Google aims to do away with the most onerous aspects of computer use: long start-up times, the installation and maintenance of multiple applications, application learning curves, security worries, and the difficulty of making data available on any device.
At a media event held to announce the availability of Chrome OS code, Sundar Pichai, VP of product management at Google, said that his company's goal was to make the computer start-up experience more like turning on a television.
Using Chrome OS will be very similar to using the Chrome Web browser. Operations currently done on computer desktops -- moving files around and loading them from external devices -- will be either unnecessary -- users won't install applications in Chrome OS -- or done inside a browser tab or window.
Pichai demonstrated this by inserting a USB flash drive into a netbook running Chrome OS. The contents of the drive, a set of Microsoft Excel files, appeared as hyperlinks on a Web page. Clicking on a file opened it in Windows Live Excel, part of Microsoft's online version of Office, because Chrome OS doesn't use locally installed applications like Excel.
Chrome OS will provide a way to map file type extensions to specific Web applications, to allow users open Excel files in, for example, Google Docs.
When it reaches consumers late next year, Chrome OS will run on netbooks with solid-state memory -- no hard drives -- from an undisclosed group of hardware partners.
Google in the Enterprise SurveyThere's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.