Google Announces Chrome OS

In the take-your-Bing-and-shove-it department, Google has announced it’s working on a new operating system, Chrome OS, designed around the Chrome web browser.

Looking through the announcement and the slew of related stories, basically it’s a Linux kernel with a new windowing system (not X) with the focus being almost entirely on the web. Boot speed seems to be the top priority, with “be on the web in a few seconds” the repeated tag line. Although it is advertised for all platforms, it seems to be largely targeted toward the netbook crowd. It will run on x86 and ARM processors, and they already have a slew of vendors lined up for the projected 2010 release. And it will be an open source project, with the code being released later this year.

My reaction thus far can be summed up as follows: huh?

huhIt sounds like they’re making a non-hardware version of Splashtop. Splashtop is a hardware-based vm that sits on a motherboard and instantly (maybe 5 seconds) starts a browser, Skype, and Pigdin in Blackbox (on X) from read-only flash memory. Chrome OS isn’t hardware related and thus will be available on many more systems, but as a result probably won’t boot as fast.

Google already has Android, which in some respects more closely resembles a traditional desktop OS than Chrome OS does. I hope Android development doesn’t suffer, as I plan on owning a non-rotary cell phone one day, and it will physically pain me to get an iPhone.

Plus, as much as I’m addicted to web apps, some things you really need to do on the desktop. With a brand new windowing system, getting traditional apps up and running on Chrome OS may involve a considerable amount of swearing.

I think Ars got it right when they said this could be a niche OS. If it really does boot super fast, maybe I toss it on my netbook along with Ubuntu so I can do a quick surf while I’m waiting on a White Chocolate Supermonkey at my coffee joint*. Although Ubuntu 9.04 boots up pretty darn fast and gets faster with every release, and Moblin is coming along nicely….

If nothing else it should speed Chrome’s Linux support along, which is a bonus in and of itself. It’s already pretty solid, but it doesn’t support Flash yet. No cats on keyboards vids = I can’t use you.

*Healthier than it sounds. My other favorite thing at the coffee joint is watching the iPeople gape at my shiny ASUS 1000HE with Ubuntu Jaunty. I tell them its the new iFU and snicker as they drop their lattes and hop in their Priusi, electric engines whining toward the local Apple dealer.