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Google Releases Chrome OS Code

Developers can now participate in the Chrome OS open source project and help Google bring its new operating system to market next year.

Google on Thursday announced the release of Chrome OS as open source code and invited developers to join the company in creating a new paradigm for computing.

In a media event at Google's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters, Sundar Pichai, VP of product management, and Matt Papakipos, engineering director on Chrome OS, outlined Google's plans for the company's browser-based operating system.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin joined the event after the presentation to answer questions.

While developers now have access to the Chrome OS code, general availability is planned for a year from now, the 2010 holiday season.

"What we are trying to offer is a fundamentally different model of computing," said Pichai.

Chrome OS will run initially on netbooks from a set of undisclosed partners, machines that will store data in solid-state flash memory. There will be no hard drives and all data will be stored in the cloud, apart from local data caches for speed and apps that support HTML5's local data capabilities. There will be no software installation.

Pichai expects that Chrome OS netbooks will be purchased to complement existing computers rather than replace them, at least initially.

Pichai said Google was aware of usability issues surrounding netbooks and that improved designs with larger screens and full-sized keyboards can be expected next year.

Chrome OS consists of custom firmware, an optimized Linux kernel, and the Chrome Web browser. The user experience is planned to be essentially a browser that boots when the user starts the machine. The only applications it will run will be Web apps.

"Internally, we joke around, Chrome [the browser] is Chrome OS," said Pichai, who also noted that Mac and Linux versions of the Chrome browser are almost ready.

Such apparently simply ambitions represent an attempt to address modern computing problems: slow boot times, security problems, the burden of operating system and application management, usability, and data availability.

Google's goal with Chrome OS to make computing fast, secure, and maintenance free.

"We want Chrome OS to be blazingly fast," said Pichai. "We want it to be like a TV."

In a demonstration, Chrome OS booted to the login screen in seven seconds and took three more to load the browser. Pichai said that Google's engineers are working to make the start-up process even faster.

Chrome OS will update itself, and its components and extensions will be cryptographically signed, so that if malware is detected, the system will automatically re-image itself and restore data from the cloud.

Brin insists that Chrome OS isn't about taking on Microsoft. Google, he said, is focused on users.

"Call us dumb businessmen, but we really focus on user needs rather than focus on strategies like other companies," he said.

"We just want computers to be delightful and work," said Pichai.

InformationWeek Analytics outlines the 10 questions you need to ask to see where netbooks fit within your organization. Download the report here (registration required).

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