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Google To Release OS Aimed at Netbooks

Google is developing an operating system designed primarily for lightweight Web-based tasks, the company announced on Tuesday in a blog post.

The company is primarily marketing the OS, called Google Chrome OS, for low-cost laptop computers, or netbooks. However, it also says the OS can work for desktop computers, as well.

"[T]he operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no Web," claimed the blog post, which was signed by Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, an engineering director for the company. The Chrome OS is the company's "attempt to re-think what operating systems should be."

The company claims Chrome OS will be an extension of its Chrome Web browser, introduced last year. The user interface will be fast and unobtrusive and the underlying architecture will be resistant to viruses, the company claims. Google is steering developers to work on the Web applications rather than Chrome-specific desktop applications, so that they will be able to work within a standards-complaint browser running on any OS.

"People want to get to their e-mail instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files," the blog said. "Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates."

Based on the Linux OS kernel, the OS will be open source and run on both x86 and ARM processors. The company plans to release the OS by the end of this year and hopes to have it in commercially available netbooks by the second half of 2010.

A relatively new form factor for computers, netbooks are small laptop computers that run low-power and low-cost processors. Netbooks usually cost about a few hundred dollars each and are often used for network-intensive tasks like checking e-mail or surfing the Web. In December, IT research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) predicted that 21.5 million netbooks would be sold this year, up from 11.4 million units last year.

Most currently offered netbooks tend to run either Linux or Microsoft's older Windows XP operating system, since Windows Vista was generally considered too resource-hungry for use on the relatively slower netbook processors. Microsoft has promised that the next version of Windows, Windows 7, would be better suited to slower processors.

This is not Google's first foray into developing an OS. For the past several years, it has been nurturing to maturity an OS for smartphones called Android. Although Android has been ported to laptop computers, the two projects are different endeavors, the Google reps noted.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News (GCN.com).

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