Less than a year after unveiling the Chrome web browser, Google has stepped up its battle against Microsoft with the announcement of the Google Chrome Operating System.
The search giant already dominates the web search market, and its online services such as Google Apps and Mail are now officially out of beta and proving popular. Google's Android open source mobile operating system, meanwhile, is starting to gain serious traction in the mobile industry.
Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, and Linus Upson, an engineering director, described the new platform in a blog post as "our attempt to rethink what operating systems should be".
"Google Chrome OS is an open-source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks," they said. "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."
Chrome OS is basically the Chrome browser running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. It is designed to be fast and lightweight with a minimal interface, playing to Google's online strength by focusing most of the experience through the browser.
The company is also boldly claiming that it is "completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the operating system so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates".
An increasing number of services and applications now being delivered online, and several companies have created fast-booting, stripped-down operating systems that offer just basic applications such as web browser, email client, media player and productivity suite. These are usually Linux-based and installed alongside Windows.
Google admits that there are some areas where Chrome OS will overlap with Android, but has stressed that the two are separate. Android is designed for smartphones and other small mobile devices, while Chrome OS will span small netbooks to full-sized desktop systems.
However, although Microsoft's Windows Vista has not been a success for the company, Windows 7, which is due later this year, is already garnering high praise from those who have installed the beta version, and could give Microsoft the vital edge it needs before Google's new operating system hits the market.
Pichai and Upson acknowledged that Google has "a lot of work to do, and we're definitely going to need a lot of help from the open-source community to accomplish this vision".
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