Google isn't satisfied to challenge Microsoft with office-productivity software, search and the browser. On Tuesday the company announced an operating system to challenge Windows.
Google Chrome Operating System is the company's attempt to "rethink what the operating system should be." Google Chrome OS is an open-source, lightweight operating system initially aimed at netbooks. Google Chrome OS will run on x86 as well as ARM chips, and the company said it is working with multiple OEMs to bring several netbooks to market in 2010. Google plans to open-source the code later this year.
"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," said Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management and Linus Upson, engineering director, in the Google blog. "The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the Web."
A Web-Based Approach
Google Chrome OS runs within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. Google said all Web-based applications will automatically work and developers can write new applications using Web technologies. The apps would run on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux, Google said, giving the developers the largest user base of any platform.
"We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear -- computers need to get better. People want to get to their e-mail instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up," wrote Pichai and Upson. "They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files."
Even more important, the duo said, users don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. Google figures when its users have a better computing experience, the company benefits by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.
A Threat to Microsoft?
"This is Google's attempt to poke Microsoft once again with a sharp stick and see what they can do to weaken Microsoft's position," said Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at Interpret. "Google has done this in the past by giving away semi-free versions of software like Google Docs, but that hasn't put Microsoft's Office business in any trouble yet."
As Gartenberg sees it, the notion of creating a free OS for netbooks doesn't make much business sense. The netbook market, he said, is beginning to disappear as these miniature machines become more like full-function PCs with new every new iteration.
"Most people use a netbook or laptop to run PC applications," Gartenberg said. "Linux has failed in the netbook market because it can't run PC applications. The return rate of Linux-based netbooks to Windows-based netbooks is dramatic and there's nothing here that would indicate that Google Chrome OS would be a change for the different. This is not a threat to Windows, or a threat to Mac OS for that matter."