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11/19/2009
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Google Chrome OS Depends On Hardware Partners

Despite its focus on the Web -- a platform with proven appeal -- Chrome OS will also need compelling hardware to compete against Apple's anticipated tablet and Windows netbooks.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a computer booting up in less than seven seconds.

Speed is one of the primary attributes that Google is trying to build into Chrome OS, the company's forthcoming operating system. Security and simplicity are the others.

Google made the open source code of its unfinished operating system available on Thursday and invited developers to contribute to the company's attempt to reinvent computing.

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.

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