Google unveiled more details about its much-anticipated Chrome OS at a press event at its Mountain View, Calif., campus today, but those who were hoping for a beta release of the OS were in for a disappointment. "We aren't launching the product today. There is no beta today," said Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management. "Our target is the end of next year. We want to be there for the holiday season."
Developers who want a closer look at the project, however, will get their wish. Effective immediately, Google is releasing the Chrome OS code to the public under an open source license, along with the associated design documents. "As of today, the code will be fully open," said Chrome OS director of engineering Matt Papakipos, "which means Google developers will be working on the same tree as external developers."
An OS that is a browser
Chrome OS is Google's latest attempt to further its concept of browser-based computing, in which the traditional PC desktop is deemphasized in favor of a completely Web-based experience.
At the heart of the new OS is the Chrome browser, which Google has been developing as an alternative to competitors such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera.
A Chrome OS computer will run no local applications, Pichai explained, and user documents and other data will be maintained via Web-based cloud storage. "With Chrome OS, every application is a Web application," Pichai said.
Papakipos also demonstrated Chrome OS applications based on Flash, and he said Google's Native Client technology would also be available on the platform. Native Client is an ActiveX-like technology that provides plug-in capabilities to interact with local system resources. "Everything that comes in Chrome will be available in Chrome OS, and we think Native Client is an important part of this story," Papakipos said.
But Chrome OS will have an additional advantage over browsers running on traditional operating systems, Papakipos said, because it will be tightly integrated with the underlying hardware. That means Web applications running on Chrome OS will be able to take advantage of such features as multiprocessing and GPU acceleration.