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Friday, November 9, 2007

First Look at gOS

Ludwik Trammer emailed in his first impression of gOS [site down at the moment here], which we can think of as an unofficial first step into the direction of a “Google OS,” and which Walmart sold as gPC. After all, who needs a bloated Windows and MS Office once all your apps moved online? (If that day ever comes, that is – we’re not quite there yet, e.g. photo retouching software, 3D modeling, video editing...)

The current version of the gOS is a Ubuntu 7.10 with a different desktop environment (Enlightenment), Mac-like look (dock with animated icons, open/close/minimize button in a left corner) and a bunch of shortcuts to various web apps in a dock. The apps just open in Firefox, which has the Google Toolbar installed by default (you have to accept the Google Toolbar license agreement before the system starts the first time).

It’s obviously intended for people who don’t know much about computers (the founder of gOS even said: “I like their mantra ’Linux for human beings.’ I wanted to take it further.. more like ’Linux for human beings who shop at Wal-Mart’ ... ’and who probably have never heard of Linux”...’), but it’s REALLY hard to do anything else than just launch installed programs/ web apps. I use Ubuntu for years, and even I had problems with installing new software, and still haven’t figured out how to successfully make a shortcut on the desktop. The fact that it has tons of Ubuntu legacy stuff that doesn’t really work properly anymore but hasn’t been completely removed yet doesn’t help. I’m sure they will correct this eventually. The system is in development since just 6 months.

So more interesting than the current version are the possibilities. It could be really interesting when other technologies built around an idea of bringing web apps to the desktop mature, for example Mozilla Prism (BTW – gOS uses Prism right now for the results of Google Search done from the search box embedded on the desktop, but not in any other part of the system) and Google Gears. It also need much better desktop <-> web apps integration. For example right now you can even choose web app in an “Open file in...” dialog, but this doesn’t automatically upload the file to the server, so the web app just opens without doing anything. Google API integration with the desktop would solve this.

It would be also interesting to compare gOS with the SymphonyOS approach. SymphonyOS is an another experimental Linux distribution, with an interesting interface, that is generated using web page technology (both server site technology, using a server that runs locally, and the client side technologies). One of the thing SymphonyOS lets you to do is to embed any Google gadget right into your desktop. Here is a screenshot:

Another quote from the founder of gOS:

Everex and Google had a signed agreement for us to preload the Google toolbar. I actually went to Google yesterday to demo the real gPC out of the box, literally (i took one from the line). It’s not an official “google pc” or “google os”, it is what I think one should look like though. Google knew what we were doing, we showed them screenshots mid development, etc. We’ll keep our contacts there updated as we work on the next gPC with an improved gOS.

[First screenshot by Ionut with a CC-license.]


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