It's the step everyone thought was inevitable — Google is building a Chrome OS for use on netbooks. Is this a Windows killer, an Android killer, or a distraction that's doomed to failure?
Speculation about Google launching its own OS has run rampant for years, but to date the closest Google has got to directly entering the operating system space has been Android, its platform for mobile phones. However, in a blog post today, Google VP Sundar Pichai confirmed that an OS using some of the ideas from the Google Chrome browser is now in development:
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010 . . . Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. 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.
Given the speed at which Chrome has evolved — it doesn't yet properly support extensions and only just got proper print capabilities — it doesn't look like there'll be much of a concrete threat for a while. Its promise to run all apps on a variety of architectures also sounds reminiscent of Java, and like Sun's platform, there's a distinct risk that performance issues and integration problems will prove a major roadblock. Google has also said that the project is distinct from Android. Nonetheless, given the length of time Android phones took to hit the market, it might not be sensible to throw out your current desktop just yet.
Nonetheless, it's bound to stir up the OS market in a manner not seen for years. Are you excited, sceptical or indifferent to Google's move into PC operating systems? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Introducing the Google Chrome OS [The Official Google Blog]