Google said late Tuesday that it will launch the Google Chrome operating system, a computer operating system that initially will target netbook computers by offering a faster, better and more secure way for users to access Web-based applications.
The Chrome operating system should not be confused with the Android operating system that the company launched for mobile devices. While there will be some overlap between the two systems, Android was designed to work across a number of devices, such as phones, set-top boxes and netbooks. The Chrome OS is being designed to power computers that range from small netbooks to full-size desktop machines.
The Chrome OS is a direct attack against Microsoft's lucrative - albeit vulnerable - Windows operating system. By now, it's no secret that Windows Vista was a nightmare and that Microsoft is eager to launch its Windows 7 operating system, which is scheduled for release in the fall. From the official blog post announcing Google Chrome OS:
We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.
Google, which has long been singing the praises of cloud-based applications, is stepping up its game to bring the cloud to the mainstream. The operating system - a lightweight open source system that will run on both x86 as well ARM chips - is deigned to start up and have the user on the Web within seconds, as opposed to the long startup time on Windows. In addition, the company said that it's "going back to basics" - just as it did with the Chrome browser - to redesign the underlying security architecture "so that users don't have to worry about viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work."
For developers, the platform is the Web. All Web-based applications will automatically work on the Chrome OS and new applications can be written using any web technology, which means they will work on any standards based browser running on Windows, Mac or Linux.
Earlier in the day, Google ripped the Beta labels off of its Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk and Google Docs applications, presumably to make them more attractive to business customers who might have thought of them as unfinished, untested or unreliable because they still carried the Beta label.
Those apps also go directly at another of Microsoft's sweet spots, its software suite. Gmail and Google Calendar, for example, provide an alternative to Microsoft's Outlook while Google Docs is intended to challenge popular productivity tools such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Later this year, the company plans to open-source its Chrome OS code and is already talking to partners about having the first round of netbooks available to consumers by the second half of 2010.
Also see: Dana Blankenhorn: Netbooks, Chrome and the future of computing