder why consumers won’t just buy the cheaper Linux laptops and load Chrome on them, enjoying the safety net native applications provide in a mature environments like GNOME or KDE.

    1. The video actually wasn’t of Chrome OS per se, but of Chromium on Ubuntu with the Aura flags passed at compile time. And the “Translucent Windows” flag apparently is what gave the blue screen, especially when combined with some other flag I can’t remember (ask François Beaufort on Google+ for details).

      However, if you happen to log into the latest Acer/Samsung Dev release (19.0.1055.3) and type “chrome://flags” into the Omnibox, you’ll find a “Window Mode” flag. The flag works fine in both Lime (19.0.1058.0) and Vanilla, though in the Dev Channel (for the AC700/S5) it shows up “Sorry, not available on your platform”.

      It’s this flag that allows you to switch between “Overlapping”, “Managed”, and “Compact” desktop modes. And what’s more: it defaults to “Overlapping” in most cases.

      And believe me, Chrome OS Aura is every bit as cloud-centric as its Compact cousin. The “desktop” you see is really just multiple Chrome windows instead of one large one (on top of a customizable desktop background), and the “app list” (accessible by clicking on that little white grid logo on the lower left) is really nothing but Web app shortcuts (that will eventually launch in new windows instead of tabs) and will eventually replace the Apps section of the New Tab Page. Oh, and the Uber tray screams Android to me, and indicates that Google plans on making the design of Chrome OS somewhat similar to the design of the tablet-based Android.

  3. I messed around with Vanilla Chromium running it off a USB and it worked OK but I really didn’t like not having a desktop.  I think it is a good idea to make it more like a traditional OS if Google wants wider adoption.

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