Rumors about a Google OS have been around for years and they haven't died down completely even after the release of Android, its mobile OS. Well, they aren't rumors anymore; it's official, Google has built an operating system, dubbed Chrome OS, and it's actually pretty close to completion, set to hit OEM products as early as next year.
“Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve,” Sundar Pichai, VP, Product Management, and Linus Upson, engineering director, wrote.
The market isn't exactly in need of another OS with the variety of Linux distributions adding up to something like 1 or 2 percent and Apple's Mac OSX at around 5 percent but with the vast majority of that running on its own hardware. So if the search giant wants to have a real shot at the OS market it would have to come up with something, not just good, not just better, but revolutionary.
In a simplified view, Chrome OS is just Google's Chrome browser running in a new windowing environment on top of a custom Linux kernel. It's about as bare-bones as you can get with every other application running in the cloud. There are a few Linux distributions already designed with the same idea in mind: a browser, a minimum set of system utilities, and the kernel, but when Google puts its name behind a project it's in a different league.
Many have been heralding the 'age of the cloud' for a few years now and, while we're not just there yet, Chrome OS makes absolute perfect sense for a company making its living from online services and applications, and if Google can deliver on its promise Chrome will be years ahead of the competition – which may actually be a bad thing, as a new browser, so different from anything else, will likely gain traction and market share slowly even with the magical 'Google' name attached to it. After all, Google Chrome, the web browser, has barely gained 5 percent of the market almost a year after being launched and installing a new browser is one thing, but switching to a completely new OS is a totally different one.
The search giant knows this and that's why it is launching it primarily as a netbook OS, where speed and simplicity count the most. As usual for Google projects, it will be open source with the code being released later this year and Google is already in talks with OEM manufactures to ship netbooks with Chrome OS preinstalled.