Yesterday Google hosted a small technical introduction to its new Chrome Operating System (OS), which is scheduled for release on new netbooks by the end of 2010.
Google's vision for Chrome is to build on the concept of the Web as a ubiquitous computing platform. As outlined by Sundar Pichai, Google's Vice President of Product Management, "in Chrome OS, every application is a web application." Which means at the heart of everything is Google's Chrome Web Browser, modified to run all on its own, "It's just a browser with a few modifications. And all data in Chrome OS is in the cloud."
That in turn allows Google to provide a quick, nimble system that can "be blazingly fast, basically instant-on." As demonstrated on the test system, built on a modified Linux kernel, went from power-on to surfing the Web in 10 seconds.
In essence, Google Chrome is a cross between Google's cellphone software Android, which is also hosted on the Linux kernel, and the Chrome browser. However, unlike Android, which is built on a modified Java platform for third-party applications to be built and run on, Chrome OS is built to run today's rich web applications built on AJAX as well as tomorrow's web applications built around the draft HTML5 standard.
But what does this mean for Microsoft and Apple? While Google's development of their own operating system is indeed a direct challenge to Microsoft's bread and butter family of Windows, Chrome OS isn't better than Microsoft Windows product or Apple's Mac OS X. Nor is Google's OS even focusing on the traditional tasks of managing the interface between the local hardware and user.
Instead, Google's operating system is about simplifying and enhancing access to applications online. Not so much a replacement of current personal computers, but an alternative to getting online and accessing applications such as Google Docs or Twitter.
Anything that can be done on any standard Web browser on Windows, Mac and Linux can be done on Chrome which means Google's soon-to-be operating system is designed to leverage the growing collection of service-oriented software that can be found online, including, of course, Google's own suite of applications.
The trick for Google now is not just in implementation, but also adoption. Building on the growing trend of netbooks helps, but network computing itself is hardly a new concept.