Google took the wraps off of its Chrome OS project on Thursday when it released the unfinished code to the public with the announcement of the Chromium open source project.
When it's finished in about a year (timeline according to Google), the project will result in a computer operating system that marries the Linux kernel to Google's Chrome Web browser. The new open-source OS will only run Web applications. Data will be stored in the "cloud." Local memory will be used for caching data, not storing it permanently.
It's a focused vision from Google:
First, it's all about the web. All apps are web apps. The entire experience takes place within the browser and there are no conventional desktop applications. This means users do not have to deal with installing, managing and updating programs.
Google says this approach — making the browser the only real application running on the computer — will make start-up times blazingly fast, simplify the user experience by focusing on the one app people use all the time and up the level of security for your device and data.
The device everyone is talking about is the "netbook." Chrome OS is being seen right now, a year before it is finished, as an OS that slots between small mobile devices like Google's own Android mobile platform and a full Linux implementation like Ubuntu.
Of course, this project is meant to compete with more than just other open-source projects. It's aimed at Microsoft and Apple. It is a general-use computing system that takes us back to a time when dumb terminals connected to mainframes.
Only, now, we're calling the dumb terminal a netbook and the mainframe the cloud. Of course, a lot of other things have changed. High-speed Internet access is widely available. Open-source code like Linux and HTML 5 are there for anyone to tinker with and build interoperable systems on. It's not quite like 1979 all over again. But the similarities between Google's vision and the first networked computing models is striking.
This is really, however, a return to Google's roots and principles. When the search service first hit the scene, it was a radical departure from the search services of the day, such as AltaVista, Yahoo! and Northern Lights.
Google replaced their fussy, imperfect services with an ultra-minimalist home page and the belief that one click could get you what you wanted.
Now they're offering up a vision of the future where one local app can get you what you want by sweeping away the clutter of the modern computer's desktop and delivering you quickly to the unlimited promise of the Web.