Taiwan-based computer manufacturer Acer is expected to show the first netbook using Google's Chrome operating system at a trade show in early June. The Chrome OS, which was announced late last year, has attracted attention because it's a lightweight, browser-based platform that allows devices to boot up almost immediately and emphasizes cloud-based applications and storage.
According to news reports, the Acer device will first appear at the Computex Taipei show on June 1-5. Acer hasn't commented directly on the reports, although the company has said it would be one of the first hardware makers to offer a Chrome OS-based device.
Google has said that Chrome OS-based netbooks will begin appearing by year's end, and the release date for the OS itself is sometime in the latter part of this year.
Another potentially innovative feature of the Chrome OS, which uses a Linux kernel derived from Ubuntu, is cloud-based printing. Last month, Google Group Product Manager Mike Jazayeri wrote on a company blog that "some preliminary designs" were being introduced, based on the Chrome OS, that would allow any application "on any device to print on any printer."
A Chrome OS device would use a web-based or a locally based app, called a Google Cloud Print API. The printing job is sent to the cloud, and the cloud talks to a "cloud-aware printer," or to a cloud-aware PC, which then talks to a legacy printer. The main catch, as Jazayeri admitted, is the unfortunate fact that "cloud-aware printers don't exist yet."
Acer isn't the only manufacturer looking to release products based on the Chrome OS. Samsung Australia confirmed earlier this year that it will launch a Chrome-based netbook in 2010, and ASUS and Lenovo are expected to do so as well. Dell has shown a demo of Chrome OS on a netbook. There have also been reports of Chrome support for devices running Nvidia's Tegra 2 processors, which are designed specifically for powerful, mobile products that are optimized for web access.
Android vs Chrome?
An ongoing question is whether Google will end up competing with itself, with Chrome OS-based netbooks facing off against devices running its open-source Android operating system.
Some industry analysts are suggesting that Chrome will become Google's focus for netbooks and smartbooks because it is better suited for devices with keyboards and other input peripherals, while Android will be used for tablets and smartphones.
Last year, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told The Wall Street Journal that he resisted developing the Chrome browser and operating system, but eventually changed his mind after seeing an internal demonstration of a Chrome-based netbook that booted up almost immediately and stored its data in the cloud, rather than locally on a hard drive. Schmidt has said he expects Chrome netbooks to run between $300 and $400, about the price for Windows-based netbooks.
He also suggested there is "a great deal of commonality" between Chrome and Android, and "eventually they may merge even closer."