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The Incredible Shrinking Operating System

(Saul Hansell, NYtimes) Google’s new Chrome operating system is a challenge to Microsoft in several ways. It will offer a free rival to Windows, which can add $25 to $100 to the price of a computer. But it also represents a conceptual slap at the elaborate array of features that make up the soon-to-be-unveiled Windows 7.

Chrome OS will be positively minimalist by contrast. It will be built on a simple version of Linux that is meant to run only one application: the Chrome browser. Google’s idea is that anything for which you may have wanted a separate software program can be done within the browser instead. Never mind all the other functions and add-on programs you find in Windows.

This vision of the declining importance of the operating system reminds me of a conversation I had recently with Paul Maritz, the chief executive of VMware and a former top Microsoft executive who once ran its operating system unit. “The traditional operating system is becoming less and less important,” Mr. Maritz said. “It’s not going to go away, but it is going to shrink.”

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