Opinion: Why Google’s Chrome OS Will Look Hopelessly Antiquated Next Year

Looking at Google’s Chrome OS demos today, I noticed a giant omission that bodes ill for its future: it’s not optimized for touchscreens.

Chrome looks like a nifty version of a desktop OS, like a version of OS X or Windows, that pulls a lot of data from the cloud. Yeah, it’s slick, thoughtful and forward thinking, at least in one sense: Cloud apps are clearly the future, so why not the OS also?

But it looks like a traditional WIMP OS (window, icon, menu, pointing device). Why isn’t Chrome optimized for finger controls? The future of computing is mobile devices; and the future of mobile devices is touchscreens. As far as I can tell, Google didn’t mention touch at all, and none of the press asked about it.

Google says the Chrome OS will be launched by this time next year, by which time Apple will probably have reinvented the mobile computing experience with a multitouch tablet.

Apple’s tablet will do for netbooks what the iPhone did for cell phones — make the competition look hopelessly antiquated, whatever OS they run. Google says the UI is still under development and is subject to change; they’ll have to change it radically if they want a chance of competing with Apple, which has already adapted Snow Leopard for touchscreens.

Like Steve Jobs says, quoting hockey player Wayne Gretzky, Google needs to be aiming for where the puck’s going to be, not where it’s at now.

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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