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Operating Systems – Definition and Big Picture – Google Chrome is a Browser Operating on a New Operating System September 8, 2008

Posted by John in Technology.
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This Chrome is not an operating system debate is so myopic it’s bordering on comical. I’d like the debate to focus on the future and what this event foreshadows (or doesn’t foreshadow). Lets just draw a line in the sand on the operating system definition for a minute and elaborate.

Computer system may be defined in terms of the various supervisory and control functions it provides for the processes created by its users:

1. Creating and removing processes

2. Controlling the progress of processes (ensuring that each logically enabled process makes progress and that no process can block indefinitely the progress of others)

3. Acting on exceptional conditions arising during the execution of a process

4. Allocating resources (hardware and software) among processes

5. Providing access to software resources (files, compilers, assemblers, subroutine libraries, and programming systems)

6. Providing protection, access control, and security for information

7. Providing interprocess communication and synchronization

These functions (above) must be provided by a system since they cannot always be handled correctly by the processes themselves…. Therefore, the computer system software that assists the hardware in implementing these functions is known as an operating system.

Does the above sound familiar? Sounds alot like the Google vision for Chrome and it’s core engine. Add to the discussion the entire Google backend and the conversation gets interesting.

The debate: There is an enormous diversity among types of computer systems and the views programmers have about them. Despite this, these system have a great deal in common. Why? Because programmers want an efficient environment for program development, debugging, and execution that provide a range of problem solving facilities and low cost computing environment by sharing resources and information.

Common OS concepts no matter what the platform:

1. Concurrency

2. Automatic resource allocation mechanisms

3. Sharing resources

4. Multiplexing

5. Remote conversational access to system resources and processes

6. Asynchronous operation

7. File systems

All of these common themes deal in two broad categories: processes and memory management.

In talking to Google the core V8 was designed on these principles.

Enough said.  The question to be talked about is what does Chrome really represent?  That is worth hearing from folks about rather than parsing what an operating system is.

Comments»

1. Barton Fink - September 9, 2008

I think the reason we keep rejecting your “Chrome is an OS” premise is the fact that an operating system is the single software component running on the hardware that provides hardware management services for the entire application layer. Yes, you can run multiple virtual machines, but there is still one instance of the OS managing the different VM’s.

I don’t expect to uninstall my Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux and install Google’s Chrome browser on my desktop, laptop, game console, or phone any time soon.

What I do expect Google to do is embed client side code within Chrome for Google services like Maps, Gmail, Docs, Picasa, etc. This would allow their applications to run better and faster in Chrome. It’s win-win for Google: one uses IE less and weans oneself off Office at the same time.

Would I characterize this approach as a new operating system? No. I would call it a classic three-tier application architecture. Welcome back to the eighties my friends!

2. Charlie Meadows - September 9, 2008

Very good comment Barton Fink. We all must look beyond hardware and the classic definition of an operating system. What is the system? What could it be?

Bring back the 80s is fine with me…

3. smedley420 - September 10, 2008

everything is anything. deep.

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