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Yesterday, Google held a press conference at its Mountain View headquarters to provide the world with an update on its new operating system, Chrome OS.

A lot of new details were forthcoming, which have have been well-covered by others. The questions on everyone's mind: is Chrome OS the real deal? Where does it fit in? How will it impact the OS market. My answers: it isn't, nowhere, it won't. Here are 12 reasons why Chrome OS is going to fail.

  1. The web matters, but so does the desktop. With Chrome OS, Google is betting that desktop apps don't matter to the average consumer. Is that a good bet? Probably not. While there's no doubt that you can do a lot on the web today, but that doesn't mean the desktop is dead. From accounting programs (e.g. Quickbooks) to P2P software (e.g. Limewire) to the desktop software that comes bundled with devices like digital cameras, there are plenty of desktop applications that average consumers still use, or might want to use.
  2. Less isn't more. Even if 95% of what you do is on the web and Chrome OS seems like a viable choice, why buy a machine that can do less than the machine you have today? Unless the machines packing Chrome OS are significantly cheaper, the average consumers is not going to pay approximately the same amount of money for less functionality and flexibility.
  3. Google's focus on netbooks is short-sighted. Netbooks may not be dying, but the ultrathin is fast becoming the new netbook. Some low-end ultrathins sporting more powerful ultra-low voltage (ULV) CPUs from Intel and AMD cost as much as high-end netbooks with much less powerful processors. The question for a consumer is why you'd want to run an OS clearly designed for yesterday's netbooks on your new, more powerful ultrathin. The obvious answer: you don't.
  4. Consumers are comfortable with Windows. Love it or hate it, Windows is in a long-term relationship with consumers. Getting them to cozy up to a different kind of OS is a huge marketing challenge. As is getting them to keep their Chrome OS machine once they realize that it's a Chrome OS machine. As an example, consider MSI, which has in the past attributed the high return rates for some of its netbooks to the fact that they were running Linux:

    "Our internal research has shown that the return of netbooks is higher than regular notebooks, but the main cause of that is Linux. People would love to pay $299 or $399 but they don’t know what they get until they open the box.

    They start playing around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used to. They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to the store. The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks."
  5. Windows 7 rocks. Microsoft's new OS has received a lot of positive press, and as someone who is running it on a new ultrathin ULV laptop, I can say that it's a very decent OS and is much, much faster than Vista. In fact, if I owned an underpowered netbook I suspect I still might be able to get away with running Windows 7 on it. As a fun comparison, consider that (according to Net Applications) Windows 7 has already achieved greater marketshare in the OS market since mid-September than the Chrome browser has achieved in the browser market since December 2008. Yet Google has promoted the Chrome browser on some of the most trafficked properties in the world, including on its homepage. That shows the significant mountain Google faces in penetrating the OS market.
  6. Google doesn't have a monopoly on web apps. Chrome OS is a viable option if you can use web apps exclusively. But so is Windows, Mac OS X, Linux or any other operating system that runs a web browser. After all, you can run web apps -- including Google's -- in just about every modern browser. In other words, when you get right down to it Google isn't really offering you anything that you don't already have.
  7. Support? What support? If you're an average consumer and something goes wrong with your Chrome OS netbook, who are you going to call? Certainly not Google. And without massive usage, it's hard to see local computer techs (or services like the Geek Squad) jumping over themselves to support Chrome OS users.
  8. HTML5 isn't here. Google's belief in web apps is inherently based on its belief in HTML5. There's only one problem: HTML5 isn't here and it will almost certainly be years before developers really start looking at it seriously.
  9. The interesting features are technical. Google is bringing some interesting things to the table with Chrome OS but most of them are subtle details that appeal to techies. The problem is that you can't really sell technical details to the layman with enough specificity to be meaningful.
  10. Only 'referenced hardware' will be supported. Chrome OS may be open source but it will only run on hardware Google chooses to support. There are obvious, logical reasons for this but make no doubt about it: this is a huge barrier to adoption and in my opinion will even make it difficult for Chrome OS to compete with Linux. That's bad news for Chrome OS, since we know how well the Ubuntus of the world have fared.
  11. The Chrome browser hasn't taken the world by storm. While one could debate how respectable Google's results with the Chrome browser are, one can't debate a simple fact: Chrome is clearly not taking over the world. Which begs the question: if consumers aren't flocking to download Chrome the browser for free, why will they flock to pay for machines with Chrome OS when the key selling points are largely the same? Answer: they won't.
  12. At the end of the day, Chrome OS is the Chrome browser. When you take a few steps back, all Google has really done is built an 'OS' to run a web browser. Not a big deal.
Patricio Robles

Published 20 November, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2394 more posts from this author

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Techs Palace

Points can be considered, but its too early to judge. There is still one long year for its release.

almost 7 years ago

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Martin Eddington

There's a couple of big flaws with your argument. Firstly - in the Google presentation they specifically said that they saw these devices as "companion" devices. They are not meant to replace a "proper" laptop or an ultrathin.

Secondly - with the new ARM chipsets it is entirely feasible that you could get a Chrome OS smartbook for under $100. You'd pay $80 just to upgrade to a proper version of Windows 7 for a netbook. So if you want to mainly use the net then you'd make a massive saving.

Lastly, I don't think you've read all the specs yet. Your comment about "Who will support or service it ?" is irrelevant. If you reboot a Chrome OS device it loads a Public Key from the firmware, the kernel checks the installed software, fixes it if there's a problem and restores the machine to it's working state. So if the hardware breaks then you take it to the hardware manufacturer. If the software breaks then you reboot it and it works again. What possible software servicing do you need on a machine which ONLY runs a specific set of local programs ? There's no chance of a virus, malware, or non-interoperable software...

almost 7 years ago

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Richard Spalding

I like this post, designed to provocate I believe.

But to take on two points, I think the hardware will be a cheaper price point than many netbooks AND this will be a secondary device. So two years down the line Mr and Mrs Smith are in PC World asking for a device that means they can both enjoy the internet without fighting over the home PC with their family. The sales assistant shows them two netbooks, with the Chrome OS one being cheaper, and with the objective pretty much being solely internet driven, a percentage of people will go with Chrome OS.

almost 7 years ago

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jeffrichie

I can't see Google OS overtaking Windows, ok so a quick boot up would be great but what else are they offering that's any better? Stick to what you know best GOOG - search. (and making money and definitely not being evil)

JR

almost 7 years ago

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Alistair Macdonald

Whilst saying that all this is is an OS to run the Chrome browser that would make it ideal for a netbook non? Why have an expensive, resource greedy OS like Windows when all you want to do is run a browser, and you can't run a browser without an OS right?

almost 7 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

Any competition in the OS market is great as far as I'm concerned, hopefully moving us away from the current '1 OS fits all' Windows scenario we have currently and have had for quite some time.  

More options to the consumer can only be a good thing, from both a choice perspective, but also anything that gets Microsoft worried and gets them to pick their game up is great news.

almost 7 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

A nice firm rebuttle - unlike most people, I'm a bit Google fan still, but I'm definitely not sold on the need (or the USP) for Google Chrome OS yet... Feels like they're trying to run while they're still getting used to walking, at least in the browser/OS arena anyway...

almost 7 years ago

Marc Munier

Marc Munier, Commercial Director at Pure360

Google does seem to struggle making a success of anything other than Adwords/Search. Analytics is good - but bought in, as is sketchup, Googlewave is hammering my so what button.

The famous book "what would Google do" should have a follow up " what should Google do next", I get the feeling that if they don't start coming up with something that is actually successful they will be the Enron/GM of tomorrow.

almost 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Just to say there is significant internal debate at this end about the chances of Chrome OS.

We're also considering a post called '12 reasons why Google Chrome OS will succeed' ;  )

almost 7 years ago

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iPhone Application Developers

Google is not goign to completely replace the current OS but want to provide a plate form tightly integrate with it s product.

almost 7 years ago

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Marcel

Why I think you are wrong:

  1. The web matters, but so does the desktop. Nowadays, people use more than one computer, you can still have your other computer; but it's likely you turn it on less often if most of the time you just want to browse and Chrome OS is quickr to start and easier to work with. Depends on the person and the circumstance.
  2. Less isn't more. If it starts so much faster, if it consumes so less battery and is enough for what you want, that's the reason I buy it. On the other hand, being simpler means it doesn't get strange problems, misconfigurations and associated problems I get in other computers.
  3. Google's focus on netbooks is short-sighted. Netbooks will always be cheaper. Google OS will always require less hardware, and I may not need more than that (even if I still have a full computer).
  4. Consumers are comfortable with Windows. If is cheap, I would get a second computer to browse the Internet.
  5. Windows 7 rocks. Many people just don't care about the OS they are running their browser on.
  6. Google doesn't have a monopoly on web apps.  What Chrome OS offers is a secure, hassle free OS.
  7. 7. Support? What support? If it's no tons of configurations, virus and issues; something simple that "just works", they you may not care so much about support.
  8. HTML5 isn't here. HTML5 may be longer term, but there are a lot of web apps Today, which do most of what many people do in their computers.
  9. The interesting features are technical. I think it's simple, you don't really need to see the features, you just browse. What the technical bit is doing is perceived as something reliable, fast, with no problems.
  10. Only 'referenced hardware' will be supported. That's actually the key factor of success. Ensuring it works fast and well makes people love it; that's one of the main reasons Apple is so successful.
  11. The Chrome browser hasn't taken the world by storm. Again: people don't care, they use whatever is installed or comes with their computers. There will be a computer in the shops, which is cheap, works well and allow them to do what they want. I would doubt the adoption rate of Chrome as browser matters.  Also probably Google is not looking to take the world by storm either.
  12. At the end of the day, Chrome OS is the Chrome browser. For me as a consumer, it's a great deal to have a cheaper computer, which starts in 7 secs and consumes less battery.

almost 7 years ago

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Matthew Fabb

Another issue that I see is that with Android netbooks coming out, Google will be competing with themselves. If there's 2 netbooks, both cost the same and the Android can do everything that the ChromeOS does and more, I think people would go with Android, even if that means a boot up time that's a few seconds longer.

almost 7 years ago

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Shanx

The article is a western world view. More than 70% of the population, however, would love to have a smarter, smaller, thinner laptop with an OS they could *afford* (um, free) that does everything they do: write documents, surf the web, talk to people with voice and chat communications, send emails, listen to music/watch movies. Done. All the others who need Adobe tools etc -- their percentage is really small.

almost 7 years ago

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Mike Stenger

I agree with Techs Palace, it's way too early to decide. Depending on what happens, I would think that it could gain at least a good part of what Linux gets as far as desktop type users. No one still really knows but you can be sure I'll be giving it a run!

almost 7 years ago

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Laird Popkin

The article is thought provoking, but I think misses the point. The market is transitioning away from traditional general purpose computers towards much smaller, cheaper devices. Not only are there many sub-$300 netbooks, there is already an $80 netbook (based on ARM), and there will certainly be more. Microsoft's Windows 7 cannot compete in that market, because it even though it's more efficient than Vista (though less efficient than XP) is still too resource intensive to run on stripped down hardware, and because Microsoft cannot support their business model on prices that would allow their software to be used on an $80 device.

Sure, there are plenty of things that you can't do on such devices, but even if most people buy cheap consumer devices, there will always be a market for more powerful computers for videogames, media production, etc. For example, I carry around a cheap little netbook for note-taking, email, web browsing, etc., and then I use a desktop for doing graphics work, analytics, etc.

almost 7 years ago

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Martin Eddington

"First, do you really believe that no matter what happens, you will simply be able to reboot the machine and get it working? If so, I have a bridge for sale that you might be interested in."

... and I have a security specification which you may want to read.

Firmware boot, get encryption keys.
Kernel boot, check software installed against permanent O/S image on different partition.
If different - rewind to permanent image.
If changes are required they require your firmware provided public keys to authenticate Google updates. If updates fail the machine reverts to last working image.

You can't change the software running on the machine. Neither can a virus, trojan or other malware. If the OEM manufacturer didn't install your virus then it can't be on the machine.

"Second, do you really believe that there is no chance of a virus or malware infecting a Chrome OS machine? If so, I have another bridge for sale that you might be interested in. Sarcasm aside, the mere possibility that Chrome OS will be immune to viruses and malware is an impossibility."

Of course it's an impossibility to have a totally immune system. Whilst it's running there are points of entry within Chrome OS. The points of potential infestation in Chrome O/S are only in the sandboxed, ECMA Script engine. Which ceases to exist when the machine is rebooted... so although there is a possibility for unwanted programs to run - the software solution is on the cloud, not on your machine. Support will be from the app provider, not the O/S provider.

The mathematical proof of the impossibility of an immune process is correct, but applies only to a running system or a stateful process. The idea of Chrome O/S is that it is essentially stateless.

almost 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Martin,

That's all very fine and well, but when I write "do you really believe that no matter what happens, you will simply be able to reboot the machine and get it working?", I'm not just talking about software. What happens when there's a hardware issue? And what happens if you don't have immediate access to the internet?

More importantly, even if you believe that a machine running Chrome OS is as close to infallible as possible, how exactly are you going to sell all of these technical features to end users?

In my opinion, none of this really matters. I think a lot of people are overvaluing these technical selling points and undervaluing the importance of familiarity and the availability of traditional desktop software. That's what matters at the end of the day. You could argue that Linux is far more secure as a desktop OS yet that doesn't stop Linux netbooks from being returned at a far higher clip when buyers realize Linux isn't Windows and doesn't run the same software...

almost 7 years ago

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Kent

Interesting comments guys.  In my humble opinion I still see a lot of future for netbooks and any new OS that runs faster and dare I say virus free?  I have a gaming laptop which is a PC replacement, an ultra-thin laptop that I work travel with, and a netbook that I used to surf the net and watch movies (in hotel or on plane).  I really like the form factor of the netbook, as the ultra thin is still too big in my opinion. I am not blind so the screen size is fine.  If it has more grunt and thinner then it's perfect.  At the end of the day, I don't care what OS I am running.  As long as it's quick, virus free, and allow me to use my new camera then it's fine.

almost 7 years ago

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handbag chooes

Points can be considered, but its too early to judge. There is still one long year for its release.

almost 7 years ago

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Shanx

Patricio, comparing Linux' miserable failure with what Google OS will be is not very clever. Linux failed because even the simplest variant, Ubuntu, is a pain the butt to actually use. Even I, a tech savvy person in general, got so bogged down in looking for simple functionality that I gave up. Great OS for servers, crap for running personal computers. Google OS will be simple and ready to go when it does show up. If there is one thing Goog does well, it's simple interfaces. 

almost 7 years ago

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Jahangir Naina

While the usual "fat client" desktops are meant for mixed mode computing (content consumption AND content creation), there exists a need for a computing platform that is tuned primarily for "content consumption". Call it thin client, cloud computing, netbooks, itablets or companion devices. What is clear is that there is a need for someone to standardize this new segment of computing devices and Google is playing the part as the new anti-Microsoft standards-bearer. As opposed to the WinTel standard, this is the new ChARM standard(Chrome on ARM). Chrome on ULV ARM chipset based platforms going for sub-$200 will be everywhere a year from now. Believe me, this is the start of the next wave of cheap ubiquitous computing devices.

almost 7 years ago

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kid english

Thin client is right, and that's where Chrome will excel.

Not everyone needs a proper computer, in fact I'd say a hell of a lot of people just need something to surf the net, do a bit of ebaying and send emails. So many techy's are saying it'll fail because it won't work for them, but that doesn't mean it won't work for thousands, millions of others.

I've got ten writer in my office all due for an upgrade from bloated Dell desktops. I'll be buying them netbooks. We switched to google docs not long ago, and gmail not long before that, all they need, and more importantly all they want, is something mobile that's not heavy.

They don't need photoshop, they don't need dreamweaver, and they're happy not to play games. A netbook with chrome on it (and vpn access to our servers in the office) would be perfect for them.

almost 7 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Shanx:

Looking further down the road: once the hardware manufacturers start producing chips that will parse HTML pages, and run Javascript in hardware (= really fast!)  then Netbooks so equipped will be as fast as Windows on even a desktop, even for complex Cloud applications like Google docs!

So here's where a bunch of us could be within a year or two.

i) you use a small netbook on the road and in the office/home. For email and Web it's as fast as your desktop, which gets not much use now.

ii) you plug your big screen at home/office into your notebook: nice usability.

iii) you stop using Office running on your desktop, and move to a Cloud, either a 3rd-party across the internet like GoogleDocs, or something that runs on a server in your office - so you can do docs as easily from Netbook as from your desktop: it's a fast either way rund

For a typical office  user - you're sorted: everything works on your cheap netbook: and if you lose it, no worries, theres no private data on it; and it;s cheap to buy another!

All of your company Intranet stuff - that's all just web pages these days, so you don't need to run any company-in-house-written software like in the past.

almost 7 years ago

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Mark

Hi,

I respect your thoughts.. just a little advice though.. keep this article there will be a time to read it again and see how wrong you are:)

almost 7 years ago

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Ultra-connected Techie Prophet

The Cloud, to quote my friend Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, already exists.  It's the internet.  Hence, the excitement over cloud computing is really people's semi-correct and intelligent vision that there is more potential to be exploited from this still developing phenomenon that we call the internet.  However, throughout history, people get a good idea and get obsessively hog wild about, only to suffer doom.  

What we have now is already a excessively Chrome-like world in the respect that we have use ultra-thin client browsers which access web services.  All movement over the past years has been in the exact opposite direction from Chrome.  (Quick interruption here.  NOTICE HERE, browsers have been constantly getting thicker, not thinner.  FOR A REASON.)  Back to the prophesy.  The true advancement is in THICKENING the desktop's relationship with the back-end server.  Moving away from thin little browsers to rich clients that fully take advantage of the desktop, while at the same time fully taking power from the interconnectivity, information, and potential of the Cloud we call the internet.  At first this "Cloud" is formatted text in HTML 1.  Wow, then it's pictures.  Now video.  Now interactive video such as Flash.  Notice the pattern?  The next advancement is to break completely out of the box.  LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THAT BOX IS THE BROWSER ITSELF.

This comes from someone who is involved on more technology advisory panels of CUTTING EDGE high tech companies, than probably anyone here.  I'm anonymous here so there's no ego trip.  I'm just sharing the future that the contrarian elite techno-savvy are whispering in their private circles.  So sneer at your peril.  The future first breaks out of the browser and into thin clients with thick back-end services.  Mobile browsing, for example, turns into what... Mobile apps.  

Fast forward two years.

The clients continue to get thicker and thicker.  Why?  Because study your tech history folks -- client machines keep getting more powerful AND cheaper (more memory, more storage, faster processors).  Oh yeah, and the whole client software app instantly downloads onto the client device through ever faster networks (4G, 5G, fiber optic), while NOT being IMPRISONED inside something so handicapped like the sandbox models which currently strangle the browser client.  Mark my words, as they have always been correct and at least 7 years ahead of their time, ever since 1992.

The new revolution in OS is not in OS at all.  It's in protocols, packaging, and formats.  The RELATIONSHIP between thicker clients and ultra-thick back-end servers.  Anyway, most of you will go back to the whole Chrome vs. Windows debate of the present moment and forget this, but if you walk away with anything, remember:  Client Software FULLY taking advantage of richer features on client machines.  Feasible?  It is destiny.  Yes.  Back-end servers continuing to get richer functionality, performance, and more sophisticated services.  Feasible?  Yes.  It is destiny.  So now put your two and two together:  whoever bridges the two hotwires will be the new power.  Hotwire ONE:  rich desktop clients fully leveraging far more impressive features on those machines (graphics, processing, storage, etc.).  Hotwire TWO:  richer back-end servers able to host far more sophisticated services, features, global aggregation of data and sub-services from damn near everywhere.  What's the bridge:  the glue between.  The operating system of the future, if we call it that, is the protocols, packaging, interfacing, that bring structure, order, and regularity to the relationship between the two.

My friends, it's a VERY exciting future and Google has a big place in it.  With ANDROID and putting the Google brand and capital resources into Linux-based OS.  Not with Chrome.

over 6 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Phew - that's modesty ...not!

"Mark my words, as they have always been correct and at least 7 years ahead of their time, ever since 1992.

over 6 years ago

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Palace of Chance

I completely agree that Chrome OS will fail...

Common people will find it too difficult to adjust with the idea of OS in browser..and more over...many had tried to challenge MS and failed miserably...yes after VISTA MS did had some issues..but with WIN7 they are back..and I still believe that google has long way to go...in OS market...they need to reach to the masses to have some kind of attention going on...  

over 6 years ago

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fyusion

There are much better points of Chrome OS. You can check that on

http://www.techarena.in/review/18377-google-chrome-os-chromium-os.htm

over 6 years ago

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Marco

Chrome is currently the easiest web stranica.Dosta Opener is good and IE8 64bit.Dali know when someone will be a Google operating system released for download?

over 6 years ago

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Bob

I would stick to windows because from the looks of chrome OS it only relies on the internet, which is a big concern because later in future they might turn it into a cloud operating system, then google might take off support for hard drives and all our data has to be stored on some centrualized data server and we will require to use the internet to access our data. That makes me feel I won't have any control over my computer, so sorry google im not supporting your os.

over 6 years ago

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Daniel Strong

Interesting step back to take a look at the situation, but some points seem a little forced/debatable. Chrome may flounder or Chrome may flourish... we will see.

In any case, with respect to point 5, though Windows 7 is apparently much better than Vista, I for one, having never used Vista, am not overly impressed. I will grant that it's an improvement, but that's not saying all that much.

Also, I'm afraid you suspect wrong when you "suspect [you] still might be able to get away with running Windows 7 on [an underpowered netbook]": my school has just obtained a batch of little EeePCs this year, and made the mistake of installing Windows 7 on them; they are agonisingly slow.

almost 6 years ago

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Facebook Php Developer

Yes i do agree with your point chrome it really fabulous

about 5 years ago

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Logo Design Company

Really great and nice work you done about chrome OS, the new revolution in OS is not in OS at all. It's in protocols, packaging, and formats. .Interesting step back to take a look at the situation, but some points seem a little forced/debatable.

about 5 years ago

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