Google Chrome OS is an operating system designed around a web browser — perfect for people who take the word “netbook” literally and really just want a device that can connect to the internet to run web apps, surf web pages, and access web media. Google has been saying for a while that the OS would be available to hardware makers this fall, but I always kind of figured that meant we wouldn’t see actual devices shipping with Chrome OS until early next year. It usually takes a little while for PC makers to incorporate new hardware or software into their devices.
But speaking at a recent event, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that Chrome OS-based netbooks would be available “this year.”
Chrome OS can run on devices with Intel or ARM-based processors. While Chrome OS tablets are definitely a possibility, Google is targeting the operating system at netbooks with physical keyboards. But like Google Android, the Chrome OS source code is expected to be open source and free to license, which means we’ll probably see some hardware makers trying to use it in other ways.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chrome OS running on tablets, television sets, or other devices — although I really am starting to wonder if Google needs two separate operating systems. Android has a Webkit-based browser, can run many web apps, and has the ability to run native code as well which makes it a heck of a lot more useful if you’re in a location where you can’t get internet access.