Much ado has been made today in the blogosphere about the newly announced (but 1.5 years from being shipped) Chrome OS from that search engine company, Google. Here is an excerpt from the announcement:
We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.
This reminds me of a long-standing debate that I’ve had with a few of my colleagues at work, about the relative value of browser-based web apps, versus desktop-based, internet-enabled apps. Chrome does not end this debate, but I see it as a step in the latter direction.
There is a big, big question that I have about all this, though. And it’s something that I’ve not seen in the dozens of official and unofficial blogposts that I’ve read so far today. And that issue is one of hardware compatibility. A real operating system has to interface with external devices, and accommodate all types of information captured and collected by the user. Yes, it’s true that more and more people are living their entire digital lives on the internet, and that much of what they do involves browsing, viewing, and sharing of information within a web context.
However, in order to get that information onto the web in the first place, there needs to be some sort of user-facing hardware that captures that information. A physical keyboard (or touchscreen keyboard) are pieces of hardware for capturing text information. And a camera is a piece of hardware for capturing image information. So my question is: If the ChromeOS is to serve as the operating system for my computer, will I be able to plug my camera into that computer, and upload the files from the camera to the web, in such a form that others can view those images?
Before you answer, let me just say that when I take digital pictures, I don’t take JPGs. I take RAW captures. These raw captures are not fit for general consumption. First, the RGB pixels are not aligned. Second, no sharpening has been applied. Third, the dynamic range in a RAW file is (potentially) larger than in a JPG, and that range has not yet been optimized. You still might be able to recover certain highlights that otherwise appeared blown out, for example. Fourth, almost every camera has a different RAW format. Different cameras from the same manufacturer often have different RAW formats, and converters are needed for every single model.
An operating system is a piece of software that integrates a lot of that functionality. For example, OS X has native support for many different kinds of RAW files. You can load a RAW file onto your hard drive, and view it natively within the OS. That’s what an operating system is, in large part: A platform for integrating all sorts of real-world hardware devices.
My question is: If I am going to use ChromeOS to upload and share my pictures, will the OS have the necessary RAW support for my camera, in order for me to be able to do that? Will ChromeOS be a real OS, one that handles my hardware information without me having to worry about it? I have not been able to find the answer anywhere, on any of the blogs or news articles that I have read. Can anyone point me to this information? Because Google says:
Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.
They are correct. I don’t want to have to spend hours configuring my computer to work with every new piece of hardware. So will ChromeOS have RAW support for my camera?