Live from Googleplex: Chrome OS details revealed

Google reveals details about Chrome OS in a tech press briefing at the Googleplex
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

I'm here at the Googleplex in Silicon Valley where the company has summoned the tech press for a briefing about Google Chrome OS. It's always great coming to events at Google - very relaxed atmosphere, plenty of bright colors and, in this room, some cool tunes playing (I even heard some metal. It's certainly not a Microsoft event.)

I'll be offering a play-by-play of today's news, so stick with me as I update this blog during the briefing.

10:00 am: We'll be starting soon. Some attendees stuck in traffic. (The 101 Freeway in Mountain View was pretty solid considering we're at the tail end of the morning commute.)

10:05 a.m.: Contrary to reports in blogosphere, Google VP Sundar Pichai says there will be no products today. No beta version. They're a yeart away from release. Primary reason for here today is to announce open source of project. Code is open.

10:08 am: Let's talk about Chrome first. It's been more than a year. Hapy to announce over 40 milion users. The growth is strong. Talking about primary users who use Chrome as their main browser. Chrome's main focus has been speed. Most users can notice how much faster Chrome is, compared to IE - end to end speed.

10:09 am: So far, have updated Chrome almost 20 times but most users probably haven't noticed. They just push out updates.

10:10 am: Big news: Chrome for Mac coming this year. A few more announcements before end of year. Mac for Linux also coming along nicely.

10:12 a.m.: We're talking HTML 5 now. Company is working hard for web apps to take advantage of rich technology. Want to make it possible to have apps run rich within the browser. Also want it to be possible for any web page to have rich audio and video technology built in. Also need web apps to work offline, exposing to local storage. Company says making a lot of progress in areas. Expect to hve all installed in 2010.

10:14 am: Three trends Google i excited about. 1) Growth of netbooks is phenomenal, especially noteworthy because it took off in recession. 2) Hundreds of millions of people already living in the cloud. The trend toward Web apps is very clear. 3) Phones are becoming smarter. Rumors of tablets but they are just phones in a computing platform. On the other side, laptops and netbooks becoming more like phones, with always-on capabilities. The company is looking for a better model for users - and that's what Chrome OS is.

10:17 am: On to Chrome OS: Three things are important - speed simplicity and security. Chrome is the foundation. They want it fast, turning on immediately. Also, Chrome on Chrome OS should be faster. In Chrome Os, it's all Web apps. Just a browser with some modifications, which makes it easy to use, nothing to maintain.  All of Chrome OS will be in the cloud. If use Chrome OS machine, should be able to buy new one, log-in and have all data back. As for security, security is tough but can be managed. Because it's all on cloud, it can be fixed easily. Chrome OS works completely in browser.

10:18 am: Time for a Demo. But first, yes, it does look like Chrome. Interesting that they're opening the project a year ahead of time. There will still be changes because it's a work-in-progress and will likely look different later.

10:23 am: Showing the tabs at the top of the "browser," where regular apps reside - Gmail, Google calendar, etc. At the bottom are "panels," persistent lightweight windows. There's a chat window in this demo on how they can be minimized. It lets you put apps - such as notepad, in this demo - and insert text instantly instead of opening the app. Same goes for a panel that plays music, too. I like the "app menu" which looks like a "desktop" but within a tab, not hidden under everything the way an OS works today.

10:25 am: Company shows how the "browser" can take over the screen to, say, play a game of chess or read an e-book.

10:28 am: Multiple windows can be opened. The UI changes a bit but allows users to move tabs between windows, set up specialized sets of tabs (like your daily lineup of regular tabs.) Nice features. Showing file manager now. Microsoft created app for Chrome OS - if it works on the Web or browser, it works in Chrome OS. The demo showed insertion of a USB drive that had excel files - but, of course, Excel is not on Chrome - but Microsoft has a Web version of its spreadsheet software.

10:30 am: Welcome Engineering Director Matt Papakipos. What's happening under the hood. Showing what they have built so far but excited about the opening of it so others can contribute. Speed is a big focus. They want you to be able to punch the on button and be on the web. All devices based on solid state storage - no moving disks. Why it can boot so quickly - booting out of the RAM.

10:40 am: An interesting chat about the boot-up and security. The browser is auto-started but the OS assumes that all apps are a threat and runs a series of tests on the bootup - if there's something bad in there, the OS reboots to get a clean image. Also, the OS doesn't allow any apps - largely because they're web apps - to do anything to the machine, take over a drive or power settings or something like that. If the machine does need a re-imaging - and we all know how painful that can be - it's much easier because it preserves the cache and pretty much restores itself to the way you want it. Again, web apps and data in the cloud.

10:44 am: High level overview of how the company plans to go to market. They are working on the Chrome OS software but they are also talking to OEMs now on the hardware front. They will have specs to follow - remember, solid state drives, etc. Can't buy Chrome OS and install on existing machine. Will need a new one. target is one year from now - before the holiday season of 2010. Call them larger netbooks - with larger keyboard and touchpad. They want nice screens, too.

10:48 am: Main point today is to reiterate that it Chrome OS is now open source. They want to be good open source citizens. Given new model of computing they're trying to achieve, they need the feedback and input from open-source community. Before we wrap up, here comes a demo video. I've embedded it below so you can see it, too.

10:49 am: On to a Q&A session...

10:50 am: What might we expect Chrome OS machine cost? A: Tough to predict hardware curve ahead of release. Partners will announce pricing but company has no price target for their partners.

10:55 am: Where there be a marketplace, or app store, for Chrome? Showed initial concept of how people can find applications. In the web, there are hundreds of millions of apps and the company wants to make sure that they can be found easily. There are apps today that aren't available on the Web. The company is trying to deliver a companion device. The goal of this device is to make it "delightful" to be on the Web. There will be somethings that these machines will not be able to do. If you're a lawyer editing contracts back-and-forth, this may not be the device for you.

10:58 am: Will you support Silverlight? In the case of certain specific plug-ins, the company is working hard on those and more information to come next year. Follow-up question: So, you're talking to Microsoft about Silverlight. Quick answer: No comment.

11:00 am: Can other browsers run in it? Chrome OS runs on Chrome but because it's open, someone could take code and build it around another browser.

11:01 am: Will it go beyond netbooks? In the future, they want it to run on laptops and desktops but for 2010, they are focused on netbooks - but a variation of them, such as larger sized, nice screens, bigger keyboards and more.

11:03 am: How do you deal with offline access? The machine is primarily online. You will be able to cache media locally - music, video, games. Any app that takes advantage of HTML5 offline capabilities would be able to offer some offline capabilities.

11:06 am: What about Android apps? What about third-party apps? Will they work on Chrome OS? Third-party apps will work if they are Web apps. Because Android apps are not Web apps, they will not - at least initially.

11:09 am: Is there a business model for Chrome OS? Will there be a vehicle for advertising or is this another way to migrate people to the Web? Not much to say on this other than they are working with partners and it's free. With that said, as people migrate to and become more comfortable with the Web, Google gains. As for advertising on the OS, there are no plans for that. The focus is to release the OS in the next year - and that's a huge undertaking in itself, Pichai said.

11:15 am: Sergey Brin joins the panel, though he says he was just popping in and hadn't planned on joining Q&A. But he's on the hot seat now.

11:17 am: What about drivers? Will it run printers? Cameras? How will it handle those things? If it's a storage device like most cameras are, it will work. As for printing, Chrome OS will print but the company says it's taking an innovative approach to printing and will release more information about that next year. Nothing to say right now.

11:20 am: What is Chrome's position in this War of the Clouds? Sergey: Call us dumb businessmen but we focus on user needs instead of competitive strategies. Google thinks Web platform is a better way and can make computing easier for people to use.

11:21 am: That's all for today. Thanks for coming (and following along.)

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