Google Launches its Chrome OS

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Google has introduced its new Google Chrome OS, an operating system project separate from Android and targeted at PCs

Google has introduced its new Google Chrome operating system (OS), a separate project from Android and targeted at PCs – from, initially, small netbooks to full-size desktop systems – the company said.

Just nine months after Google released its Chrome browser last September – which Google says has about 30 million users – the company has announced a new OS project, just as some observers predicted it would.

In a blog post late yesterday evening, Sundar Pichai, Google’s vice president of product management and Linus Upson, engineering director at the search giant, said Google sought to build an OS designed for the web, because “the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web”. So Google came up with the Google Chrome OS, which is “a natural extension” of the company’s Google Chrome browser, the duo said.

According to the blog post: “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.”

Moreover, the Google duo listed speed, simplicity and security among the core design themes for the 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 blog post reads. “The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web.”

In addition, Pichai and Upson said Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM chips. And Google is “working with multiple OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] to bring a number of netbooks to market next year,” the blog post said.

Describing the software architecture, Pichai and Upson simply said: “Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel.”

The Google move is an obvious boon for web developers, as, simply put, the web is the platform – the ultimate developer’s playground – for building applications for the Chrome OS.

The Pichai and Upson post continued: “All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favourite 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.”

Dion Almaer, co-founder of and co-director of the Mozilla Developer Tools Lab, said in a blog post: “This is great news for web developers of course. The web as a platform continues to push outwards, and we can use our skills to reach more and more folks out there.”

For its part, the Google team acknowledges that there may be some overlap between Android and the Chrome OS, and some observers say they fear this could cause problems. But the Google team says not.

“While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google,” the Google duo’s post said.

Meanwhile, Almaer, a former Google employee, gently chided the company for its pre-announcement of a technology that appears to be in its early stages. Said Almaer: “It is interesting that Google pre-announced this so far in advance. Google is very different from other companies, that normally hold back for a release. They instead come out and tell you what they are doing (sometimes) and promise to open source it :)”

Yet, “There is a reason that we won’t see the fruit of this labour for a while though, and that is because there is a ton of work to be done,” he added. “I am excited to see us all come together to push the Open Web platform further and get to a point where it can do everything we need to create compelling user experiences!”

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