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Google Unveils Chrome OS

Gordon Kelly


Google Unveils Chrome OS

Yes, it is real this time...

Google has unveiled 'Chrome OS' and the best way to explain this radically different operating system is to throw two formal releases at you to begin with.

Number One: the official Google video:

Number Two: the official Google blurb:

First, it's all about the web. All apps are web apps. The entire experience takes place within the browser and there are no conventional desktop applications. This means users do not have to deal with installing, managing and updating programs.

Second, because all apps live within the browser, there are significant benefits to security. Unlike traditional operating systems, Chrome OS doesn't trust the applications you run. Each app is contained within a security sandbox making it harder for malware and viruses to infect your computer. Furthermore, Chrome OS barely trusts itself. Every time you restart your computer the operating system verifies the integrity of its code. If your system has been compromised, it is designed to fix itself with a reboot. While no computer can be made completely secure, we're going to make life much harder (and less profitable) for the bad guys.

Most of all, we are obsessed with speed. We are taking out every unnecessary process, optimizing many operations and running everything possible in parallel. This means you can go from turning on the computer to surfing the web in a few seconds. Our obsession with speed goes all the way down to the metal. We are specifying reference hardware components to create the fastest experience for Google Chrome OS.

There is still a lot of work to do, and we're excited to work with the open source community. We have benefited hugely from projects like GNU, the Linux Kernel, Moblin, Ubuntu, WebKit and many more. We will be contributing our code upstream and engaging closely with these and other open source efforts.

Google Chrome OS will be ready for consumers this time next year. Sign up here for updates or if you like building your operating system from source, get involved at chromium.org.

And so... is this a big deal? Well, yes and no. Yes, Google is right: Chrome OS is a completely different way of thinking and No, because in practical terms a lot of this is currently pie in the sky and version 1.0 won't even be ready for a year.

Yes, it is crazy fast. Google showed a demo of Chrome OS (dubbed 'Chromium OS' in its beta stage) booting on a laptop in just seven seconds (see the middle video). On top of this most of the web applications we use every day: web mail, mapping, web sites, blogs, social networking, etc will be largely unhindered.

On the counter side productivity will be limited. Cloud based suites likes Google Docs will certainly help, but web apps are in a largely formative state and you won't be happily editing RAW files for many years to come. On top of this, you can't run programmes! It is against the entire concept of the OS meaning no Office, no Photoshop, no iTunes, no Spotify, no games, etc etc. The Web is great, but it can't replace any of this fully as yet. And even if these web apps were of sufficient quality the speed of an average household broadband connection wouldn't be quick enough to do them justice.

In fact, Google admits "We are expecting this to be a secondary computer."

Consequently we can see where the cynics will be coming from, but at the same time the theory behind Chrome OS is incredibly optimistic. Furthermore, the evolution of Android in the public eye is a major indicator that Google does have what it takes to build an OS in public and the Chrome OS concept UI (bottom video) is very cool. Still, unless you're an experienced coder I'd suggest steering well clear of Chrome OS for now and only the lion hearted should check out the source code from the link below.

Will Microsoft and Apple be worried? Unlikely, those Messrs Balmer and Jobs will likely be stroking their chins in quiet contemplation and thinking Hmmmmmm.

For the official Google Chrome OS FAQ see page 2

Official Chrome OS photos on page 3


Chrome OS


November 20, 2009, 1:08 pm

"Messrs Balmer and Gates"

Balmer and Jobs perhaps :)


November 20, 2009, 2:06 pm

"And even if these web apps were of sufficient quality the speed of an average household broadband connection wouldn't be quick enough to do them justice."

That pretty much sums up my problem with this OS. That and the fact that I play a lot of games and use things like Photoshop.

I can see this working quite well on public systems like at Libraries of Universities, though, where they would be mostly used for browsing, or word processing.


November 20, 2009, 2:14 pm

Agree that Photoshop etc. won't be web apps anytime soon. But, for most people this seems perfect and it's FREE. Nice of Microsoft to make Office a web app just at the right time...


November 20, 2009, 2:19 pm

I have just watched the video, but I have no idea what the Innernet is...


November 20, 2009, 2:39 pm

Perversely, if you've read this article, then Chrome OS probably isn't for you!

However, for a huge number of people it could be (almost) everything they need. My wife only uses here netbook solely for browsing and email and the odd doc. For her this would be perfect.

Charles 2

November 20, 2009, 2:58 pm

Hmmm. This assumes that one always has the internet, which is by no means always the case in the UK.


November 20, 2009, 2:58 pm

Like many I "probably" look forward more on to this.

However, I DO use my system for more than just the Internet. It concerns me that ALL my data would be *out there* ( security?). And what happens to all my data access when my connection goes down and I NEED access? Of course, in addition, it takes bandwidth (=£) to go up and down all the time and surely a hard disk and coming SSD's will be far faster than uping and downing to some hive in the sky - so does that not make all this sloooow? And if its cached locally then sent is that not a compromise?

Naturally Google would love all the world to just use their OS/Apps/storage like any budding megalomaniac, but the truth of the matter may be somewhat different - but I could be wrong of course! Hellllp ;)

But then I am an ole cynic ;)

Simon Heather

November 20, 2009, 2:59 pm

Is it called Chrome OS or Chromium? The second video talks about Chromium OS.


November 20, 2009, 2:59 pm

Whats the difference between a netbook with Android and a netbook with ChromeOS??

A Scotland

November 20, 2009, 3:07 pm

Today's internet speeds may be a hindrance and web apps limited, but I would be interested to know how many years you expect it will be before they will not be? Given the OS is not expected for another 12 months at least, could it be that by the time it hits full release the stage will be ready?


November 20, 2009, 3:16 pm

It is difficult to see this OS a game changer in the desktop/laptop market. They are proposing a hugely cut down OS and software stack. So they are either expecting huge growth in tablet/netbook market or belief cloud based computing will replace the majority of desktop applications.


November 20, 2009, 4:28 pm

Well it does go with the original concept of a "netbook" computer. Netbooks have lost their original purpose, people are wanting more from them and being frustrated. Looking a year or so into the future if you could get a netbook for £100-200 which you know is very much a secondary computer, maybe a bit of a eReader on the side then I think it would be massively popular. I can see it giving life to cheap low powered machines, terminals and the like, but the fact it's not touch friendly means some people would still even prefer Android.

Would this be that much better than a Linux install that could do a lot more, that I'm not convinced by. In a year Linux will be a lot more consummer friendly - so it'd be a trade off between raw speed vs. programs, games and general customisation. I think for the sake of 5-10 seconds boot time most people would choose Linux.

Should MS be worried? I don't think too much. There will be some people who'll find this enough, but as Google themselves admit this is a second computer so MS will still get their sales - and they might still get people purchasing Office Web to use with this as well. The fact you can get a decent laptop/netbook with Windows 7 for around £250-300 means this has to come in really cheap to be any threat.

Apple? Well the latest rumours about their tablet are that it'll be in the region of £1500 - so it's a different ball game. But let's imagine that's not the case and they bring out something cheap (hahaha) then I think they should be very worried about Chrome OS.

Overall, I just don't see much need for this, but competition is good and if it makes Apple/Microsoft make their own OS's even leaner then it's a good thing.


November 20, 2009, 4:52 pm

@Frazoire - good spot! The perils of working at 2am!

@ShaunB - I think you've just nailed it in a few sentences :)

@Simon Heather - Chromium is the name Google uses for builds it deems are primarily for developers, Chrome is the name it uses for more publicly available versions (even if they are still in beta). I do mention this in the article ;)

@A Scotland - doubtful. Average UK broadband speeds actually went down year on year recently, but that should start to change in 2010. Still there's some way to go. Virgin 50Mbit customers would largely be ok!


November 20, 2009, 5:35 pm

Given the amount of hassle Google has provided me with security certificates just to log into "Google" land. I WILL NEVER ADOPT THIS SYSTEM.


November 20, 2009, 5:39 pm

lets face it, we think virgin 50mbit is fast while many of our neighbouring countries are implementing 1gb or higher fibre optic broadband. If it takes 10sec to download 500mb, then photoshop or games aint problems at all. It just shows how lagging behind we brits are on broadband speed...


November 20, 2009, 5:40 pm

@hank - never, ever had a problem myself.


November 20, 2009, 6:27 pm

As far as I can tell there will be local user storage for webapps, so it's not inconceivable to have a web based version of Spotify. I'm guessing also that there will be some capability for running web apps offline. So I would expect Flash, Silverlight or Native Client apps and games to be able to run in an offline mode where the developer has catered for it.

You can read more about user data and security implications here:



November 20, 2009, 6:50 pm

@BobaFett - agreed and don't forget Napster has also recently gone 100% web based.


November 20, 2009, 9:07 pm

Those of us who remember WfW 3.11 will remember the people asking "what's the point of networking, it's unreliable, exchanging floppies is much easier, and I don't like the idea of keeping the data on the server, suppose it goes down when I need it?"

In the last year I cannot think of a time when I did not have at least one of my Virgin connection or my 3G connection. Even when we moved house, the Virgin connection was turned off in the old house at 11:00 a.m. and it was back on in the new one less than 24 hours later.

I don't believe that Google will totally achieve their ambitions - I suspect we will always need some local resources, and that in practice programs will be updated by a fully automatic version of apt-get running in the background. But, as a system developer, I cannot see how we can continue to use the Internet in the long term without doing something about viruses, spyware, and sheer user cluelessness - and projects like Chrome, Maemo, Android and Moblin are pointing to something that will be good enough for 90% of the public, with the rest buying dedicated computers for graphics, development and control.


November 20, 2009, 9:49 pm

@kupfernigk - couldn't say it better myself. In fact, don't think I did ;)


November 21, 2009, 3:19 am

How very un-environmentally friendly of google. We should be reducing waste, making both software and hardware more flexible and modular. Not developing limited use OSs designed for specific hardware platforms that are only useful in addition to what we've already got.

Tony Young

November 22, 2009, 4:19 pm

@Gordon - Are you sure that Google are just "optimistic" (Def: A tendency to look on a favourable course of events or conditions) or is their thinking so advanced that this really could be the future - and not just for netbooks.

The internet/connection speeds/cloud apps are developing fast. Just how long did it take for MS to get from Internet Explorer "1" to EI8, for example?

My guess is that within five years this technology or something like it will be found within every flatscreen TV - and within ten years and will therefore be in just about every household - and probably on the wall of every living room.

Some of the geeks won't like this notion of course, they seem to be fast becoming Luddites in their own right. Geekites? Shall we see?

And @Xiphias - just how many boxes do you have in YOUR home? The sales success of the netbook suggests that many homes already have more than one box and that's certainly not been driven by Google's creation of another OS.

And talking of boxes, the cloud can/will eliminate all that software packaging!

It's called logic, Jim.


November 22, 2009, 7:25 pm

@gordon lucky you :)

@kupfernigk @xiphias great comments :)


November 24, 2009, 3:01 pm

I know it's early days and it's still in development, but I'm not enjoying the look of the UI so far. Everything full screen? No thanks, doesn't gel with the way I use a computer&#8230


November 24, 2009, 7:40 pm

I wish they'd sort out their branding - is it Chrome or Chromium?!

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