ZaReason, a small systems builder based in Berkeley, Calif., is already considering offering the Chrome OS on its PCs, partly because Google has a good track record in developing open source applications, wrote Cathy Malmrose, CEO of ZaReason, in an e-mail. Today ZaReason offers a choice of Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, with its desktops and laptops.
"As long as Google leaves the OS truly open (and not close it like TiVo does with their Linux), then ZaReason would definitely consider offering it as an option," Malmrose wrote. "Features like a fast browser (Chrome) could be used elsewhere due to the freedoms granted by true open source software."
The Chrome OS doesn't necessarily give Linux more credibility, but it gives it more recognition, Malmrose said. The presence of a heavyweight like Google could apply the pressure needed for other Linux distributions to succeed, she said. "Any competition just makes everyone better. Each distribution will have its own focus, and customers will get to choose which suits them best," Malmrose wrote.
Few details about the Chrome OS are available yet, and it is unclear what users can expect other than tight links to Web-based applications like Google Docs and Gmail.
Questions remain about what the user interface will look like or what sort of hardware driver support will be available. Until those questions are answered, some Linux vendors are taking a wait-and-see approach and using the time to draw the lines of a possible battle with Google.
Canonical, developer of the popular Ubuntu Linux, is trying to better integrate the Web with its OS, said Gerry Carr, chief of platform marketing at Canonical. It will soon start talking up the next version of Ubuntu, version 9.10, which is code-named Karmic Koala.
"We're not going to stop because Google comes out with the OS," Carr said. Linux distributions have suffered in the past from a lack of drivers for hardware, so the company is also focused on ensuring more hardware will work with its OS.
Intel said Moblin's use could expand to include smartphones and set-top boxes. "I think it's important to note that for nearly 25 years now, we've had a goal to ensure we offer the most choice of software, and that the software runs best on our chips. Nothing changes with Chrome et al," Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesman, said via e-mail.
Chrome may eventually become a dominant Linux distribution but it will take time for Google to iron out the kinks, said David Liu, founder of Good OS, which develops the gOS Linux distribution.
"Creating a cool software product is a good thing, but enabling it on a hardware platform is another thing," Liu said.
But in a nod to Chrome's potential, Good OS is already thinking about developing services that could run on top of it, Liu said.
People are well-accustomed to Windows, however, and Microsoft has strong ties with PC makers and a strong distribution channel, he noted.
"People take a long time to adjust to something new," he said. "OEMs will take their time. Developers will take their time."