Google has made the long-awaited and rumored announcement that it will launch an operating system. Carrying the same name as its Chrome browser, this will be built specifically for running lightweight Web apps on machines that are built around Web access.
In other words, it’s a shot at Microsoft and the longstanding paradigm of big, heavy operating systems built to run robust desktop software. With the advent of cloud computing, this is a good move: More and more users are turning from desktops to laptops and netbooks. Chrome OS will be a more effective way to run browser-based applications.
It will also be open source, built on the Linux kernel and optimized for machines that run on x86 architecture chips and ARM chips, which power an increasing share of notebooks and netbooks. The open source architecture should also be an enticement for OEMs to adopt it, given its price tag (free), in the face of shrinking margins.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same philosophy behind Google’s Android mobile OS. Chrome can be seen as the Android of the PC world, with a little bit more power to run netbooks as opposed to smartphones. Android in fact has already been speculated to be a suitable OS for some netbooks, and Google has admitted there will be some overlap.
Bottom line: Like Android, the development of an OS that meets the technical specifications of the device and the trends of how they’re being used is a logical move. This will also entice developers to build applications that use the browser as an access point: in other words, Web apps. We’re seeing the same thing in the mobile world.
The HTML 5 standard is wrapped up in all this — a strong push for Google and something that will allow developers to build Web apps that have functionality previously reserved for heavy desktop software. This is a big move but not an unexpected one — following the ongoing trend toward cloud computing and mobility.