Chrome OS is perhaps the most’s most expected and watched cloud-based OS of the year. However, it’s not the only choice available. Being a Chrome OS user for months (I got my Cr-48 Chromebook from Google) as well as a frequent user of other cloud-based systems on another netbook, I could easily tell there are a lot other good cloud OS.
Of all the cloud-based operation systems I tested, Joli OS should be the best on average. Google will release the official commercial version of Chrome OS next month (when Chromebooks come out). What are the disadvantages of Chrome OS and how it could improve by looking at its strongest rival (as I so regard Joli OS)? Let me suggest 5 things that Chrome OS should learn from Joli OS.
A Great Launcher
Joli OS is basically a Linux distro with strong emphasis on webapps. In its dedicated app installer, only very few are linux apps. All other available for “installation” are actually webapps.
Unlike Chrome OS which simply put every webapp’s icon on the same start page, Joli OS has a beautifully crafted launcher. To conclude its design with one phrase, I would say it’s very “iPhone-like”.
Simply put, apps are shown in tile form on many pages. You can slide through different pages similar to using iPhone (except that you can use your fingers to flip the pages). You can also re-arrange the order of apps to, say, group all games on one page and productivity apps on another.
In Chrome OS, bookmarks are treated differently from Chrome Web Store webapps. You have a collection of bookmarks separately kept. So if there is a webapp you use but not available in Chrome Web Store , you cannot put it alongside other webapps. This means you may need to switch from here to there to locate your favourite webapps.
In contrast, since version 1.2 Joli OS allows you to create your own webapp icon in the launcher. The icon is merely a shortcut but the ability to create custom webapp shortcut in the launcher is very useful.
Local Apps (Built-in and Custom)
As I mentioned in my sharing about travelling with the Cr-48 Chromebook, local apps are much needed for users who carry the laptop around. Google knows it too, that’s why in Google I/O 2011 it was announced that Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs would soon be able to run locally. We’ll see how these apps perform later this year.
By using Joli OS you don’t have to wait. It’s a Linux distro so most apps meant to run in Linux should work well in Joli OS. Some of them could be found in the app installer that comes with the OS, but even if you cannot find your favourite app you could grab a packaged installer from the net and install. For example, I downloaded Boxee and ran it in Joli OS without problem.
Java Runtime and Various Codecs
I visited a web site the other day and was surprised to found an empty box right in the middle of the web page. Chrome OS comes with Flash support (unlike Apple’s products) so it must not be a Flash movie or menu. Later I found out that it’s an app powered by Java but Chrome OS (the version as I see it now) does not support Java. (There have been discussions online like this, some people said that the absence of Java in Chrome OS is due to the vulnerability of Java.)
Joli OS does not support Java out of the box, but you could make it so by installing the required Java Runtime software right in the default app installer. Google, do you know there are a truck load of web pages that works on Java?
Not only could you find Java Runtime library, there are some other codecs installable from the app installer to enable your Joli OS to read various audio and video formats. The installation process is so simple, just click, and the installation will be done in the background.
Integration with Google Docs and Dropbox
An excellent feature of Joli OS is its seamless integration with Google Docs in a way that even works better than Google’s own Chrome OS. Simply authorize Joli OS to connect to your Google Docs, you’ll then see your online documents right in the File Browser, accessible in the same way as local files. In the top right corner of the File Browser there appears a small thumbnail preview if you click on a file. Most importantly, the files could be read and edited right from a pop-up window just like how you edit your MS docs in Windows or Mac. Simple and easy.
The same applies to Dropbox too. Your Dropbox account could be directly linked to the File Browser. What’s more, depending on what codecs you have installed in Joli OS, you could also directly view image, listen to audio or play video files just like how you read them in Windows or Mac in a pop-up box.
Chrome browser is great, the webapps you installed are synchronized across the Chrome browsers on all computer platforms (as long as you so authorize). Joli OS gives you more.
The desktop of Joli OS, which is named Jolicloud, is built with HTML5 technology. It is stored online so you could run it in nearly all browsers (except Internet Explorer) by accessing a page dedicated to you. It is also available as a Chrome App that you could install from Chrome Web Store. iPad support is experimental and Android support is in the pipeline. Jolicloud gives you the same desktop with the same list of webapps, always available no matter how you connect to the internet. You don’t have to think hard to remember your favourite webapp’s URL, just find it out in Jolicloud.
Before you Chrome OS fans hit me, I must clarify that I also enjoy using Chrome OS very much. It has some advantages that Joli OS cannot compare with like boot-up in 8 seconds. I simply think that the Chrome OS I currently use could grow to be an even better operation system. Before the commercial version of Chrome OS launches (probably in June), I sincerely hope that Google could work hard to polish Chrome OS. Competition is always good, right?
Get to know more about Joli OS, see an introductory video and download Joli OS from here.