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Google News: Chrome OS, Chrome Web Store, and Cloud Print

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Google has announced recently a number of new developments: the status of Chrome OS, a new market for applications running in Chrome, and cloud printing support in Chrome, all preparing the way for Chrome OS devices.

Google announced the intention of creating a new operating system called Chrome OS back in July in 2009, and the first prototype was available in November 2009, planning for the appearance of the first Chrome OS-powered device at the end of this year. It seems that neither the OS nor its corresponding devices are ready for primetime, and it does not make sense to sell notebooks with a beta OS on them. So Google decided to create a Pilot Program giving an unspecified number of notebooks running Chrome OS to businesses, developers, users, and students for testing purposes. The pilot devices are called Cr-48, which is a chromium isotope. These have a 12.1” screen, a full-sized keyboard and touch pad, but commercial devices will come in different sizes and form factors as manufacturers decide. The first devices to hit the market are expected for mid -2011 from Acer and Samsung, other companies following shortly.

Google has managed to enhance Chrome which is the interface of the coming operating system. For example, they have introduced a new compilation infrastructure, called Crankshaft, for V8, Chrome’s JavaScript engine, making some of the tests in V8’s benchmark suite run twice as fast as before, according to Google. Crankshaft is meant to improve the performance of JavaScript-heavy applications, an area where Google has invested much over the time.

Another area of improvement is WebGL, Google recently demoing a 3D aquarium with 1,000 fish and a 3D view of the human body at a recent media event in San Francisco. This is not done by using ANGLE, another Google project for running WebGL on Windows, but by running WebGL on the GPU.

Chrome OS is planned to be optimized firstly for running applications in the browser and the cloud, editing documents coming secondly. Devices will have broadband connections installed, but Chrome OS will also support applications running in offline mode. The OS will automatically update itself over the network, and it is touted by Google as very secure.

Another related development is the announcement of Chrome Web Store, an online market for applications running in Chrome, already featuring more than 500 applications. An application is installed once in a Chrome instance and it can be accessed from any other instance the user has on another machine, working similarly like extensions. The store opens the way for Chrome OS which will rely heavily on applications sold and bought from it.

Another development  preparing the way for Chrome OS is the availability of Google Cloud Print, a technology facilitating printing from any Internet-connected device to any cloud-enabled printer or legacy printer connected to a PC with Chrome on it. While there are no cloud-enabled printers, Google desires to bring together printer manufacturers and print services providers to elaborate open standards facilitating such services. Such printers would connect directly to the cloud, not having any need for an intermediary device. Not having such a printer, one can use a legacy printer if it is connected to a PC, both are turned on and Chrome is also running on the PC. In this case, Chrome acts as a printing proxy. Testing this capability requires Chrome 9 which is currently a development build. Chrome OS will use this capability to print documents, the operating system not having any printer drivers.

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