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November 20, 2009

Google unveils Chrome OS

Operating system focuses on speed, security

By Steve Evans

Google has taken the covers off its open source operating system, Chrome OS.

It should be released in time for Christmas 2010 and will initially only be available on netbooks. It may be extended to laptops and other computer hardware at a later date.

Chrome OS moves away from the traditional, Windows-style operating system and instead will be browser-based, only running programs online. It needs an Internet connection to operate.

“There are no conventional desktop applications,” said Sundar Pichai, vice-president of product management, during an event at Google’s headquarters designed to showcase Chrome OS. “That means you don’t have to install or update software. It’s just a browser; a browser with a few modifications.”

The browser-based OS will enable users to access all the usual online applications, such as email, social network sites like Twitter and Facebook and Google Docs, an online word processing tool.

All user data will be hosted on Google’s servers – in the cloud – so any hardware failure will not result in a data loss. Google also said that security will be a big part of the OS, with automatic updates running through the cloud, meaning the user does not have to take any action.

“Unlike traditional operating systems, Chrome OS doesn’t trust the applications you run,” wrote Caesar Sengupta, group product manager and Matt Papakipos, engineering director, in a blog post.

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“Each app is contained within a security sandbox making it harder for malware and viruses to infect your computer. Furthermore, Chrome OS barely trusts itself. Every time you restart your computer the operating system verifies the integrity of its code. If your system has been compromised, it is designed to fix itself with a reboot,” they wrote.

Google also says that the Chrome OS will start up much faster than usual operating systems, which can take up to a minute to start. During the demonstration Chrome OS started up in seven seconds, although Pichai said the firm was, “working very, very, very hard to make that time shorter. We want Google Chrome OS to be blazingly fast.”

Google has released an early version of the code to developers to work on is looking for feedback from the open source community.


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