The eyeOS has been making ripples among enthusiasts of “cloud” computing. It intends to serve as an Operating System which can be accessed anywhere through a web browser. One just has to install the eyeOS on to one's web server or use the web hosting solution provided by the vendors themselves. On top of that, it is one of the first open source offerings on the cloud (Google, even though running on open source components, is in itself proprietary). How good is it, though? To answer this question, I took the option of trying out the software on the vendors hosting service. This has the disadvantage of not being extendable, i.e you cannot install any additional applications, but this serves as a good starting point for evaluating the platform.
The registration was really fast and the I logged in. The service really looked like a desktop in the browser. It was user friendly and after reading the user manual, I was on my way.
The applications: Since the service intends to be a desktop in a browser, there were applications for Office work(Calender, Contacts,Calculator,Word processor, an experimental spreadsheet, Slide presentation software), for games(Flash version of Sonic the hedgehog, Prince of Persia, Solitaire, Chess), Networking(A browser, mail client, RSS reader, FTP client,messenger for users of the same system and notes) and for entertainment (mp3player, video player, image viewer and Flash Earth). The choice of software was really stunning, and I must admit I did not expect so much. But how good were they really?
Office: The Calender and contacts were satisfactory. They were quite full featured. The e-mail client also worked well, as did the notes. On these counts,there should not be any major complaints. The word processor was skimpy when compared to a desktop office suite, but it was adequate for most purposes, and could handle both MS Office (.doc) as well as ODF files. For some sorts of special formatting, one has to use the desktop browser, or a more powerful online office suite like the Zoho Office (By the way, one can easily access the Zoho Office suite through EyeOS's own browser. So that would be an office suite inside a browser inside an Operating system inside a browser inside an operating system: Cool for geeks, may sound crazy to others).The spreadsheet component was experimental and good just for viewing and minor editing.No calculations can be done. The lack of features of document
and spreadsheet creation and editing are, I think, the greatest
drawback of eyeOS at present. It should be noted here that documents and spreadsheets are opened for viewing by an app called eyeVisor. This application satisfactorily opened the files I threw at it. The Word processing and spreadsheet applications are opened only when editing files or creating a new file.
Office suite inside a browser inside an Operating system inside a browser inside an operating system. Sounds crazy, huh?
Games and entertainment: No complaints here. All the games played well. The Sonic Hedgehog and Solitaire games were flash based , but still entertaining. I also played a mp3 music file. The sound quality was good, even though there were no advanced options for playback. The Flash earth also played well(Of course, you will not get close up shots of your home from this app, unlike Google Earth). There are no complaints on this front.
Networking: A web browsing application has been added which does its work quite well as does the mail client, the feed reader and the instant messenger. All these have just the essential functionality, but that is enough for most users. No complaints on this front either. An application called the eyeBoard is present as well by which you can post messages to other eyeOS users.
All in all, the software works well. I personally am satisfied with most of the applications present by default. However, this satisfaction may have to do with the fact that my initial expectations were low. Users who want a complete desktop experience will be disappointed. Such an experience should not be expected. I wish to also point out that in my experience, eyeOS does not work well with all browsers. On Konqueror, it was slow, on Opera, I just could not log in.I do hope that these issues will be taken care of in the near future.
My (decidedly personal) conclusion:This is one cool platform. The idea of accessing files, pictures, videos and music files anywhere on any computer is appealing, especially to hardcore geeks. Just think of a combination of iPhone + eyeOS, or Archos + eyeOS , or Wii + eyeOS(provided the Opera support improves). There are individual web apps which do a better job than eyeOS for each function(e.g Zoho for Office, flickr or Google for photos), and therefore improvement is needed. Still, I think that this tool has great future potential, not only for the idea of an universal web desktop, but for a completely different reason.
You see, enterprises are moving towards greater networked collaboration. Some are also moving towards thin clients. If a proper collaboration framework is laid down on the EyeOS platform, with the possibility of editing documents, spreadsheets, modifying pictures for a slideshow, it may well become a killer application in the enterprise. The range of applications that EyeOS supports is much wider than that of most other online suites or individual services. It gives a very cheap, customizable option in such a case. And it is here, I feel that it should show its strength. However, it needs to improve its core Office software like Word processing, Spreadsheets etc and add good collaboration tools for this to actually happen.
Finally, congratulations are due to the Spanish teenagers who have been the main movers behind this software. If not anything, eyeOS may revolutionize our definition of what an Operating System actually is!