Google shows Chrome OS, promises 2010 launch

Google shows Chrome OS, promises 2010 launch

Summary: Google's long-awaited Chrome OS aims at security, speed and simplicity in netbook cloud computing


Google has unveiled its Chrome OS. In a webcast launch at the company's California headquarters on Thursday, Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, said the Linux-based operating system was fully open, ran applications only in its browser and stored all data in the cloud.

The early version demonstrated is available immediately for developers, with the finished version due in a year's time.

Speed, simplicity and security were the key components of the design, said Pichai. "It takes seven seconds to boot to the login, and three seconds to hit an application. We're working very hard to make that faster." All applications are web applications, he said, with the browser running each in an tab isolated from other applications and the system, and there was nothing for users to install or maintain.

"All Chrome OS data is in the cloud", Pichai said. "If I lose my Chrome OS computer, I can buy another one, log in and in a few seconds everything is back."

He also said the operating system was self-checking and self-repairing, with individual components cryptographically signed. If the computer detects an error, malware or the system being hacked, it reloads some or all of the system afresh over the cloud.

In the demonstration of the operating system, applications ran in tabs along the top of the browser component, and could also be opened in panes and minimised. "Any web app is a Chrome OS app," said Pichai: an Excel spreadsheet was shown running in Windows Live. "We expect rich complex applications with the functionality of desktop applications".

In particular, Pichai mentioned reading books, playing music and video as key areas. Media and games can be played offline, and Chrome OS would support HTML 5's offline capabilities, he said, but it was primarily designed for online use.

Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM chips, but to be a Chrome OS netbook the device would need to use hardware approved by Google. It will issue reference designs based on components, such as wireless interfaces, that the company knows to have proper driver support. "There are some fierce usability issues out there," said Pichai. "Chrome OS devices will be slightly larger netbooks with a full size keyboard. We care about resolution of the displays This will be part of the specification".

He also said that Chrome OS computers would only use SSDs, rather than conventional hard disks. "We just want computers to be delightful and work", he said.

Matt Papakipos, engineering director of Chrome OS, said that despite Chrome OS looking like any other browser it was a "fundamentally different computing model than what appears on the surface", with the system checking its own security every time it boots, having daily automatic updates and having no data on it that was not also on the cloud. It was also fully open: "All of the code is out in the open now, and we've opened up all of our design documents."

Pichai said that Google was working with "all the top partners" on commercial devices, and that the initial focus was entirely on netbooks with keyboards, although there may be other form factors later. Many aspects of Chrome OS would change between now and the launch, but "everything that works in Chrome [browser] works in Chrome OS. On day one, a lot of the capabilities will already have been out there".

He said that rather than an app store approach, "there are uncountable web apps out there. Our job is to make sure people can discover them".

Pichai namechecked Linux, Ubuntu and Moblin, among others, as providing some of the software in Chrome OS.


Topics: Apps, Software Development

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Client sorted, what about the network?

    Well done Google. Up to a point.

    What we still need is a more reliable network - especially when mobile. I still can't travel by train from Brighton to London without losing numerous link drops or the data rate fading to finger-tappingly slow dial-up speeds, especially during the southern half of the journey. That's using either Voda or O2 whose connections I'd expect to be more robust. I'd hate an OS that's totally reliant on those links...
    Manek Dubash
  • network - exactly

    @Manek - well quite. Even in the US, if you leave Silicon Valley, connectivity is either patchy or expensive. Drive across Arizona and the mobile operator for the Navaho Nation has no international data roaming agreements = no email after you pass Meteor Crater...

    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • You can't blame Google for the network

    They are pushing the network, are as Apple.

    The train operators just see the commuters as a cash cow and internet on the move will require infrastructure by them and a healthy return for the shareholders.

    I will agree that there is a surprising difference in mobile coverage between the motorways and the railways. I, for one, no longer have any wish to drive to work and train is my main option for commuting. I understand that trains offer more technical difficulties, with cuttings etc, however there is surely a simple answer to boost the coverage for the only commuters who can make real use of this data "on the move".

    In realism, we need another great breakthrough rather than existing technology. As far as I can tell, Starbucks & BT rarely give a decent WiFi network - how can we expect a train hurtling at 80mph to do better?
  • Will we believe the telcos?

    It's all a bit depressing: I'm at a conference in Singapore that's all about innovation in telco networks, and of course everyone's banging on about LTE and Ethernet-enabled mobile backhaul.

    Which is all very well, but if 3G technology, which has been around for some 10 years, can't deliver faster speeds than 56k dial-up in a densely populated, heavily used commuter corridor, will we believe the telcos when they start selling 50Mbit/sec download speeds that they reckon will be available from tomorrow's shiny new networks?
    Manek Dubash
  • I have one word for you

    Backhaul. Vodafone is putting 16Mbps fibre backhaul behind their 14.4Mbps HSUPA cells. I'm tempted to say both of them, but there might be a dozen by now - they'll cover Putney some time in May. Share that between 50 people and it's still not fantastic, but given that the vast majority of 3G cells across Europe and the UK had 2Mbps DSL backhaul serving them last year, they're the only network I'm applauding. But you pay for that Vodafone backhaul. Bandwidth is a scarce resource. Tell me again why it's better to have apps I can only get when I'm on the network rather than ones that live on my hard drive the merest fraction of a millisecond away from my CPU? (and while I'm at it; SSDs, just say er, where's the capacity?)

    -Mary, feeling Luddite
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • home Use

    I think this will be a good OS to give to my Parents, they only play simple on line card games, web email and BBC iplayer and the like. I think an OS that heals itself will be a boon for me no more fixing the PC everytime I go to the house. On PC front, my wifes Vista laptop is playing up again, maybe I should give her my old mac and buy a new one... or should I wait and give her a ChromeOS, her use is of the laptop will suit... maybe its not a power user OS its a simple home use for people who have fewer demands.
  • I have a question

    Is not google a little bit of a hyprocrite? They are joining the EU fight and sitting in judgement of MS while they are doing the exact same thing as MS.

    "Google has backed European regulators in their effort to prevent Microsoft from bundling the Internet Explorer browser with its ubiquitous Windows operating system.On Tuesday afternoon, the Mountain View Chocolate Factory told the world it has applied to become a third party in the European Commission's antitrust proceeding against Steve Ballmer and company."

    So they are telling MS and the world that it was wrong of MS to bundle IE with their OS, while at the same time saying hey look at us we are releasing on OS that has our web browser bundled. Is that hypocrisy?
  • indeed

    That's a very good question: Google has the same dominance in search and search revenue that Microsoft does on the desktop - I suspect the fact that their money come from businesses advertising rather than end users gives people a different view of them.

    I'm yet to be convinced that a) a Linux cloud OS will definitely be simpler and b) that people really want a simpler OS that doesn't use the power of the PC - given that so many Pcs have a simple quick-start Linux like Splashtop and there were all those netbooks with locked-down Linux front ends sold at first, and yet it's Windows people buy and use. Hardware support and drivers are an issue too (printers at the very least). Let's see what Chrome actually delivers...
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • This needs clarification

    The point in law is surely not it is criminal to achieve dominance. This would make a mockery of the entire market ethos system. Where I feel this thread has gone awry is not being clear on the fact that it is not the success that is being penalised, but achieving it through abuse of dominant position or concerted practices which clearly the EC is regulating increasingly actively. And the EC does wish to foster innovation, but the question is whether this should be allowed through antitrust practices indeed.
    Shibley R
  • It does not need clarification...

    "This needs clarification
    The point in law is surely not it is criminal to achieve dominance." That was not what I was asking and has nothing to do with my question. Let me ask again is it not hyprocritical of Google to sit in judgement of MS for bundling IE with Windows when at the same time they released a OS that has a browser bundled? They told MS it was wrong of them to do that while at the same time they do the same thing. How is that not hypocritical?