Google announces Chrome OS

July 8, 2009 by Robin Parrish  
Filed under Electronics

Last night, nerves could be heard rattling in Redmond when Google confirmed long-suspected plans to launch its very own operating system. Chrome OS is being targeted at lightweight, inexpensive notebooks known as “netbooks.” But it’s worth noting that, in Google’s own words, “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.” (Emphasis mine.)

Following the success of its Chrome web browser, Google says that a bare-bones operating system is the next logical step for them, representing an attempt to “rethink what operating systems should be.” It’s designed to have a minimal user interface, so that the majority of the user experience takes place on the web. And unlike other popular operating systems like Windows and Mac OS, Chrome OS will be open source, running atop a Linux kernel. The code is expected to be released later this year, with netbooks running the OS available in Q3 or Q4 of 2010.

Google says it intends to create something that’s “fast and lightweight,” so you can “start up and get onto the web in a few seconds.” This is just one of several jabs Google takes at Microsoft in the Chrome OS announcement, since Windows is known for its long start-up times, security issues, and elaborate routines required to configure new hardware. Chrome OS hopes to eliminate all of those problems, getting you onto the web in seconds, with simple software architecture that won’t require constant updates or succumb to viruses or malware.

But don’t let the PR fool you: Chrome OS is not so much an autonomous operating system, as it is a platform for promoting the Web itself — and Google’s library of Web apps, like Gmail, the Chrome browser, and Google Docs — as the ultimate operating system. This is a long-strategized move on Google’s part to go head-to-head with Microsoft, who it has always seen as its biggest competitor. (And Microsoft clearly feels similarly; have you seen the commercials for MS’ new Bing search engine, which essentially position it as the anti-Google?)

Google says it is “working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year,” though it stops short of naming who those manufacturers might be. Personally, I’m more interested in seeing where Chrome OS goes beyond netbooks. Does Google imagine desktops or traditional laptops being powered by Chrome OS? Or could there even be an entirely new range of devices in the works, which will be made possible only now, thanks to this software?

Are you interested in Google’s Chrome OS? Are you ready to abandon Windows or Mac OS for something that puts the emphasis on online computing?

Google Chrome logo: Copyright 2009 ©Google, Inc.

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