Developers get preview of Google Chrome OS

Open source fever continues to grip the industry as web giant Google on Thursday open sourced its forthcoming operating system and released preview code to developers ahead of the platform’s official launch in 2010.

Google may well have set Microsoft quaking in its boots back in July, when it announced plans to launch a full fledged operating system, bringing its efforts in the web browser and small footprint operating system spaces together. Google Chrome OS, with the open source project dubbed Chromium, marks a further encroachment on Microsoft’s territory and reinforces speculation on the firm’s plans for world domination.

Chrome OS is all about the web and all applications running on the platform will be web apps, with the entire experience taking place within the browser. “This means users do not have to deal with installing, managing and updating programs,” Google said. This approach should also make things more secure because every application will be sandboxed. And speed is also of the essence, with Google specifying hardware components the OS will run on, such as solid state memory only, no disk drives.

When it was announced, Sundar Pichai, VP of product management at Google, described Chrome OS a lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. The OS is designed to be fast and lightweight and get users onto the web in a few seconds where most of the user experience takes place, with a minimal user interface.

The Quanta built Android-powered smartbook prototype

The Quanta Built Android-Powered Smartbook Prototype

Essentially, the platform will be Google’s Chrome browser running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. The OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips pitching it at the mobile and desktop markets, and for application developers, the web is the platform, using standard technologies that run on Chrome, Windows, MacOS and Linux.

Google has already won support for Chrome OS from a handful of key players in the netbook and mobile computing spaces, including Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba.

On Thursday while at the Qualcomm Innovation day in London, got to check out an Android-based netbook (or ‘smartbook’ as Qualcomm calls it), which is presumably the target form factor for Chrome OS. The prototype device was built by Quanta and didn’t quite convince us that there’s a market for a device with all the power of a smartphone, in a larger form factor.

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