Google is betting heavily on the cloud with Chrome Operating System, a Web platform for netbooks that Google CEO Eric Schmidt said is predicated on leveraging reliable networks and diskless machines.
While Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac machines rely greatly on software residing locally on the hardware, Google intends Chrome OS to fuel Web applications in the Chrome browser.
With Chrome OS, users won't download software or store data internally-data resides in Google's cloud, supported by rows of parallel servers in data centers all over the world.
The company hopes consumers use the apps developers build and offer in its new Chrome Web Store, Google's new supermarket for free and paid Web apps that will be accessible from Chrome OS netbooks.
Schmidt said the open-source platform, which is based on Debian Linux, provides a third choice in platforms to Microsoft Windows PC and Apple's Mac machines, a bold statement in an era where Linux has failed to gain much traction.
"Before there was no cloud computing alternative-now we have a product which is fast, robust and scalable enough to support powerful platforms," Schmidt said in a blog post, adding that computer scientists have long envisioned this but lacked the technology to build it until now.
However, official Chrome OS machines remain a picture in the distant future. Google had planned to roll them out to consumers this holiday season.
Bugs, performance tuning and things like the lack of a way to port camera photos to the platform threw wrenches in the company's well-oiled plans.
Samsung and Acer are expected to ship finished Chrome netbooks in mid-2011. In the meantime, Google has created a pilot program using an unbranded netbook called the Cr-48 to let business partners, media and consumers test-fly it.
There's no question the machine launches super-fast. In eWEEK's limiting testing the netbook booted up in 6 seconds just by opening the lid. Powering down is also a dream. Users may tap a button or simply close the lid. No more walking from meeting to meeting with an open laptop.
"With Chrome OS and its related Chrome browser, Google is hoping to appeal to users with a simple, compelling, no-frills interface that allows them to store their information in the cloud," Jefferies and Co. analyst Youssef Squali explained in a research note Dec. 9.