We've got a small but nifty little piece of news about the upcoming Chrome operating system. The folks at ReadWriteWeb have just found out how Chrome OS is going to handle logging in. Apparently as soon as you start-up, you'll be prompted to log in with your Google ID. Upon doing so, you'll automatically be signed on to Gmail, calendar, Google Docs, Google Reader, and any other Google product.
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That's very nifty news, and should mean a little extra boost of convenience for most Chrome OS users. But, as Read Write Web points out, it also raises some troubling questions. If the Chrome browser is so tightly integrated to the OS, will we be able to use other non-Chrome browsers on it? Will Google give exclusivity to their browser on their operating system?
If so, they're treading down a dangerous road. Microsoft is still getting battered all across the world for trying to package just Internet Explorer with their OS. If Chrome won't work with other browsers, Google could be in some trouble. All of their technical documents have referenced only Google Chrome, and no other browsers have been specifically mentioned for use in the OS besides Chrome.
On a moral level, I don't think Google is really doing anything wrong. They're offering a totally free product that anyone can download, and they aren't trying to bundle it with virtually every computer sold. The Chrome OS is being built as a very niche product, mainly for people who want the absolute best speed out of their browsing machines. Chrome OS will be most popular with net junkies, researchers, and nerds like me who write on the Internet for a living.
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Whether or not Google can get away with this on a legal level is much shakier ground. If they weren't actively working with several manufacturers to bundle their OS with netbooks and other products, they'd have an easier case. I doubt the DOJ will focus too heavily on them, because the product they are offering is free, and will probably see relatively little adoption. But we won't really know for certain until it happens.