Google today unveiled new features for its Chrome browser and offered a sneak peek at what's coming with Chrome OS, a new Web-only operating system that was first announced last year and will be launched in notebooks from Acer and Samsung by mid-next year.
The company covered a lot of ground during an event in San Francisco today - but it was clear that everything that Google is doing here is centered around the Web.
Starting with the browser, Chrome is all about getting faster. One of the coolest features was a one-up on Google Instant, the quick search feature that fills in the search query based on what the user is typing. Taking it to a new level, the browser will load the pages that you, the specific user, visit most frequently. For example, start typing ESPN and the ESPN page will load as soon as you type the "E." LIkewise, a "Z" might load ZDNet for regular readers of the this site.
The company also announced the Chrome Web store, a marketplace for Web-based apps similar to those built for a tablet like the iPad. On stage, a demo of a Sports Illustrated app called Snapshot, which will provide stories, photo slideshows and other rich multimedia features that provide more of iPad experience than a traditional browser experience.
As a side note, a presentation by Citrix at the event talked about the ways a Web-only experience can be attractive for businesses. Citrix is developing a business app marketplace that would load enterprise apps - be it Excel or SAP directly into the browser and allow users to access a chart or other information where they may have left off on the native app.
By far, the more exciting news today was around the Chrome operating system and the launch of notebooks running it. Google execs were quick to note that the OS still isn't quite ready. There are some features that need fine tuning and some bugs that still need working out. For example, the device won't need drivers for printing and will be able to utilize a beta feature that allows printing to any printer on the user's network - even remotely. That feature, while impressive in the demo, still needs some work.
Initially, Samsung and Acer will be the OEMs to launch the first Chrome OS notebooks but others will follow. At the event, the company announced the Cr-48, a no-brand prototype model that will be made available on a limited basis for early adopters and businesses that want to give it a try. Among those that will test it initially will be Virgin America, Logitech, Kraft Foods and even the U.S. Department of Defense, which will test it with its affiliated research organizations.
Even consumers will be able to test run it, including those who were part of a promotion on Google's Facebook fan page, as well as those who have a creative edge and are willing to create and upload a YouTube video on why they are worthy of the device.
Back to the notebooks, the plan is to optimize the browser and the apps to operate in offline mode and to be able to connect to the Internet seamlessly via WiFi or a mobile broadband connection via Verizon Wireless.
That partnership, similar to what AT&T is doing with the iPad, requires no contract and has pricing plans that start as low as $9.99 for a day of unlimited usage. At the start, the connectivity will be 3G. Verizon is already rolling out 4G connectivity but on data modems only - for now.
The thing to remember about what Google is doing with the browser and the OS is to make the computing experience faster, seamless and personal - and all about the Web.