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InfoQ Homepage News Google Is Creating a New Free Operating System Called Google Chrome OS

Google Is Creating a New Free Operating System Called Google Chrome OS

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Google has announced they are working a new operating system called Google Chrome OS. Based on a Linux kernel with a new windowing system, the new OS is targeted at netbooks first and will be open sourced and free.

After dominating Microsoft in the search field, after entering the mobile market with Android, Google is entering right in the heart of Microsoft’s business: the operating system. Google is following their vision: an entirely online world where all data and applications are on cloudy servers, and the user needs only a browser to access all that. Google has a browser, Chrome, but they want an operating system fearing Microsoft will eventually catch up with them and ultimately will marginalize them having control of the most dominant OS.

They actually do not want to recreate a new full-blown OS, but rather take a Linux kernel, and create a new minimal windowing system on top of it. The main and probably the only application running on it will be the browser, Chrome. The other applications are online, accessed through the browser. The idea is to offer Chrome a support that is not controlled by someone else and practically reiterates the war of the 90’s when Netscape wanted to cover the desktop with their browser, making Windows irrelevant.

Google will open source the code of the Chrome OS later this year, and invites the community to join their efforts when that happens. They are also in talks with several manufactures to produce netbooks by the second half of 2010, but they are not going to stop with netbooks. They want to take it to laptops and desktops. While Android is also on netbooks, they say the two products will actually complement each other, Android being targeted at mobile devices. Chrome OS will run both on x86 and ARM processors.

Developers will be able to work as usual using their web platform of choice. They just do not target the desktop, but will create online applications as they have already done so.

Google wants to build the new OS for:

Speed, simplicity and security… 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.

Google clearly takes aim at Microsoft by saying:

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.

Some of the companies Google is working with to make this happen are Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba. The most interesting name in the list is Adobe, a software company. This indicates Adobe AIR will get good support on the new OS and probably will continue to have a good support of Flash inside the browser, Chrome. It is interesting to see what will Google do regarding Silverlight which is currently supported by Chrome 2.0.

A new page of history begins. It is difficult to say what the outcome will be. Google will certainly drive some of the market, but Microsoft will also react. We need to wait and see their reaction. Their first move is suggested by the research conducted for a much more secure browser, code name Gazelle. And Google’s path to success is not so straightforward. Online applications are not as mature and fast as desktop ones. There are still networking issues remaining. There is a very large number of people using desktop applications, and that is not going to change any time soon, but we are living in a fast changing world.

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