Review: Google Chrome wants to be your OS

The Chrome Apps architecture enables native-like apps, written in JavaScript with platform APIs, that load fast, run quickly, and work offline

Google Chrome

A couple of months ago, my wife told me, "The Internet is slow." I had a look at her computer, which still runs Windows XP because that's what she knows and likes, and realized that she was still browsing with IE8 (not that she could upgrade IE from there on XP). I used IE8 to install Google Chrome, then allowed Chrome to copy her bookmarks and make itself the default browser; just like that, the Internet was no longer slow.

Chrome is not just the cure for slow browsing. It has a number of other key features to recommend it, including excellent HTML standards compliance, its own copy of Flash, its own PDF viewer, automatic updating, synchronization across computers, incognito viewing, and many extensions.

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Chrome is also the basis for a whole new family of packaged apps built with the Chrome Platform APIs, HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. These apps use the browser's capabilities, but start locally, run from their own app containers, and have access to local resources as well as Web resources. These apps are obviously needed to make Chromebooks more useful, but they add value on other operating systems as well.

On the negative side, Chrome can be a huge memory hog, and it forces you to log in with your Google account if you want to take advantage of its coolest features, such as synchronization among computers and mobile devices. I don't mind logging in, even though it can sometimes be a pain given that I use two-factor authentication, but I know people who think that this loss of anonymity is not worth the benefits.

A platform for apps
If you look at a Chromebook, you'll see Chrome apps as well as the Chrome browser. These apps, or most of them, are also available to Chrome users on Macs, Windows, and (real soon now) Linux. I say "most of them" because QuickOffice comes standard on Chromebooks but is not available from the Chrome Web Store.

The first time you install a Chrome app on a given computer, Chrome will construct a Chrome App Launcher panel (and dock or toolbar icon) for you, which contains icons for the freshly installed app and any others that may have been synchronized to the current computer. When you add more Chrome apps, they will automatically be appended to the Launcher panel. You can easily organize your Launcher panel pages by dragging icons from page to page.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Extensibility (10.0%)
Ease of use (10.0%)
Standards compliance (20.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Features (20.0%)
Security (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Google Chrome 32.0.1700 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0
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