MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--There's still an awful lot about Google's Chrome OS project that remains up in the air, but Thursday's demonstration did reveal a bit about how Google thinks the Netbook should evolve.
At an event here Thursday, Google showed off the browser-based operating system for the first time since announcing it in July. Chrome OS won't be available for consumers to purchase for about a year, although developers can get started playing around with the source code as of today, thanks to the open-source release of the code.
Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, took about 50 members of the press through a basic tour of Chrome OS that didn't reveal a whole lot more about what was already known about Google's plans for the operating system. The basic look-and-feel of the software greatly resembles the Chrome browser, as expected, and it's designed to provide a fast lightweight computing experience for Netbook users.
But Google did provide some glimpses of what it thinks a Netbook should resemble. For one thing, it plans to develop a detailed specification of hardware components that Chrome OS Netbook makers must adhere to in order to use the operating system.
"We really want software to understand the underlying hardware," Pichai said. Whether he intended to or not, with that statement he revealed that for Google, reinventing the personal computing experience is about more than the software.
How so? Google seems to agree with a fair amount of Netbook users--not to mention Apple COO Tim Cook--that current Netbooks with cramped keyboards and small touch pads aren't going to cut it in the long run. Pichai did not provide specific details, but hinted that users could expect Chrome OS Netbooks to have slightly larger keyboards and screens than some of the current models for sale.
Chrome OS will run on either x86 or ARM processors, giving hardware manufacturers some choices as to how they want to build their systems. But they will have to use solid-state drives based off of flash memory, presumably for performance and reliability reasons, although they won't have to use a lot of memory because Chrome OS is designed to start most data in the cloud with very little local storage.
These Netbooks will be designed with 802.11n Wi-Fi chips in mind, Pichai said. However, a device such as this--designed almost exclusively for online use--may not be as compelling if users are stuck bouncing from Wi-Fi hotspot to Wi-Fi hotspot.… Read more