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Web 2.0 Summit: The Browser Is What Matters

Google's Sundar Pichai provides some hints about his company's upcoming browser-based Chrome operating system.

Google's Chrome Web browser is just over a year old and it already has about 30 million active users.

"Chrome has been doing very well for us," said Sundar Pichai, VP of product management at Google, in a public interview with at the Web 2.0 Summit on Thursday.

As a point of comparison, Firefox, initially released in late 2004, has over 300 million active users.

Pichai said that Google's goals for Chrome -- speed, simplicity, and security -- have resonated really well with users. He also said that Linux and Mac versions are coming soon.

To the suggestion that Chrome OS -- the operating system that Google is developing around its Chrome browser -- is on a collision course with Windows, Pichai responded that the world is entering a period of tremendous innovation in personal computing. "Browsers are suddenly hot again and I think operating systems are too," he said, referring both to Chrome OS and Android, Google's operating system for mobile devices

"There haven't been other choices for a long time," he said. "Most operating systems today were designed before the Web existed."

"The goal with both our efforts is to get great free open source software stacks out there," he said.

In the case of Chrome OS, everything is built around the browser. "Web apps are our core platform," said Pichai. "You write something that works on the browser, it works on Chrome OS."

"We describe Chrome OS as Chrome on top of Linux, with a new windowing system," said Pichai.

But Pichai said the Chrome OS computing paradigm differs from the Linux experience.

"As a user, you don't install software, you don't maintain software," said Pichai.

That reflects Google's focus on simplicity and Google's view that the technical burden of PC maintenance is something the world would be better off without.

As Pichai put it, if your car did what computers do today, stopping frequently for adjustment and tuning, drivers wouldn't accept it.

Nonetheless, Pichai expects Chrome OS will be able to support browser extensions without the maintenance and security problems that come with user-installed software. Chrome extensions, he said, run in their own process and can be killed, without any access to native system resources.

Pichai said that people are spending more and more time on the Web and the trend is continuing.

"The browser is what matters," he said.

Registration is now open for the leading enterprise communications event, VoiceCon. It happens in San Francisco, Nov. 2-5. Find out more and register.

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