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Google to enter operating system wars with Chrome OS

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Google to enter operating system wars with Chrome OS

Wed Jul 8, 2009 12:51PM EDT

In what is certain to be the biggest tech story of the summer, Google is finally making official what has been rumored for years: It will create its own computer operating system, Chrome OS, slated for release in late 2010.

While the news is stunning in its potential impact on the industry, it hardly arrives without warning. Google already makes its own cell phone OS, the fledgling Android, which continues to slowly gain devotees. And well before the company unleashed its own web browser, Chrome, many had long since assumed that Google had been preparing to release an operating system. When the Chrome browser was released instead, many observers actually saw it as a bit of a letdown in the news department.

Now it's clear what Google has been up to all along: Chrome is simply the centerpiece of a larger table setting, a full-blown operating system that will run without Windows or the MacOS beneath it.

Google is keeping many details close to the vest -- and, with at least a year before the OS comes out, it really has no choice since the OS has miles to go before it's ready -- but the company has made a few details public. Chrome OS will be open source, like Linux operating systems, upon which Chrome will be based; it will be designed to be "fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds;" and it will be designed with security in mind (though, seriously, everybody says that). The OS will run on both ARM and x86 CPUs, the latter being the most common PC chip architecture on the planet, used on virtually every PC produced today.

Despite the hints about Chrome OS, many, many questions remain. Obviously Chrome is designed with the web in mind, and it will undoubtedly be closely tied into Google's extensive suite of services. But what will its offline components look like, if any? With Linux as a base, it will obviously be able to run Linux-based applications, though it won't be compatible with Windows... or will it? Emulator systems exist that could let Chrome run Windows apps, but they're complex and at odds with the goal of creating a streamlined, super-simple operating system. I am immediately curious as to how big of a hard drive a Chrome OS laptop would have, if it will have one at all.

Another big question involves the hardware this operating system will run on. Google obviously has inexpensive, low-power netbooks in mind for Chrome OS, but will tinkerers be able to install it on computers they already own? Driver issues become a major obstacle at that point, as a "simple" OS can't possibly account for the thousands of hardware variations present in modern PCs (printing alone is going to be a headache as it is). My hunch is that a downloadable version will eventually be available, but that it won't be supported by Google at all should you decide to install it on a non-approved PC.

That leads to the question of whether Google is ignoring a key part of the market. Netbooks are great little toys, but they're hardly the tools of choice for those looking to get real work done. By embracing the web and largely ignoring offline applications, Chrome-based netbooks will by necessity remain tools for the low end of the market, playthings for when you're not really being productive. Like the Linux-based netbooks before them, they just won't do enough for many users.

And that's an ominous issue hanging out there for Chrome OS's future. Linux-based netbooks haven't been a rousing success, as Windows fought back with a vengeance after they hit the market, offering buyers a more familiar working environment and compatibility with their other computers while keeping prices down. Consumers have so far warmed up to the idea of having more features on their netbooks, not fewer, relegating Linux on netbooks to the background. Will a spiffy, Googleized version of Linux change consumer opinion? Maybe, but probably not dramatically.

Contrary to public opinion, everything that Google touches does not turn to gold, and to be frank, Google has a serious uphill battle ahead for its OS ambitions. I'm cautiously optimistic that Google will put something brilliant together here, and can't wait to get my eyes on the software, but the challenges it faces are extreme. Put together something too unique and different and consumers may be put off and confused. Or you could make an OS that clings closely to the Windows interface, but what would be the point of that?

http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/146051

Fixed your quote and link :smiley:

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So here is, supposedly, the Google OS user agent if you want to screw with some sites admins.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-19882_3-10284282-250.html

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.9.0.6) Gecko/2009020911 Google OS/ChromeKernel 0.9 (very secret, to be released soon.) Firefox/3.0.6

And hopefully Google won't put any monitoring ware in the OS.  I really hate it when a non-internet program in the OS wants to call home.

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Be intresting to see how this works out. It will be free and of course its a linux build. I think this one could give windows a run for its money. Bring Linux to the masses. Hope this works

Heres an interesting story about how Linux in Netbooks failed and how Windows took over. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jul/08/microsoft-asus-linux

Did Microsoft force Asus to axe Linux?

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And yet another story on how Intel and Google collaborated on the OS.

http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/43176/140/

Chip giant Intel told TG Daily today that it was in cahoots with Google on the Chrome OS project.

And the OS wars have begun.

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