Google announces netbook-bound Chrome OS

Just when rumors about a Google operating system were beginning to die down, guess what Google has announced? Indeed, the company plans to compete with Microsoft in the x86 OS arena with Chrome OS, an "open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks."

The idea behind Chrome OS seems both straightforward and radical: a Linux kernel, a "new windowing system" running on top of it, and the Google Chrome browser running on top of all that. Google says developers will write Chrome OS applications using web technologies, and those apps will be cross-compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and vanilla Linux distributions, where they’ll simply run in "any standards-based browser."

Google also claims to be designing the operating system to "start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds," and it’s "redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates." Bold ambitions.

The first commercial netbooks running Chrome OS should hit the market in the second half of next year. Google says it’s working with "multiple" PC vendors on that front. The firm also intends to release the source code later this year, so developers might get to try out the new OS before too long.

Comments closed
    • rmcmullan
    • 10 years ago

    I’m not sure why they’re calling this an OS if they’re building it on top of Linux. That makes it sound more like a Linux desktop like KDE. And Microsoft has nothing to fear if it only runs on netbooks. Many cheap netbooks already come with some kind of Linux desktop so what’s the big deal with this announcement? Most people want Windows on their netbooks anyway.

    It’s hard work writing an operating system. No one seems to have done it except Microsoft and the people who back in the 60’s started Unix. There’s Microsoft and there’s thousands of Unix variants, including the Apple OS. When will somebody really write an new operating system? James Gosling changed everything with Java, but Google will change nothing with this. It looks like no sort of innovation at all.

      • [TR]
      • 10 years ago

      Well, I’d call Linux an OS.
      And I’m sure Linux and UNIX have gone through some deep changes as the years went by. It’s not like we’re using them like they were first released.
      But I agree that on the OS front, even aimed at netbooks, this isn’t exactly innovative.
      What IS quite cool is the idea of running the Apps in web-based form on a (guessing here) leaner OS geared toward that. Google, of course, would be interested in that just for the fact they’ve been investing on them for a while now, but I would say that netbooks present a more compelling platform for this kind of thing.
      And ultimately it’s Google’s money to burn, so I’m not too concerned about it’s success 😀

      • stmok
      • 10 years ago

      Well, think about it. *nix is a proven implementation, so why waste resources in re-inventing the wheel?…Apple understood this as well, when they implemented their OSX. (Although I’m not fond of their marketing and their “Premium” business model; they did something that most *nix OSs have yet to achieve: Make it usable to the average computer user).

      Look at Microsoft’s implementation of an OS: They’re still trying to figure out a decent way to implement privilege escalation without annoying the user. (If you look at their access control model, its ridiculously complicated in order to satisfy Jane/Joe PC user…System, Admin, Limited/Standard, Guest, etc user…In *nix, you’re either Root or Normal user.)

        • rmcmullan
        • 10 years ago

        I know, code re-use is good. And there are always going to be some fundamentals that require correct approaches over new ones. That’s where ancient OS’s like Unix come in because even though they are ancient, they are also tried and true.

        But relying on 50/60 year old technology for your state of the art browser has the danger of stifling innovation and directing your thinking along the same lines. We don’t need another cleverly implemented semaphore–we need innovation. Something new.

        As an example, I’d like to point to the heirarchical file system. Very useful and much better than some of the file storage technologies that preceeded it but are we ever going beyond it? What about that DB-oriented file system MS keeps kicking around?

          • WillBach
          • 10 years ago

          I use non-hierarchical file browsing daily:
          1) Labels in GMail
          2) Metadata and keywords on OS X
          Labels are non-exclusive folders, and in OS X (I think you can do the same thing with Google desktop search or MS search on other platforms) I’m two key strikes away from a list of files that have the keywords I’m looking for.
          It’s pretty powerful, being able to say: “I want to see all of the pictures on my hard drive that were taken with this model camera between these two dates within this many miles of this city.”

            • [TR]
            • 10 years ago

            “I want to see all of the pictures on my hard drive that were taken with this model camera between these two dates within this many miles of this city.”
            @_@

            Your photos have all that data within them?!
            The camera model and dates I get, but the “miles from this city”?
            I can think of ways to append the data to the files, but since I’m a lazy bastard I never see the benefit in spending as much or more of my time categorizing and tagging things as I spend making them.

          • [TR]
          • 10 years ago

          But if you stretch your argument a bit too much you’ll be saying you can’t improve the way we drive cars because they rely on rolling something over wheels.
          It’s a little back and forth. You sacrifice innovation for stability (as in having a baseline that you know and can work comfortably with) and you take a step or two further from what you know to try new stuff. I can live with either and like I said before I think Google is trying both these things in interesting ways with ChromeOS.
          As long as they don’t try to outdo everyone to just end up nowhere I think it’s a good thing.

          In fact, since you brought it up, look where MS went with their DB filesystem. (which I thought was a really cool idea, BTW)

    • bogbox
    • 10 years ago

    OK ,nice try let’s see how is going to be:
    1 release the beta
    2 innovating but still clean and rudimentary ,fast but not very good ,no games,many problems (but is beta so is ok) ,no support etc
    3 privacy concerns ,monopoly big debates etc…
    // meanwhile MS is in pain etc,journalists praise the browser/OS and some really consider the that windows is dead.
    4 after 5 years is out of beta but is still buggy and instable
    5 back in beta for a month
    6 out of beta again for enterprise sector.

    • blastdoor
    • 10 years ago

    It seems to me that this is very similar to Apple’s original iPhone strategy. Apple initially argued that all 3rd party apps should be implemented through Safari. Everybody balked at that and demanded lower level access, which Apple ultimately provided. What’s the difference here? Is running apps through Chrome any different than running them through Safari? Both are webkit, right?

    And of course, Java was supposed to accomplish the same thing 10 years ago, right?

    I don’t know… I think that particularly in mobile applications where computing resources and power are constrained, there is a big payoff to more efficient, closer to the metal programming. Running apps through a browser just doesn’t seem to cut it in most cases.

      • Voldenuit
      • 10 years ago

      Except that Safari (at the time, and to a great extent, still extant) was a *[

        • poulpy
        • 10 years ago

        /[<"Except that Safari (at the time, and to a great extent, still extant) was a terrible platform as a browser"<]/ Links? Proof? AFAIK Safari and KHTML -where the original code came from- are as standard compliant as it comes so I don't see how that would make it/them a "terrible platform as a browser".

          • Voldenuit
          • 10 years ago

          The most convincing proof was that Apple dropped the idea of using Safariweb apps to deliver iPhone apps, and eventually released a SDK for native iPhone apps.

          If you need more convincing, try loading any Javascript-heavy page on an iPhone running the original (v3) Safari, and be prepared for much frustration.

            • poulpy
            • 10 years ago

            You can’t seriously say that Safari is a terrible browser because its embedded version running on abysmal hardware resources isn’t that fast on javascript intensive pages..?

            How about comparing apples (haha) to apples and looking at its performance on a level playing field? On PC desktops AFAIK Safari does more than holding its ground on speed/features/memory usage against the big ones.

            Besides if the only mesure of the quality of the platform is the javascript speed it’s still a wrong metric. Webkit is a solid and standard compliant base to which a javascript engine is strapped on. Vendors update or swap the said engine regularly without touching the platform.

            disclaimer: I’m a Firefox and Chrome user, not Safari

            • Voldenuit
            • 10 years ago

            I was specifically focusing on the bit where Apple was using Safari as a (failed) delivery method for iPhone apps. It’s especially relevant because this is exactly what Google is trying to do with ChromeOS. And doubly so because Chrome on Linux is still very much a “work in progress”, just as Safari v3 was on the first generation iPhone, if not more so. And Javascript is very important because of google’s intent to use AJAX for its Chrome apps.

            My gut instinct is that history will repeat itself and Google (or someone else, since this is OSS) will release a lower level SDK for Chrome, defeating the original aim of an OS-agnostic computing platform.

        • End User
        • 10 years ago

        Safari for iPhone OS was an extremely solid browser when it was released. In addition web apps for mobile Safari are fantastic.

        • MacUser
        • 10 years ago

        /[

          • Voldenuit
          • 10 years ago

          Yet one is fast, and doesn’t crash, and the other one isn’t. :p

      • End User
      • 10 years ago

      Apple was not ready for third party apps when the iPhone was originally released (there was no SDK). 3rd party apps were always part of the plan. It took them a year to deliver.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 10 years ago

    The next step in world domination. They’ve got all your search results, now they’ll be running your desktop too!

    • scribly
    • 10 years ago

    “redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates”
    In short, it’s yet another “nanny-OS” that will take you by the hands and slap you on the wrists if you try to do something dangerous, like running a program a friend made for you

    • albundy
    • 10 years ago

    how do you sway game/3d developers to go for OpenGL? You come out with GOS…lol. I highly doubt MS will be nice enough to license DirectX API to any Linux platforms. Really this is a major component that differentiates the OS’s these days.

      • stmok
      • 10 years ago

      By building a multimedia framework that uses OpenGL, OpenCL, etc?

    • deathBOB
    • 10 years ago

    This would probably cover 90% of what I use my laptop for.

      • indeego
      • 10 years ago

      Ditto. I’m excited for this, if only because I’m bored to tears with Microsoftg{<.<}g

        • tfp
        • 10 years ago

        yeah playing windows just isn’t as fun as playing some other OS.

        oh wait the OS is just what I use to run the apps I need.

          • indeego
          • 10 years ago

          The apps I *need* are increasingly OS agnostic, when referring to using a notebook and being on the net constantly.

          While I still use Windows for work and (incresingly less so) games, I can easily see how a net-centric OS like this can take off for a good portion of the world. Heck, I met a cabbie in Vegas who said his iphone had replaced his desktop computer, since he can do far more real work on it for his needsg{<.<}g

      • PeterD
      • 10 years ago

      It might even cover 90% of what most people (consumers, that is) use their desktop for.
      Remember the days when research found that 90% of computer capacity was used for word processing? On average?

    • oldDummy
    • 10 years ago

    Ha, I know why their doing this.

    Bought some MSft stock yesterday.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 10 years ago

    moblin 2 beta was cool but needed more work to be fully realized. this sounds really nice and very compatible.

    • kenclopz
    • 10 years ago

    Truly putting the net in netbooks. Sounds interesting.

    • odizzido
    • 10 years ago

    I am not expecting much, but I’d be quite happy to try it out since I do like their browser.

    • herothezero
    • 10 years ago

    It’s another Linux distro–with a different GUI. Wow. How original.

    Second verse, same as the first.

      • tfp
      • 10 years ago

      Probably based on android, not that big of a leap from smart phone OS -> netbook -> pc.

    • WillBach
    • 10 years ago

    This is great! Lack of a unified windowing system has been my biggest issue in developing GUI programs for *nix.
    I keep thinking of the scene in the Martix where Mr. Anderson is questioned by agent Smith.
    Mr. Anderson: “The days of your search engine are numbered. I’ll use my monopoly in the operating systems market to illegally force you out, just like what I did to Netscape.”
    Agent Smith: “What good will a search engine do you, if you are unable to ship a competitive operating system?”

      • Game_boy
      • 10 years ago

      So what we need is a third toolkit? GTK, Qt and Chrome?

        • WillBach
        • 10 years ago

        It doesn’t make sense at first, but I don’t know if I’d call chrome a new toolkit because it’s a graphics system that is already being used independent of OS. You can use any AJAX library you want (GTK, SWT, whatever Yahoo! uses, etc.) and still have your application work on 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows, OS X, and *nix.

          • Voldenuit
          • 10 years ago

          Yeah, we might be moving to true OS-independence for apps and programs by way of AJAX (albeit won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen with the first generation of ChromeOS).

          This has *[

            • Tamale
            • 10 years ago

            it’s kind of ironic because in the end, it’s proprietary crap like .doc formats that have people loving what’s possible on the web instead..

            microsoft should’ve paid more attention to being standards-compliant all these years and people wouldn’t be flocking to OS-independent solutions…

            • indeego
            • 10 years ago

            They couldn’t have competed then. It is/was exactly the proprietary nature of .doc/docx that keeps their ecosystem togetherg{<.<}g

    • Meadows
    • 10 years ago

    This was probably to be expected now that even intel have their own operating system.

    That doesn’t mean it should be met with any higher expectations.

      • stmok
      • 10 years ago

      Moblin isn’t exactly Intel’s own OS anymore. Intel has handed control over to the Linux community while they still contribute code to the project.

      The whole point of their project is to better support the hardware they sell. (Nettop/Netbook platform).

    • bdwilcox
    • 10 years ago

    History of Personal Computing, circa 2018:

    Unfortunately for Microsoft, it was their main competitor that finally realized their “browser everywhere” vision.

      • adisor19
      • 10 years ago

      Most pple forgot that that’s what MS was planning to do in the 90s but then realized where their bread and butter was and started the browser wars instead.

      Now the the browser war is going the other way, the writing is on the wall. It’s only a matter of time until MS realizes this and changes strategy.

      I’m curious where Apple will be heading since their current strategy is still mostly desktop based..

      Adi

        • barich
        • 10 years ago

        I think that Apple’s strategy is more iPod/iPhone based, really.

        • End User
        • 10 years ago

        “I’m curious where Apple will be heading since their current strategy is still mostly desktop based..”

        I’d say their strategy is more mobile than desktop (MacBook/MacBook Pro/iPod Touch/iPhone).

        They changed their key OS keynote at this years WWDC from “Mac OS X State of the Union” to “Core OS State of the Union”.

    • Voldenuit
    • 10 years ago

    Netbook personified?

    An OS that will only run Chrome by way of AJAX. No Java, no Flash.

    That’s either gutsy or crazy. Crazy enough to work? We’ll see.

      • PeterD
      • 10 years ago

      No Java? No Flash?
      I don’t think so, because they will put a browser on it.

        • gml_josea
        • 10 years ago

        Putting a browser doesn’t necessarily mean getting Java and Flash.

          • Tamale
          • 10 years ago

          It’s google.. lots of their own sites require flash.. they’ll support it.

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