Chrome OS has long been an odd beast. A fully web-based operating system, it really isn’t anything but a web browser running on a stripped-down version of Linux. the platform has long been criticized for being nothing more than a novelty.
But with Drive, Google is planning on fully realizing the platform. Scott Johnson revealed in an interview with Wired that the company plans to “effectively integrate Drive into the native file system of Chrome OS. […] All of the core OS functionality will use Drive as a place to store data — if that’s what you opt into.” This will come with Chrome OS version 20.
Google has been working hard on Chrome OS as of late, having also revealed a compelling demo of its windowing system Aura. That update is meant to make Chrome OS feel more like a desktop than it manages now.
Right now, most network storage services like Dropbox, SugarSync and, yes, Google Drive are kludged into an existing operating system. But with more and more people using these services to back up all their important files, the local hard drive matters less and less.
The integration of Drive with Chrome OS will make the operating system into something truly compelling for the first time in the product’s life: a true web-based replacement to a laptop. It could theoretically do away with the local storage in favor of only cloud-based. Google Drive lets you host any type of file in the cloud. If Google Drive gets fully implemented, that means that pictures, movies, documents and everything else will appear on your Chrome OS laptop as if it were on your hard drive. That is incredibly compelling, and it shows what Google has been working towards with Chrome OS this entire time.
If Google can convince web apps to integrate into Google Drive, we should start seeing a service that can edit video, images, audio, draw pictures, and do all the other things we use our computers for. And unlike with how we use web apps now,you wouldn’t have to worry about your upload speed preventing you from working on the files. Google has them for you, and their pipes are much, much bigger.
Google has been putting the pieces for this experience together for quite a while. Chrome OS was just released early. Google has implemented something called Native Client, which allows code compiled for computers to run in the browser. Already several major games have been ported to Native Client, essentially making them browser games. If you combine Native Client with Google Drive, Google Docs, and third party apps with Google Drive integration, what you get is an operating system capable of all the same tasks that Windows or OSX is, but is capable of doing it through the cloud.
This is Google’s vision of the future: a distributed, fully web-based environment where you can use apps, play media and experience games just as if they were local. It is a compelling vision, and one that only Google could pull off.