Google July 7 formally unveiled its entry into the computer operating system software market with the Google Chrome Operating System, a lightweight OS that will run on top of a Linux kernel to power Web applications.
The move, announced casually by Google the evening of July 7 in a blog post by Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, engineering director, is Google's most direct assault to date on Microsoft Windows, which has ruled the desktop operating system software market for several years.
While Microsoft has locked up the traditional market for desktop platforms thanks to deals with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and myriad other PC makers, Chrome OS is initially geared for netbooks, a nascent but fast-growing computer niche in which Windows and Linux distributions joust for supremacy.
Netbooks are small laptops designed to let consumers surf the Internet and use Web services, including search, social networking, Webmail, multimedia and a number of other applications.
Google offers these Web services and more. Google, which in September 2008 released a Chrome Web browser for speedy Web surfing, sees Chrome OS as a platform for its Web services, including Google search, the Gmail e-mail application, the Google Docs collaboration applications and Google Maps.
The platform joins Google search, Chrome and Google's open-source mobile operating system Android as Google's latest effort to enable consumers and workers to access the Internet via desktops, netbooks, mobile phones and set-top boxes. Google wants to distinguish Android from Chrome OS, as Pichai and Upson noted in their post:
"Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google."
Whereas Windows boosts the price of every computer it comes installed on, Chrome OS is open source, so it shouldn't drive up the cost of the machines it powers, potentially providing a more attractive alternative to Windows-based computers.
If Web search was the lingua franca of the Web, Chrome OS will be the mobile home for users' machines, supporting Web applications with more ease and comfort than Windows, but also more speed and efficiency.
Today, news of Chrome OS continues to capture attention at TechMeme, as bloggers and journalists weigh in with gusto and proclamations that the platform could be a Windows killer. High-tech analysts free from jaundiced eyes have taken a more sober view of a product designed to challenge Microsoft Windows' 95 percent desktop operating system market share with an untested platform that won't appear in netbooks until late 2010.