Why is Chrome OS introducing a desktop?

So much for reinventing the operating system

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Last year, Google's Sergey Brin said that traditional computers were "really torturing users" with their complexity. What the world needed was a faster, simpler operating system.

He was right, but unfortunately that operating system turned out to be Apple's iOS, not the Chrome OS Brin was promoting.

Ho ho!

It's safe to say that Chromebooks haven't exactly lived up to the hype, so Google's having another go — and there's a big new idea to go with the relaunch.

The big idea is... copy Windows! Ho ho again!

The same old story

I'm being a little unkind here, I know, but the appearance of a Windows-style desktop in Google's OS is worth a titter at the very least. Chrome was supposed to represent a clean-sheet rethink of what an operating system could be, but what we've ended up with looks considerably less radical than Microsoft's Metro interface for Windows 8.

That's not necessarily a bad thing - people know and like windowed desktop OSes - but given the initial hype, it's rather disappointing. It's like Tesco promising to unveil a whole new kind of vegetable only to reveal a slightly smaller kind of carrot.

Interface aside, there's no doubt that Chrome OS is becoming a very slick product, but as I said back in 2010, "I really can't see why you'd want a Chrome OS notebook when you could buy a normal notebook and run the Chrome browser on it - or skip notebooks altogether and go with a tablet instead."

That was two years ago. Since then tablets have matured immensely, netbooks have been replaced by ultrabooks and Windows has been reengineered and reinvented. Chrome OS has moved on too, but to my eyes it's designed for a big but fairly dull market: the locked-down boxes you'll find in hotel internet suites, on check-in desks and in giant corporations' offices.

A far as the consumer market goes, I didn't understand the need for Chrome OS in 2010, and I don't understand it now: Google's got Chrome on OS X, Linux and Windows, it's got a perfectly good mobile OS in the form of Android, and while Apple's cutting its Google ties it's still the default search engine on iOS devices too.

Chromebooks are nice enough, but I suspect the number of people who'd buy one over a Windows 8 Ultrabook, the new iPad or a MacBook Air is vanishingly small.

For consumers, Chrome OS appears to be the Google+ of operating systems, the answer to a question somebody else has already answered.