Yesterday Google dropped a bomb that many people have been expecting for quite some time. For several years we’ve been talking and reading about how a web browser might eventually become an operating system. I remember hearing this initially discussed when Netscape became popular and started to take on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Until recently the thought of browser as OS has largely remained a distant but ever more believable dream. The dream may become reality if Google has their way.
In a blog post on their site posted last night, Google announced to expect a version of Google Chrome that would be open source and function as an operating system in the second half of 2010.
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.
Certainly a large part of these plans (and perhaps the initial launch) are aimed squarely at the lowly Netbook. These sub $400 laptop computers are increasingly looking like they are here to stay.
Microsoft’s Windows 7 is slated to begin shipping in October 2009. However the company has caused a stir by announcing a confusing array of pricing as well as attempting to limit the types of Netbooks that could run its lowest priced Windows 7 version.
Google Chrome OS will be a separate project from Google’s other operating system known as Android. As the company explains in their blog post:
Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.
It’s still too early to judge what Microsoft’s reaction to this may be. At the outset it seems likely that they will be required to revamp their Windows 7 upgrade pricing.
This is welcome news for the consumer as competition tends to stir innovation and protect users from pricing that is out of line with the marketplace. Increasingly that marketplace has been flocking to low powered, low priced Netbooks in an increasing realization that much of what users want to run is located within their web browser.
The web as an operating system had been predicted for quite some time. Now we shall see if Google can pull it off or whether Microsoft might have a response lurking somewhere in their engineering labs.