Friday, December 17, 2010

Misleading Statements at Google’s Chrome OS Event

Like many people, I tuned in to Engadget’s liveblog for Google’s Chrome OS event and, like many people, I felt their presentation, presented by VP of Product Management Sundar Pichai, made quite a few good points. But I also found myself shaking my head and sighing at some of the quips they made at the expense of Windows.

Lies, Damned Lies, Mockups and Screenshots

For example, for their “Security as an Afterthought” section, they provided the following slide:

Courtesy of Engadget.

Let’s look at the image to the far right. The drop-down is obviously mocked up – it seems like they couldn’t be bothered getting a proper screenshot of the dialog with the dropdown extended. Of course, if you actually look at the proper dialog, you’ll see it’s even worse than not being bothered:

Windows update dialog.

That’s right, there’s only three options, and the largest amount of time is four hours.

The dialog on bottom left of their slide? You can get it by simply cancelling the updates.

(Sundar also fails to mention that the default option is to update automatically; the only way you are going to see the bottom-left image is if you preform a manual update. And only on Windows XP.

But of course they would – the two companies are rivalling for the same space, after all, and it’s not like they’re going to say, “Oh, hey, but our competitors aren’t quite as bad as we make them out to be”, unless immediately followed by more snark.)

Windows, Chrome and the Out of the Box Experience

When Sundar finished off his presentation of Chrome OS’s first start configuration (also known as the out of the box experience or OOBE), he made the quip:

We wanted to compare by setting up a PC, but we realized we wouldn't have time and still be able to get you back to your sessions.

So why not shoot a time-lapse or something? It seems a little convenient, especially since Google has shown previous aptitude at time-lapse videos.

Windows pundit Paul Thurrott makes a similar comment in his article, Google Chrome vs. the World Part 3. (It’s an otherwise good summation of Google’s position, so go read it.)

In it, he states:

The out of box experience has just a few simple steps, and anyone who's purchased a new PC can tell you that the experience of setting up a Windows-based PC is generally a nightmarish one, and nothing like the simple Chrome OS set up...

My guess is that both of them were talking about the Windows install process, which no ordinary user will have to go through because no ordinary user buys Windows at retail – instead, they buy it with a new PC.

At the very least, there will be no setup required because the store will have set it up for you.

At the most you’ll have to “suffer” through the five-step Windows 7 OOBE. The steps? User account name and password, time zone and language settings, security settings, network type, and (depending on the setup of your PC) HomeGroup.

Chrome OS’s steps? Language and network settings, Licence Agreement, User account sign in, and profile picture.

Yes, Windows takes a bit of time to actually preform the configuration, but for a one-time process that’s sure a lot of fuss to make over it.

(Windows Vista had a step where it set the wallpaper and user account pic, but that step seems to be removed from Windows 7. A shame, it was a nice touch.)

Google Chrome’s OOBE (courtesy of Engadget.)

Windows Vista’s OOBE (courtesy of Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows. [Source])

Windows 7’s OOBE (courtesy of Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows. [Source])

So, basically a similar OOBE (albeit with a few less steps - since Chrome OS doesn’t store anything locally it doesn’t need to configure network sharing – and a few less progress bars.) And especially with an SSD, I hardly think it would have taken that much longer than Chrome OS – indeed, the longest parts would be the parts where Windows is setting up stuff.

Of course, I might as well point out that on the other side of the coin, to clean install Chrome OS you’ve got to compile it. So which is more arduous – Windows Setup or compiling Chrome OS? (Yes, no ordinary user will do this, but I’m trying to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges here.)


While I appreciate what Google and Sundar are trying to say and do, and wish them all the best in their endeavours, I wish that it could all be done without the half-truths and misleading statements. It doesn’t reflect well on them or their company or their product, and there’s plenty good to say about Chrome OS without having to make stuff up about the competition.