Thanks to the marvels of the connected world, I was able to attend the Google Chrome Special Announcement today streamed live through the Google Chrome YouTube channel.
Initially introduced by Gabriel Stricker, Director of Global Communications & Public Affairs at Google Inc., today’s stream ran at about an hour and a half with an additional Q&A session. Sundar Pichai, Chrome Product Manager, did most of the talking and explaining of this presentation from San Francisco.
The announcement had three main areas and lots of information:
- Chrome Browser – Launched 2 years ago, update on features.
- Chrome Web Store – Initally promised at Google I/O
- Chrome OS – Open-source project behind Chrome OS
Google Chrome Browser
The web switched from documents to dynamic web 2.0 content. Chrome was built seeing this change take place. With a conservative count, Chrome had 70 million users early this year but now has 120 million users using Google Chrome as their daily browser.
What is driving the growth? Chrome is fast. Speed isn’t a feature you can turn on; it’s required to be built into the browser from the start and all the way through.
Brian Rakowski was brought in to explain how Google Chrome has improved speed. Citing Google Instant as an example of speed, he showed that with the next version of Chrome the Omnibox will work like Google Instant. It will instantly pull up Google Search as you type or instantly start loading commonly accessed pages as you type in the domain. He demonstrated typing ‘e’ and ESPN loaded, ‘t’ brought up Twitter, and ‘c’ brought up CNN.
The next example of making Chrome fast was through speeding up content. He demonstrated loading two PDFs, one short and one long (but they looked like visited links (could be cached from before) so questionably impressive). It’s also interesting that Adobe recommends disabling Chrome’s built-in PDF plugin and using the Adobe Reader plugin for a more functional experience.
Another way Chrome has been made faster has been to use the GPU for loading images in addition to the more dynamic content. Using WebGL technology, a spherical aquarium was demonstrated with about 1,000 independent fish swimming in it alongside sharks with LASERs where the beam refracted off the glass.
Another example was an earthquake visualization on the globe, rendered by WebGL in Chrome, that could be rotated and served as an infographic 3-dimensionally to show the strength of each earthquake.
The final example came from the Body Browser. While working hard to keep the show PG, it demonstrated how you could 3-dimensionally rotate the body and remove layers to find body parts.
Simplicity was another point tauted of Chrome. Two years ago, 1/3 of the browser’s resolution was taken up by the browser instead of showing the web. Chrome is designed minimalist so it doesn’t get in the way of your web browsing. Chrome is also simple with its completely behind the scene updates and no modal dialogs. Chrome Sync is another feature aimed toward simplicity by synchronizing all aspects of your browser experience no matter where you’re using it.
Security was the final feature to brag about in the Chrome browser. Many exploits are able to be used because a known vulnerability in a browser can be known, shared, and patched but many users don’t update immediately. Chrome addresses that with automatic updates.
There were 3 main things to discuss for security in Chrome:
- Seamless, automatic updates
- Sandboxing the browser from the OS
- New plug-in sandboxing
Adobe PDF Reader and Adobe Flash are built into the browser. Reader is currently fully sandboxed, Flash is partially sandboxed and they’ll be working with Adobe to fully Sandbox it.
Chrome Web Store
The Google Chrome Web Store was previously announced at Google I/O, with promises made and a Developer SDK released. The Web Store, launching later today, allows users to discover web apps and developers to monetize them while also taking advantage of Chrome specific features. You start off in the Gallery of the Chrome Web Store which looks like most other app stores. NPR and Sports Illustrated apps were demoed that were modestly impressive. To use a web app, you can buy and install your app through the Chrome Web Store, which uses Google authentication and purchases are made through Google Checkout. Developers have options of how to monetize their app like offering a free trial, running a subscription model, offering a flat price model, and possibly others.
COO of EA, John Schappert, was then introduced. EA will be bringing games to the Google Chrome Web Store. They acquired Pogo.com a while ago and he demoed a game hosted there called Poppit!. Using HTML5, the web app was converted in less than 48 hours. Performance is faster and it uses higher resolution graphics. Poppit! is embedded in Google Chrome 9 or available through the Chrome Web Store now.
Eva Manolis and David Limp from Amazon came on stage to show two new apps available through the Chrome Web Store for Amazon: Amazon Window Shop – takes the Amazon shopping experience and makes the interface more fluid and fast, which includes all of Amazon’s inventory including Kindle titles.
Amazon’s Kindle project was launched with the idea to allow any book to be had in less than 60 seconds from the Kindle device, apps for smartphones/tablets, and now Kindle for the Web. Amazon Kindle for the Web as a Chrome Web Store App was built using HTML5 and allows you to read a book right in the browser.
Chrome Webstore is set to launch later today with 500 apps that were developed with close partner relationships. It is now open to other developers. Apps for now, though built on common web technologies are limited to the Chrome browser due to specific features and a common baseline.
Chrome OS is an attempt to rewrite the computer operating system for the Web-heavy usage of modern computing. Chrome OS is nothing but the web. The web working with the hardware is the goal instead of working through layer’s like the modern PC.
They walked through the process of setting up a Google Notebook running Chrome OS. Essentially, you:
Boot up the computer, which comes up instantly and greets you with a sign-in prompt.
You select your network access, accept the Google Chrome OS Terms, and sign in (to access your account) or work in guest mode which will automatically wipe after you log out.
The 4th step is to take your picture (skippable).
After that, you’re in. The netbook is setup and you’re ready to go.
The notebook is setup, boots, and resumes from a closed lid near instantly.
Like the browser, you can synchronize theme and app usage across different platforms.
The guest account makes it sharable. It can be used by others because it’s synchronized to the cloud. For guest sign-in, it’s full incognito mode and wipes at log out. Dubbed the “Friends let Friends Log In” feature.
What about use offline? This scenario was demoed by using wifi and using Google Docs. Then going offline by walking away from the AP but still being able to continue working. You can still use some apps from the Chrome Web Store offline due to cached HTML5.
You may not have to go offline though. Every Chrome netbook has cellular connectivity. You can switch between wifi and cellular connection as desired. Google partnered with Verizon for their initial lead-device. The plan has no contracts, and allows you to buy a day-pass or other plans that just have to be self-activated once you have a Chrome OS netbook.
Handling printing is a significant need for any computer. Chrome OS uses Google Cloud Print, which allows you to print to any printer connected to the network. Google Cloud Print is in beta and will be rolling out shortly as a production service once it is polished.
Security with Chrome OS is very similar to to the Chrome browser. You get the Chrome browser’s automatic updating, apps through the Chrome Web Store automatically updated, Sandbox the whole experience so that malware can’t escape, and encrypt the user data. Use verified boot to make sure the Chrome OS is unmodified and warn the end-user or replace the modified OS if a change is found.
The Total Cost of Ownership is magnitudes lower than today’s PCs.
Gordon Payne with Cisco Systems demonstrated use with Citrix Receiver. Works on PCs, Macs, tablets, iOS, Android, and now Chrome OS to run any applications virtualized and running back in the data center. Excel, SAP, CADcam were demoed.
Chrome OS gets faster as time goes on instead of getting slower like today’s PCs. They aim for a new browser every 6 weeks, so it’s starting fresh.
Chrome OS netbooks have USB ports for cameras and other devices, currently supporting USB keyboards and mice but not external storage. HDMI ports are on the road-map to be added.
Acer, Samsung, Intel, are initial partners with devices going on sale mid-2011.
Today, there is Chrome OS Pilot program to allow early adopters to use and give feedback. The hardware they’re using is dubbed Cr-48. It is black and unbranded hardware to focus on testing the software.
It has a 12.1″ display, full keyboard, 8+ hour battery life, 8 Days of standby battery life, built-in 3G, 802.11n dual-band wifi, and a webcam. While not having a capslock key, function keys, or a hard drive. Jailbreaking is built-in to the hardware.
Cr-48 is a pilot hardware, with no idea on component pricing. Partners like Samsung and Acer will have their own launches and price points.
There are different businesses working with the pilot program to test it in their environment.
There is also a pilot program for consumers. Everybody in the room was able to get one. Some people may see a link in the Chrome new tab window to get one. They held a Twitter contest for Chrome stickers the other day that will go out to some and consumers can fill out an application to request one as well. Visit this page and fill out your application to possibly be selected for one.
I hope I get a Chrome OS tablet. I could think of a number of uses for it. If not, I’ll have to wait until the mid-2011 launches and gauge the price points. But there you have it, a 2 hour special on Google Chrome’s announcement.
Google says it in fewer words on the Official Google Blog.