Get ready for Chrome OS, Google says


Google's been busy.

The same day it took the "beta" tag off of Gmail, the company has announced its intention to bring a whole operating system of its own to market.

Dubbed Chrome OS, the platform will differs from Google's Android mobile operating system, because it's designed to run on everything from netbooks to full-fledged desktop systems.

Google's Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson explain the intent of Chrome OS in a blog post:

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.

Work on the project will ramp up later this year, and computers should start shipping with the free Chrome OS installed by late 2010.

Microsoft sunk?

The announcement is being billed as a shot across the bow of Microsoft, the dominant player in computers. TechCrunch's MG Siegler says it's pretty clear what Google has done: "This is Google dropping the mother of bombs on its chief rival, Microsoft," he writes. "What Google is doing is not recreating a new kind of OS, they’re creating the best way to not need one at all," he concludes.

Others aren't so convinced. Information Week's Mitch Wagner doesn't think Chrome OS heralds Microsoft's OS death knell. "Maybe Google sees it that way," he writes, "but, in fact, Chrome OS potentially strengthens Microsoft, by sowing confusion among the Linux competition. Where there is confusion in the marketplace, hardware manufacturers and consumers look to the safe choice, and the safe choice is Microsoft.

PC World's David Coursey adds himself to the list of Chrome OS doubters, citing, among other things, Google's "feeble" Docs application. "Google's cloud computing strategy so far is 'applications lite,' which may be fine for occasional use, just like a netbook, but don't meet enough needs to be a real solution."

A Web-centric OS

Would an operating system like Google envisions be comfortable for most users? Google's vision of Chrome OS includes a world where people turn to the Web not just for e-mail and consuming content, but for all of their computing needs. Many, including The New York Times' Saul Hansel, see just a little bit of a problem with that.

"Browsers don’t yet do everything, and there are two decades of Windows applications that have been written, performing functions that can’t yet be replicated in a browser," he writes, conceding that though right now it's a daunting proposition, more functions will move to the Web.

With that in mind, maybe it's a good thing that Chrome OS is more than a year out. What's your take? Would you buy a computer with a bare-bones, web-centric operating system?


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