google-robotGoogle gave its first public demonstration today of Chrome OS, the operating system it’s developing for PCs (primarily cheaper netbooks). It presented the demo via webcast from its headquarters in Mountain View, and it looked pretty solid.

Although there’s been some hope that Google might launch the OS in early 2010, Vice President of Product Marketing Sundar Pichai said Google plans to work with manufacturers to bring Chrome OS netbooks to market in time for next year’s holiday season.

The company is releasing an open source version of the operating system today called Chromium OS, which will allow developers and other companies to build their own variants. One example: In Chrome OS, Pichai said, Google’s web browser Chrome “is the OS.” In other words, once you boot up Chrome OS, you’re also launching the Chrome browser, so you won’t be able to run another browser — like Firefox, say. However, someone could build another version of Chrome OS that’s built around a browser other than Chrome.

And if you’re still fuzzy on what Chrome OS is, here are the three main points Google is highlighting:

  • “All apps are web apps.” In other words, you’re accessing everything in the browser, so you won’t be able to install and run standard desktop applications. However, you will be able to install technology that extends the browser — when asked about Microsoft Silverlight, which powers applications and media on the web, Pichai said Google is working hard to integrate things like Silverlight, but he didn’t commit to supporting specific technologies.
  • Since everything runs in the browser, the security model is different. To quote Google’s blog post, “Chrome OS doesn’t trust the applications you run. Chrome OS doesn’t even trust itself.” That means every application runs in its own security sandbox, and in every reboot, Chrome OS re-verifies the integrity of its code.
  • Google wants Chrome OS to be super-fast. To make that happen, it’s being extremely picky about the kinds of hardware Chrome OS will run on. On the consumer side, that means you won’t be able to just install Chrome OS on your computer; you’ll have to buy a Chrome OS netbook. On the developer side, that means that if you want to download and run the code, you’ll probably have to tinker with your hardware to meet Google’s specifications.

Pichai also talked about Chrome OS’ likely users. First, most Chrome OS users will probably have another, more powerful computer at home, although they may end up using their Chrome netbook more often. Second, professionals who need resource-heavy hardware or software probably won’t use Chrome OS. Third, as you can tell from the description above, Chrome OS is really meant for accessing the web, but there will be some offline access: You can store media and play it while offline, and Chrome OS will also support some of the offline capabilities in HTML5.

Here’s a video Google has created explaining Chrome OS.


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