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Google Announces Chrome Operating System

Gordon Kelly


Google Announces Chrome Operating System

Whoever thought the news Gmail leaves beta couldn't be topped today? Think again...

Google is making a PC operating system. Taking naming cues from the company's browser (pictured), it will be called the 'Chrome OS' and be based on an ultra lightweight, open source platform.

The initial target will be netbooks with a second half of 2010 launch timeframe. Google is then looking to scale up Chrome OS as a genuine challenger in the laptop and desktop markets. Vitally it will be separate from Android and is "being created for people who spend most of their time on the web". Whether the news will kill off the clamour for Android netbooks remains to be seen as does both platforms potential cross compatibility.

"Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS," said Google engineering director Sundar Pichai on the company's official blog. "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."

Interestingly Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM chips (hello Tegra!) which should make it instantly popular with the latter group that has long been ignored by Microsoft Windows.

"We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear - computers need to get better," continued Pichai. "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."

I have long mooted the idea that with Google Apps, Maps, Docs, Reader, Picassa and more Google has been "maintain is going about building an OS piece by piece in public" {that quote is from 2005!} and I have no doubt these services along with Google Gears and HTML5 will be cornerstones of Chrome OS. It may even signal the arrival of the near-mythic GDrive and Google Wave is certainly going to be key. Like Android I expect it to emerge as the roughest of diamonds and with Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard presenting fine, fully formed alternatives it will likely take a number of years for Chrome OS to shine.

That said, I suspect a diamond is indeed in there. Apple and Microsoft aren't likely to sleep well tonight...


Google Chrome OS Blog Post


July 8, 2009, 7:45 pm

I don't think MS will be too worried. They have the business world wrapped up. I think the target market will be the home user.

I can't imagine many businesses with bespoke apps and stuff to be considering a move away from Windows.

Hamish Campbell

July 8, 2009, 7:47 pm

This is really what I want for my old thinkpad. It chugs with linux generally so a super parred down linux image with basically just a browser on top would be ideal. But I guess all of linux's drivers for old hardware might not be included.


July 8, 2009, 7:56 pm

Targeting low-spec devices is absolutely where Google should start - it's an area Microsoft have sorely neglected. I'm quite excited to see what they can come up with.


July 8, 2009, 8:00 pm


Seriously why are you even bothering?

Well I hope it sucks a whole lot less than Android, and GDrive - saving and sharing my stuff in the cloud LOL DREAM ON.


July 8, 2009, 8:06 pm

Very clever move from Google. A lot of (mainly corporate) businesses are moving to browser based technology for their applications. So a secure, low cost operating system with just a browser is ideal. It also means users cannot run (many) other applications on their machines!


July 8, 2009, 8:28 pm


Yeah sure they are and users just run more porn in a minimised browser.

Browser based technology in 2009? I guess that's called called an intranet.

I don't understand where Google and a free OS for crappy netbooks, is comparable to a corporate application maybe the bloggers of the world are minted LOL


July 8, 2009, 8:59 pm


SAP and Oracle can run entirely in a browser. Or are those not heavyweight enough?


July 8, 2009, 9:13 pm

Actually I can see this working for businesses, well, for certain kinds of business anyway. Firstly the small office environment, maybe 20 to 50 users max, that just need the basic office productivity suite of word processor, spreadsheet, e-mail and some way of sharing those docs. For those environments the thought of a cheap hardware with a per user subscription service to google's tools may actually make a great deal of sense, especially considering the cost of equipping a place like that with a full blown Windows / Office combination.

For those businesses that need application support, well, a lot of them are already moving to web-based applications and that WILL work on this sort of platform. It's almost a move back to the mainframe days - most office workers get cheap, secure and easily maintained hardware and web applications where the development team run the server environment and have full fledged Windows PC's.

Will any of that happen overnight? Nope, not a chance, and putting this onto existing hardware is going to require serious driver development but there IS potential for Google to make major inroads in a lot of seperate spaces here. If I was Microsoft I'd be a bit worried right now and be kicking of a project to deliver the same sort of lean OS on top of a Windows core, even if only as a precaution.


July 8, 2009, 9:21 pm

may as well triple boot this onto my upcomming 13 inch macbook pro with windows 7. :)


July 8, 2009, 9:35 pm

@hank - I will never understand the planet you live on, but I hear the weather's nice there ;)


July 8, 2009, 9:55 pm


No not really, it's irrelevant to Google Chrome OS i'm missing the link?


Even a bunch of jacko fans nearly took out the internet, and would I place any business on a remote server with limited to no control the answer is NO.


July 8, 2009, 10:07 pm


I live in the real world...

Where Apple make costly over inflated useless gadgets...

Where Hotmail is just the bloody same as Googlemail...

Where IE8 runs just as fast as the latest Firefox and fails to crash...

Where Google Chrome for all its glory is just another browser with 1.2% market share...

Where I have wirelessly streamed multi room music system for £500 less than a Sonos...

I could bang on...

But it's raining FYI


July 8, 2009, 10:30 pm

hank; You're thinking too small. Running an OS with a tiny footprint and being able to access browser based apps is great. It doesn't need to access these apps on the Internet, I can host my own apps on my own network, and have my users access them over the network.

Some virtualisation tools that I use do this now, all without the cost of Windows!

As for Apple, they make some very good stuff, what's useless? I've just bought an iPhone 3GS and it's a great piece of kit. If you want to be able to change the look and feel of the OS and basically fiddle with everything then stay clear, but I don't and it just works for me. Most people that mock the iPhone have never used one. I was a Nokia man for years, dipped my toe in Windows mobile and then back to Nokia. But the Apple way is just a much better model for people that don't need to mess about.

My experience of IE8 is that it's OK, it doesn't crash, but it's slower for me than Safari 4.


July 8, 2009, 10:32 pm

Wow. Is it just me or is the weather making everyone really moody today? I've just come from the MacBook review and it's even worse there...


July 8, 2009, 10:40 pm

@hank - thanks, I was having a grumpy day until I read that. Superb satire.


July 8, 2009, 11:03 pm

Any bets on whether this'll end up being called COS or Chromos?

Personally I think this is a bad thing. On anything more powerful than a netbook (a real one, not a £300 ultraportable) the OS should be as capable as possible so that the user can do whatever they want. Having an OS that's just a browser means that a user will have to install an entirely new O/S if they develop an interest in digital music editing or want to transfer their old media into another format.

Certainly windows (and Linux, and OS X) could use some improvements in boot up time and some more system-wide features like backup integration but crippling the rest of the OS to get that will just be one step forward and two steps back.


July 8, 2009, 11:11 pm


'and would I place any business on a remote server with limited to no control the answer is NO.'

Its one version of managed service and is becoming increasingly popular with companies that wish to outsource their IT. You may not want to do it but many do.

Google O/S marketed as such with an integrated browser. A standard platform to run business applications with little opportunity to install non-standard applications. Makes for much lower management costs.


July 8, 2009, 11:52 pm

hardware drivers? third party software? most software developers struggle to provide for both xp and vista

just a wet dream for the trendy geeks (oxymoron i know) who wet their kecks at every half-baked idea developed by this company


July 8, 2009, 11:59 pm

@Steve Johnson

I don't think small Steve, You are right though it's called an intranet or if you are working in multi locales a VPN maybe. I am bashing cloud computing because of it's going to have problems. Regional Law for one, ownership etc. what would could you do if the mighty Google or Microsoft suddenly said stop or suffered from a successful North Korean attack? You're IT would come to an abrupt halt. It's early days and they say every cloud has a silver lining.

As for the 3GS I am happy you are happy with it for £500 you really should be let's hope you have not got the HOT model that turns pretty pink. I am very happy with my 5yr old Samsung, I have used it with great success many times as a missile, it still holds charge for easy two weeks, and it still makes phone calls with fantastic clarity 3G or no 3G. It plays MP3 and it fits in my coin pocket, It also records video/photos as good as current gen Iphone IMO. I don't need pointless "where is the nearest Italian" apps, rubbish games, or weather forecasts for Manila I don't get lost much either so the "maps" app too are a huge waste. For something a third of the size of the Iphone it has a comparable Ebook reader too which I found quite a shock. I am sure Apple have got it right, but they have not with me, I find OS a bit meh, I find the macbook just to be another notebook after the initial gush, the Ipod/Shuffles to be the worst on the market wrapped in ITunes, the Iphone I agree is OK, but I have no use for it, besides how many models are they bringing out to "fix" the one before. I must admit I take pride I am not another little lamb strolling in to the minimalist stores they have got handing out cash. Funny thing is people often say MS steal and crush companies yet Apple have a fresh lawsuit on their little baby, innovation LOL. If you're happy with Apple fine it would be boring If there was just one choice just like music.

I really think I should do something more productive right now, I think if you have read thus far you may agree. I just banged on a little bit didn't I...


July 9, 2009, 3:21 am

Google's announcement is obviously exciting, but i dont think Microsoft will be loosing sleep over it just yet. Anyone who has used the beta or RC of windows 7 will know that it is a superb OS and will likely dominate the market for the next three or four years. Ubuntu and OS X are also mature products with strong dedicated user bases. I just dont think people swap OS's like they swap browsers. And if Google's OS will be so simple as to be almost like a browser then one cant help but ask where all the other OS functionality has gone!

Google's focus on a web centric OS certainly does make sense in the long term when most applications and games will run in a cloud environment and local processing will be kept to a minimum. Perhaps they are coming in a bit early with this though. People need truly ubiquitous connectivity on an international scale and at an affordable price before they will consider moving everything online. The frustrating truth is that everywhere from bangalore to san jose you can be stuck without a connection or be forced to pay a kings ransom to it!


July 9, 2009, 3:40 am


>If I was Microsoft I'd be a bit worried right now and be kicking of a project to deliver the >same sort of lean OS on top of a Windows core, even if only as a precaution.

Check out the Microsoft a microkernel-based operating research project called Singularity:


The likely commercial product to come out of the Singularity project is called Midori:



July 9, 2009, 4:05 am

@Charles: yep, we've covered that by in August 2008. We're hoping for developments soon:



July 9, 2009, 4:14 am


Yes, I did read all the way, it would be rude not too.

I didn't say I liked Apple, I do however enjoy using their products, I do have some reservations about some of their business practices, like I do with MS, as you pointed out, they do move in similar ways. Big difference is, for me, the Apple products are just better. I've only had a Mac for about 2 years, I switched when I got fed up of reinstalling XP and tried about 10 different Linux distro's at home. If only the Amiga had survived, it would have topped them all!

As for the iPhone, you are right, it's just about right now, which is why I didn't buy it before. They have made a difference to the market though, other manufacturers can't wait to bring out the next 'iPhone killer'; every magazine calls every new phone 'the iPhone killer' - you can't buy marketing like that!

I love all the apps I have so far and I love knowing which way I am facing with the compass; great in big cities when I am lost I guess; shame I have only used it at party's to show off to people though so far! :)

Big thing is though, everyone I show the phone to, wants one. It's that simple.

Oh well, each to their own. I still own an old Samsung phone myself, it's not bad, but what's the point of a 2 week battery life if all you can do is make calls!

The handset market is changing, but it doesn't mean we should forget about people who prefer staying in the past. Maybe I could interest you in a Newton? I hear they were the next big thing once.


July 9, 2009, 5:37 am

the point of 2 week lasting battery life (sic) is not having to worry about your phone dying just when you need it the most. and besides many of the apps on smartphones are largley solutions searching for a problem


July 9, 2009, 5:14 pm

Haven't seen much coverage of this but the Google nativeclient project is interesting in what it aims to deliver: a secure native x86 code plugin that will run on multiple browsers and operating systems. It allows rich client applications to be delivered over the web that offer a better user experience than the current AJAX based web apps and that can begin to compete with native applications.


Given that the operating system is less important in this scenario, I see Google Chrome OS as facilitating a move to this model. It will be free and support the most common things that people use their computers for. If widely adopted, it will create a large user base with no dependency on Windows, Mac or Linux and could encourage developers to target nativeclient as a common platform.

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