A number of dilettante tech journalists and bloggers are proclaiming Google’s Chrome browser “a new OS!!!!”; by doing this they are displaying an incredible ignorance of what an OS is and does.I realize that we are increasingly a society that has no idea of how things actually work, and that SillyClone Valley is a place where even EE’s can’t fix their own appliances.
I’m not sure I want to spew out a tutorial here; I am semi-retired from RTOS kernel writing for data acquisition, I know what an OS is.
The Google Chrome browser needs an OS. It needs the hardware initialized and it needs native file system services to place its persistent storage, whether as files or as objects in the Gears Database.
Chrome needs a graphics system to draw, and frame buffer primitives for it’s rendering engine. It needs all the drivers to attach AV devices so you can VOIP. All browsers need this.
The newfangled and impressive WebTop, instant booting, ROM-based mini OS provides these minimal services, extracted from a full Linux, to allow web surfing and Skype without a boot from a full, disk-based OS. WebTop is an OS.
Now then, could a browser be an OS? Yes. As we see with the BEA Applications Server side of things, one may write a set of minimal services to take over after the BIOS, hand over to the Hypervisor, and provide a JVM with extended OS services. They are doing this now, you can buy a BEA Java Application server that does not require a server OS.
If the browser companies want to support the devices, to license drivers, or to use open source distros for the support of post BIOS housekeeping, then by all means, the browser could replace what we now know as the Operating System.
One caveat – even the best Linux distributions, after all these years, and after great and astounding progress, still struggle with device support. Chew on that.