Google is building an OS to take on Windows empire

8 Jul 2009

In another dramatic display of brinkmanship against Microsoft, Google has taken the next logical step – an operating system (OS). First OEM netbooks are due to hit the market next year.

Google has in the past year upped its play to be a major force in the computing world, especially the enterprise computing world, with efforts such as striking major deals to migrate businesses to its Google Docs platform and by making it easier to switch from Outlook.

The company has launched search appliances, its own web browser called Chrome and even its own mobile operating system, Android, that will take on established mobile OS players from Apple and its iPhone to Nokia’s Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

But now the next logical step in the 11-year-old search giant’s computing journey has begun – Google Chrome OS.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s vice president of product management, explained in a blog post that Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM chips.

The OS will be initially targeted at netbooks and is described as an open source, lightweight operating system. The company is working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year and the first devices will be available to consumers in the second half of 2010.

“The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel,” Pichai explained.

“For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favourite web technologies. And, of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux, thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

“Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. 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.”

The company says it will open source its code for the open source community later this year. “Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds.

“The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work,” Pichai said.

By John Kennedy