Google announces Chrome Operating System, targeted at netbooks

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After years of speculation that Google was planning on launching an operating system, Google has confirmed that… it’s planning on launching an operating system. At launch, the open source, Linux-based OS will be a light weight system targeted specifically at netbooks, but it should run on any x86 or ARM-based computers. The source code should be available later this year, and netbooks running the operating system should hit the streets  in the second half of 2010. What does that mean for all the PC makers who have been working to shove Google Android (an operating system specifically designed for smartphones) onto netbooks recently?

Google, of course, is best known for providing a search engine and a suite of web-based tools. Last year the company introduced the Google Chrome web browser, which made sense, since it’s a browser designed to play well with those web services. And the new operating system is designed around Chrome, and in fact will be called the Google Chrome Operating System. According to the product announcement, most of today’s operating systems were designed pre-web. Chrome Operating System will be designed around the browser and web apps. Developers that want to write apps for Google Chrome will be able to develop them as web apps, which will also be able to run on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Google says the OS is designed to be fast and light weight (meaning it should have a small memory and storage footprint), and to get you onto the web within a few seconds of hitting the power button. The user interface will also be light-weight, and most of the user experience will be web-based.

In other words, the Google Chrome Operating System will finally make the word “netbook” make sense. People have been using the word for almost two years to describe small, light, and cheap computers with relatively slow processors and small amounts of RAM and storage. The idea is that these little laptops are good for interacting with the web, but not much else. But the truth of the matter is they’re still computers, capable of running full desktop apps including Office, Photoshop, and even a number of video games, as well as a web browser and other internet apps.

Google, on the other hand, deals almost exclusively in internet-based applications (with the possible exception of applications like Google Desktop, which indexes your computer’s files, but also your emails and other online information and which uses a web browser-based interface). So it makes sense that Google Chrome Operating System will be targeted heavily at people who primarily want to use web-based apps.

Google isn’t the first company to come up with this idea. Tariq Krim’s Jolicloud operating system attempts to blur the lines between desktop and web apps, by letting you “install” web applications like Twitter, Facebook, or Gmail to your desktop using Mozilla Prism. But Google is obviously a much bigger name than Jolicloud, and has the potential to make a much bigger splash.

But that raises the question: Do you really want or need an operating system that’s primarily aimed at letting you connect to web apps from your desktop? Or would you rather have a fuller featured operating system that lets you run web apps through a browser, and desktop apps through the standard user interface? And if you prefer the latter, would a 5-second bootup time change your opinion at all? Sound off in the comments.

via Download Squad

  • Mikez

    In these times when identity theft and personal privacy are serious concerns – – -
    I'll keep my information on my own disk drive; thank you but no to web storage.

  • Ohio Red

    May answer the question over operating system for ARM-computers.

  • WPW

    I agree. This is good news for 'Smartbook' makers. My hope is that this will also lower the price of netbooks. Manufacturers keep pushing netbooks up in size and price towards low-end laptops. They seem to be missing the point.

  • PreventComputerInjury

    > Do you really want or need an operating system that's primarily aimed at letting you connect to web apps from your desktop?

    Yes, want and need!

    > Or would you rather have a fuller featured operating system that lets you run web apps through a browser, and desktop apps through the standard user interface?

    Yes, that too! Forget the either-or thinking at least until we actually see the OS. Nothing in the Chrome announcement suggests that it will be impossible, undesirable or even difficult to actually install applications to local storage on this new OS. Google is not stupid, and this OS is derived from Linux.

    Although the company “deals almost exclusively in internet-based applications,” the OS will be open source and Google has made it clear that it hopes the community will get on it and ride.

    As to the 5-second boot up, Linux distros like the way cool Eeebuntu and the promising Jolicloud are already booting pretty fast on my EeePC. Not five seconds, but not a lifetime (i.e. Windoze) either.

  • Anonymous Coward

    If google doesn't provide a full environment, projects similar to fink and portage for Mac OSX will. I wouldn't worry too much about it, linux is linux, all you need is a bit of knowledge to install the right libraries and you will be able to do pretty much anything with Chrome.

  • BK

    There is no doubt Google will provide additional web software, but will it provide additional drivers? Will it just be like a Ubuntu with some web apps? If so, this is more hype than anything else. Google will still need to do quite a bit to stand on its own.

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  • DougC3

    I would “rather have a fuller featured operating system that lets you run web apps through a browser, and desktop apps through the standard user interface.”

    If the intent is literally to “blur the lines between desktop and web apps,” this will cause unwanted further confusion and manipulation of the computing masses.

    But if we're just speaking figuratively here, meaning make desktop and web apps equally accessible and usable, then, as long as I can choose from an adequate pool of desktop apps and not bother with web apps I don't want, I don't see why I couldn't adapt to Chrome OS, if I like it.

    I've used the Chrome browser and think it's pretty nifty, but so far they don't have a version that works with Linux.

    Two other concerns:

    1) Will this be a major blow to Ubuntu and other Linux OSs?

    2) Is this thing going to be funded solely by advertisements and, if so, would we be expected to put up with ads even when using desktop-based apps or at other times when we don't normally have to??

    Whether or not I would use Chrome OS depends on how it is “targeted primarily at people who primarily want to use web-based apps.”

  • BoloMKXXVIII

    I've been mulling over this story for about 6 hours. I am not really sure what to make of it. I will have to wait for more information. Could Chrome OS breathe new life into old hardware? Is it small enough to give Splashtop a run for it's money? Will it give ARMbooks the big name they need to make it in the marketplace? Will it hurt Ubuntu? Will it end up in HDTVs? Can it be hacked into smartphones? Does that make sense? Will it run Android widgets? What will happen to Android netbooks? Will it be a good OS for ARM tablets? So many questions, so few answers.

  • Zobeid Zuma

    Chrome versus Linux?

    Here's what Chrome should provide that Linux hasn't provided thus far. . . It should establish a standard platform for app development — one that doesn't require recompiling apps for different processors (X86, ARM, MIPS, etc.), doesn't ever require the user to go searching for libs/codecs/dependencies that weren't already included in the system, doesn't require messy or confusing installation procedures, and produces truly OS-independent apps (such as Java promised long ago but never really delivered).

    Even though Chrome apps will run on Mac, Windows and Linux computers, Google will be the one setting the standard. They have the clout to do it, and to prevent Microsoft from embrace-and-extending the standard into something incompatible and proprietary that MS can own.

    The whole “cloud computing” aspect is just a bonus (or fad/buzzword, depending on your viewpoint).

  • Mikez

    Translation: Sun's Java-PC reborn.

  • BoloMKXXVIII

    Should Microsoft call “first!”?

    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/introducin

  • http://techdusts.com/ Krishna Santani

    Its groundbreaking idea from Google web OS and they are planning to wipe out Windows in a most strategic manner. Google clearly pointing to Microsoft when they say “The operating systems that browsers run were designed in an era where there was no web”. But there are few questions which are unanswered like what will happen when we will go offline in Chrome OS? Can we use offline applications like iTunes or Photoshop? Can we run third party applications? How they are going to make profit from it ? I am also bit concerned whether Chrome OS will be embraced by enterprises as it is open source and web based as there is always a security issue….Just wait another thought can Chrome OS will become a global hit especially in small countries where internet is very fickle. But leaving these things aside its going to be win-win situation for the users and it will be interesting to witness the war between giants.

  • MonkeyKing1969

    My only thought is that Goggle might just make a Linux based OS that maybe a common person might understand how, where and when to update and that has enough apps to make it worthwhile.

    In other words they're crazy enough to make it work and patient enough to support it without reverting into monetizing the creativity out of everything as they see money fly out the door.

  • DougC3

    I agree that users will benefit from any serious competition against Microsoft. Maybe MS will decide to use product improvement more
    to gain popularity and rely less on heavy-handed marketing practices.

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  • stephenschiavo

    I have an Asus eee netbook currently running Windows XP.

    1. Can I install Chrome as a dual-boot option?

    2. Can I be assured that there are drivers for all the standard devices on this industry-leading netbook? I don't want to lose sound or external video or … or .. or …

    3. Should I assume the O.S. doesn't run anything but the chrome browser? (No MS desktops, no PC games, no VB2008 Express?)

    Thanks!

  • sassie111

    I'm ready to try it. Just to get away from all the stuff Microsft puts on my computer. Can't wait…..

  • sassie111

    I'm ready to try it. Just to get away from all the stuff Microsft puts on my computer. Can't wait…..

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    I agree that users will benefit from any serious competition against Microsoft. That’a one good thing that could come out of all this.