Google is planning a major assault on the netbook market with a number of Chrome OS devices to arrive from Samsung, Acer, Asus, Toshiba and HP.
Chrome OS lead designer Glen Murphy told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview that the traditional operating system was becoming redundant as people looked to the web for most of their entertainment, communication and productivity tasks.
"We look at what everyone’s doing with computers today and by and large most people only ever need the web," said Murphy. The new operating system represents a return to the original concept of the lightweight, low power and low cost netbook as introduced by Asus with the Eee PC.
Since then the netbook category has been under attack from new generations of cheaper but more powerful notebooks, better equipped to run a traditional operating system like Microsoft’s Windows 7. Chrome OS, by contrast, has been described by Google as a spring clean in order to improve OS start times.
Murphy confirmed that Google’s focus was on laptops but that work would soon begin on optimising the platform for tablets. Addressing the confusion between the positioning of Google’s Android operating system and the upcoming Chrome OS, Murphy said: "Android is very focused on the best mobile experience there is, Chrome is very focused on the best web experience there is."
"Obviously those things aren’t mutually exclusive," he added. The Google designer also said that he believed in the minimalist school of design and his team double checked even minor design features in Chrome to ensure the UI remained clutter free.
He said the Chrome project formed out of the frustrations of Google’s army of web developers, who were hitting the limits of what browsers could do when creating web applications.
Murphy said that the motivation to begin the original Chrome project was born out of frustrations within the Internet giant’s web developers. "We wanted to build the best browser there was and if our competition decided to do the same things then that would be awesome," he said.
Despite recent advances from competing browsers such as FireFox 4 and Internet Explorer 9, Murphy said that Chrome was "much faster" than competing browsers in technical terms of displaying web pages and of navigating the UI.
"Even just these tiny little differences, hundreds of milliseconds, make big differences," he said.
Users of Chrome both within the new Chrome OS and the desktop version of the Chrome browser will be able to download applications, free and paid, from the upcoming Chrome Web Store also due to launch later this year.
Google has said that it hopes Chrome OS powered netbooks will be available for under $400. Samsung will reportedly produce such a 10-inch devices similar to the firm’s N210 while an Acer device called the ‘ZGA’ has reportly been used in Chrome OS development.
Specifications so far point to Atom-based netbooks with small solid state storage devices. While the hardware will be similar to existing products offered with Windows, Chrome OS devices will be reworked specifically with a custom firmware to achieve Google’s goals in terms of boot speed.
Late last year Google released a number of videos about Chrome OS including this one front by Glen Murphy discussing the Chrome OS UI: