By Evan Ackerman
Google has announced the development of an operating system (totally separate from Android) called Chrome OS, designed to be a fast, lightweight, kinda web-based system for mobile computing that we should see showing up netbooks in the second half of 2010. Chrome OS will leverage Google’s experience with cloud-based computing by heavily integrating the operating system with the web browser in much the same way that Google Applications currently do. If you’ve ever used Google Docs, for example, you’ve got the functionality of a word processing application, except it’s running in a browser environment.
There are certainly going to be many advantages to this approach, one of which is a start-up time of “a few seconds” from off (or some approximation thereof) to the internet. Applications will operate more like browser plug-ins, making them easy to develop and distribute and streamlining cross-platform compatibility. And thanks to the cloud, my guess is that nearly everything you do on your computer running Chrome OS will live, to some extent, on a Google server somewhere, safe and accessible and benevolently monitored.
It’s not likely that Chrome OS will offer much in the way of competition to Windows, and in a way, they’re not really comparable operating systems. For many people, all that they use Windows for is internet and email and probably some media, and in that case, the fact that Windows is Windows is largely irrelevant: it’s just the thing that runs the web browser. Chrome OS has a chance to be great at this, since what it really is is a web browser, as long as it stays true to what it should be, and doesn’t get bogged down with what it isn’t.
Details from Google, after the break.
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.
Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.
We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.