Summary: More and more operating systems are integrating the cloud into the desktop, but Peppermint OS really marries the desktop and the cloud.
The desktop and the cloud are getting hitched. You see it in everything from Windows 8 with Office 2013 to Ubuntu with WebApps to Mac OS with iCloud. And, of course, there's Chrome OS, which is just the Chrome Web browser running on a thin-layer of Linux. Then, there's Peppermint OS Three, a real Linux marriage of cloud and desktop.
Unlike Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com), which adds some cloud functionality to a Linux desktop, call it 90% desktop and 10% cloud, or Chrome OS, which is 90% cloud/Web browser and 10% desktop, Peppermint is the closest desktop I've seen to a 50/50 blend of desktop and cloud.
Peppermint Three, the just released new version, is based on Lubuntu 12.04. Lubuntu, in turn, is an Ubuntu-based Linux desktop that uses the lightweight LXDE desktop environment. Unlike the more popular GNOME and KDE desktops. LXDE is designed to be very fast and to use as little in the way of system resources as possible. As the name indicates, Peppermint also uses some features from the Linux Mint.
For its Web browser, Peppermint Three uses Chromium the open-source version of Chrome. Instead of using such Linux desktop applications as LibreOffice for office work or Evolution for e-mail, Peppermint uses Google Web applications instead. Specifically, it uses Google Web Office (GWoffice), an Ubuntu project, for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. This is a beta desktop front-end to Google Drive, the successor to Google Docs. For e-mail, as you might guess, it uses Gmail.
Let's say that you want traditional desktop applications instead of Google-based ones. No problem, you just install them from the software repository. No muss, no fuss.
Peppermint also comes with its own system for using other Web Applications and Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) applications: Site Specific Browser (SSB) using a framework called Ice. From an end-user's viewpoint, SSBs act like local applications but they're actually delivered from the Web. You can also easily create your own SSBs with the Ice application.
According to the developers, the key “difference in using an SSB as opposed to using a tabbed browser is that only one function is assigned to the SSB. In a tabbed browsing system, with several open for example, if one service or site in any given tab crashes you run the risk of losing data by crashing the other tabs and potentially the browser itself. since an SSB is isolated and dedicated to only operating the web application of your choice, if it crashes or hangs, it does not effect the rest of the system. And, because the SSB’s are so sleek, they are perfect for running apps that display better using the most screen area as possible.”
Are they really slick? Well, you can see for yourself. You can download Peppermint Three in either a 32 or 64-bit version. You can run Peppermint on pretty much any computer. You can go all the way down to pretty much anything with an x86 processor, 192MBs of RAM (No, that's not a typo, 192 Megabytes) and 2GBs of disk space. Trust me, though, you'll be happier with 1 GB of RAM and at least 4GBs of disk space.
Since Peppermint Three just arrived today I haven't had much of a chance to play with it, but I like what I see of it so far. It's fast, it's simple to use, and it does a real nice job of marrying cloud and local functionality and letting you decide how much of either one you want on your desktop. Give it a try. I think you may like it.