Chrome OS must be a dream come true for Google-versus-Microsoft fanboys. Rumors that Google would ship a desktop OS first flew back in 2006, but the project in question turned out to be for internal use only. Then came Android, and reports that Google's smartphone OS would soon make the leap to more traditional PCs set the market abuzz again -- although many remained skeptical. Now the announcement of Chrome OS should brush any lingering doubts aside.
Not everyone is impressed with the search giant's latest move, however. My colleague Randall Kennedy says Chrome OS has "an ice cube's chance in Hell" of competing successfully with Windows or Mac OS X, citing the overwhelming effort needed to duplicate the full range of device drivers and applications available on those platforms today. Randall just doesn't see that happening, and for that matter neither do I.
But Chrome OS isn't meant to be a pound-for-pound competitor to Windows. Though it's built on the Linux kernel, it's really something brand new. In fact, when we look back 10 years from now, the debut of Google's Chrome OS may well mark the moment when cloud computing finally became real.
Chrome OS: Custom-built for the cloud
It's particularly telling that Chrome OS will ship with support for both Intel and ARM processors. Google reps say the OS will initially target netbooks, and low-powered ARM chips are expected to play an increasing role in that market.