Liveblog: Google Chrome operating system arrives

Today, November 19th, we're finally going to get a good look at Google's Chrome desktop operating system. Join me as I give a live overview. You can also see it for yourself, with a Real or Windows Media Player at Google's Investor site.

12:53: Going into this, we know Chrome, the operating system, is a Linux-based desktop operating system that's designed for primarily for netbooks.

We also know that it will use a new windowing system--sorry KDE, GNOME--and that its primary interface will be the Chrome Web browser. You could argue that is the first Internet-based operating system.

Why does yet another operating system matter? Because this time, the company that's bringing it to the table, Google, is big enough to give Microsoft and Windows a run for their money on the desktop. The last time that happened was in the late 80s when OS/2 walked the earth.

1:00 Ahead of the announcement, Google has released some of the source code at:

1:05: Today, Google is announcing the open-sourcing of the project. Developers get your programming tools ready.

1:07: 40-million primary Chrome Web browser users today. Emphasis is on end-to-end speed with the browser--which is nice but what about Chrome the OS?

1:10: Chrome browser for Mac, and Linux, the basis of Chrome the OS, is on its way real soon now.

1:11: "Web applications should run as well as desktop applications." We're figuring out how Web apps can take advantage of local resource, such as accessing the GPU for graphics, and multi-core CPUs. Web applications must also be able to work offline.

1:12: "Perfect storm of converging trends" Explosive growth of netbooks; hundreds of millions of users are now living on the cloud. Anything you want to do can be done on the Web. At the same time, phones, netbooks, tablets, and laptops are all beginning to share capabilities.

1:15. Chrome OS us the new model for the 'desktop.' It should both boot and run applications very fast. Every application will be a Web application. No need to install or update software. This _is_ different.

1:17: Users' data, applications, and customization will all reside on the cloud.

1:18: Security. Everything runs in the browser security sandbox. And now for a look at the Chrome OS, which--surprise!--looks a lot like the Chrome browser. Why? Because everyone knows how to use a browser.

1:20: On the top left, you can have tabs that connect directly to your favorite applications. GMail, Facebook, whatever.

1:22: An App menu gives you 'panels,' which are persistent, light-weight windows that can hold apps.

1:25: You'll be able to listen to music, watch videos, play games, or read e-books (bye-bye Kindle?) in panels.

1:28: Adobe Flash already works in Chrome OS.

1:28: Chrome OS will be able to handle peripherals such as USB drives. Chrome has an open API so any Web app. should be able to work in Chrome. The example used is using a Microsoft Web-based program to open an Excel file.

1:29: Adobe Acrobat functionality is also already built in.

1:30: And, now for a look under the hood. Google is opening their design docs as well as the code.

1:31: Chrome devices will be build on SSD (Solid State Drive) to gain speed. This is a vision of the 'computer' as more like the TV than a PC. It should be instant-on and ready to go.

1:33: Chrome is a stripped out OS. No boot-loader per se; no background programs to provide services for traditional desktop apps. Everything is on the Web so only what's needed for the Web is loaded.

1:33: All the software components, from the kernel on up, is cryptographically signed to make sure it has been hacked or a malware attack. If something is wrong, a fresh, untouched component is installed and your entire Chrome instance is re-imaged.

1:36: In Chrome OS, all end-user apps run in a browser sandbox so they can't make changes to your PCs. Every tab you run is kept away from each other, the hardware, and the operating system.

1:37: The root file system is read-only. On the user partition, all data is encrypted. If someone swipes your system, the thief will have fits trying to get into your data. In addition, everything on your Chrome OS device is synced back to the cloud.

1:40: This is a new model for computing. Google thinks this system is fundamentally more secure.

1:41: Going to the market. Devices to appear by the end of 2010. Ala Apple's Mac, Chrome will only run on very specific hardware.

1:45: Google Chrome OS netbooks will be larger than today's netbooks. Bigger screens, full-sized keyboards.

1:46: Chrome is based on Linux, in particular Ubuntu and Moblin are mentioned. Google really, really wants your help, and wants you to help these projects as well.

1:47: And, now for a "Yea Chrome" video with a crack or two at Microsoft. The question of the moment: "Do you really want 'everything' to be on the Internet. Q&A begins.

1:49: Will Android apps. run on Chrome? Answer: They're all open-source. No real answer.

1:50 Price-points? Focused on getting larger netbooks. Prices up in the air. Partners will decide.

1:51: W3C API standard support? We are working closely with W3C. Partner info on hardware is coming out.

1:54: App. Store? No info on that yet. There are, however, mechanism to help people find applications. Drivers and hardware components are being worked on with partners. Open-source drivers will be used where ever possible. As for apps not available on the Web there, Google expects users to have other desktops for those apps. So, don't expect to see, say, AutoCAD on a Google Chrome box.

1:58: Codex support? HTML 5 is supported and we're very committed to Flash. Others will be added as possible. Some other proprietary plugins--Silverlight--may be added.

1:59: A lot of what you can do in the Chrome Web browser will be doable in the Chrome OS and vice-versa.

2:00 Whoops! They've run long and the Webcast ended before the Q&A ended. Bad Google Webcast team! Bad! No biscuit.

The take-away message is already there. Google Chrome OS will be a device-based OS that _must_ have Internet access to show to its best advantage. Thus, this isn't so much a Windows 7 competitor as it is an attempt to provide a full-featured, operating system for netbooks and other mobile devices.

This is, however, a direct slap in the face of Microsoft, which has tried with Windows 7 Starter Edition, to pen the netbook into only being low-end devices. Google is saying that the netbook needs to grow so that it can deliver a better user-experience with a fully open-source and net-based operating system.

Interesting times lie ahead.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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