Google-powered netbooks to debut next year

 Google on Thursday provided a peek beneath the hood of its new Chrome operating system, making the software public and promising it will run netbooks by the end of next year.

Google-crafted Chrome OS will be tailored exclusively for applications hosted as services in the Internet "cloud" and debut on low-cost bare-bones netbooks that have been a booming segment of the laptop computer market.

"We believe there is a better model of computing we can give users," vice president of Chrome OS Sundar Pichai said while demonstrating the in-progress software at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

"That is what Chrome OS is. Speed, simplicity and security. We want Google Chrome OS to be so blazingly fast... We think it should be like a TV, you turn it on and you are in the application."

Google is working with computer makers to build Chrome OS into netbooks to be available in stores in time for holiday shopping at the end of 2010.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin meets with the press in Mountain View, California.

Chrome OS will only be available pre-loaded on netbooks that are compatible with the software, according to Pichai.

"We are really focused on making a netbook that is lean and mean and runs the Internet really well," said Chrome OS engineering director Matt Papakipos.

Chrome OS will eventually expand to other computing devices, but the priority is to have it in netbooks within a year, according to Pichai.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin brushed off questions about whether Chrome OS will challenge the long-time dominance of Microsoft Windows operating systems in the global computer market.

"Call us dumb businessmen, but we really focus on user needs rather than on strategies related to other businesses," Brin said. "There is a real need to use computers easily. We believe the Web platform is a much simpler way."

Google made the Chrome OS code available Thursday to outside developers so they could start crafting software or applications to work with the system.

The operating system builds on a Chrome Web browser which has won more than 40 million users since it was released about a year ago, according to Pichai.

Chrome OS is being built to act as a door to the Internet, where people are increasingly spending time on Web-based applications such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, and Flickr.

"If you look at the last five years, most interesting applications for computers are Web-based," Pichai said. "It is the most successful platform out there."

Users' data will reside in the cloud at the online services they use, meaning that if a netbook breaks or is lost people can reconnect with their online worlds from other machines.

The netbooks will rely on flash memory, meaning they will be lightning fast as compared to machines that boot data up from spinning hard drives.

"You punch a button and are on the Web as soon as possible,." Papakipos said.

Google has set Chrome OS netbook criteria including ample keyboards and larger screens.

Chrome OS software will be free and Google is not asking netbook makers for any of the revenue, according to Brin.

"The more people that use the Internet, the better it is for our business generally," Brin said. "We believe in supporting this ecosystem."

Google is the proven king of pumping cash from online advertising connected to Internet searches or services. If a netbook maker wants to use the Google brand on a device, "we will have to talk," Brin said.

Google expects that "early adopters" who opt for Chrome OS netbooks will use them to connect to the Internet, but will have other machines for working with proprietary software not available online.

Brin sees Google's Android and Chrome software merging over time as netbooks, laptops, tablets and smartphones converge on the hardware side.

He declined to speculate as to what a cloud computing trend might mean to Microsoft, which built its empire on packaged software.

"I'm not an expert on Microsoft. I just believe in this simple system where you work in the cloud and you are not individually tweaking each thing on each individual machine," Brin said. "I think it is a more efficient way to work. Maybe Microsoft will adopt that model and maybe it will not."

Microsoft has been building more cloud capabilities into its software in what it refers to as a "software plus services" strategy.


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