The Google Chrome Operating System isn't expected to find its way onto netbooks until the end of 2010, but it's becoming increasingly clear that it is aimed at disrupting the entrenched Microsoft Windows operating system.
The lead Chrome engineer told Ars Technica the emerging product and its Chrome Web browser sidekick will have a complete media player that approximates the functionality of Windows Media Player, which Microsoft made ubiquitous by serving it with Windows.
Chrome OS is an open source Web operating system Google is building to run on netbooks as an alternative to computers running traditional operating systems such as Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Mac. Those machines take several seconds or minutes to boot up.
Chrome OS boots up a netbook in a fraction of the time. Moreover, paired with Google's Chrome Web browser, Chrome OS loads Web applications in just a few more seconds. Google aims to get people online faster to let them access Gmail, YouTube, Google Voice and other Web services.
The OS will apparently have a full media player running in Chrome, the nascent browser that recently passed Apple's Safari in worldwide users to grab nearly 5 percent of the market.
Matthew Papakipos, engineering director for the Chrome OS project, told Ars Technica in a lengthy interview:
"Another big aspect to what we're doing is we're integrating a whole media player into Chrome and into Chrome OS... In a sense what we're doing is integrating the equivalent of Windows Media Player into Chrome itself.
For example, you might just have a USB key that has a bunch of MP3s on it, so you want to be able to plug that in and listen to those MP3s. There might not be any controlling Web page for that activity, but it's clearly something you need to be able to do in any reasonable operating system or browser. So we're doing a lot of work to make Chrome and Chrome OS handle those use cases really well."
Google has already made it clear it wants Chrome OS to be the lightweight, speedy platform to get people online quicker and that Chrome is the launching pad for Web apps, which are alternatives to the locally downloaded applications Microsoft pairs with its Windows platform today.
However, the revelation of an integrated, Web-based media player shows just how completely Google is reimagining the Windows OS as an open source, Web-based platform.
The media player isn't the only area Google is looking to break free from the traditional desktop computing paradigm. Papakipos also told the publication it is working on ways enable Chrome OS to handle mailto links and file types by Web apps.
For example, clicking on a mailto link makes users exit their browser and into Windows mail, which is not helpful for Gmail users. Ideally, clicking the mailto link would open pop up a compose window or panel in Chrome OS "so as not to interrupt your flow in the site that you were on" Papakipos said.
Similarly, users who click on a .doc file, may want it to go to use Gview to preview a document instead of opening Office Live, or store it on a USB drive.
If Google can pull Chrome OS off and get partners Acer, Asus, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, to make and sell Chrome OS machines, it will be quite the feat and quite the gauntlet for Microsoft, which has been fairly unthreatened by Linux platforms such as Red Hat or Ubuntu.