The company says that the OS will be released later this year (likely in the fall, I’m told) to developers, designed primarily for netbooks but not limited to them. Then in 2010, it expects it will be available to consumers (though no doubt, many enthusiasts will try it on their own machines). From the company’s post:
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.
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. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.
Is this Android for computers? No, Google’s post says — explaining that though Android was designed for multiple devices, the Google Chrome OS is meant specifically for computers. We have had rumors that Google Android was coming for netbooks, such as from Acer and Dell. Google’s post says it has been talking to partners about the OS, so it seems likely some of the “Android” talk on netbooks is more about the new OS. But then again, Android IS an operating system; Chrome is not, and it seems likely Android will be morphed into a computer system. But then yet again, the post talks about using a Linux kernel that focuses with Chrome running on it. Google could be tweaking any number of Linux systems using Chrome as the primary interface.
And the Chrome name? How’s that connected with the Google Chrome browser? Google calls the OS a “natural extension” of Google Chrome. And not more than that. But Chrome is a browser; an OS is something completely different. I wouldn’t expect that this is Chrome the browser souped up but instead something entirely different.
No doubt, the announcement will put some crimp into the rollout of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system later this year. Some consumers, perhaps only a few, may decide to wait on upgrading. It definitely puts Google now going directly against Microsoft against its other major area of revenue (operating systems). Google’s already been attacking on the application front. In terms of search, Microsoft has been trying to fight against Google’s dominance with a renewed push from the Bing.com rollout.
The announcement also puts Google in further conflict with Apple. Google competes by pushing its own browser against Apple, its own phone OS against the iPhone and now an operating system. The move may also push renewed attention on the oddity of Google CEO Eric Schmidt being also on Apple’s board. The Federal Trade Commission has been already investigating whether the overlap is anti-competitive. Schmidt’s been recusing himself on discussions involving the iPhone. Will he now have to recuse himself on discussions of Mac computers in general? And if so, what use does he really play on the board?
Google, already under scrutiny for being too dominant in online advertising, might also find itself in the odd position of Microsoft by jumping into the OS space. Will regulators decide that Google cannot make its search service the default within its own OS? Will Google be forced to randomly select a search engine for searchers among major providers or force them to make a decision?
More news as it comes. See also related discussion on Techmeme.
Postscript: Google has added a FAQ page about the OS now, though at the moment, it has only two questions answered on it. Also see our round-up post, Google OS Reactions: The Positive, Negative & The Paranoid.