Chrome OS developer chat (Engadget's liveblog) shed some interesting light on the upcoming OS. As you may know, Google released the Chromium OS source code to the world today. They stated at the developer's conference that every move they make now will be open.
The launch of the source code today means that, with a little bit of elbow grease and effort, it is now possible to run Chrome OS. While this isn't recommended for normal users, those of us that like to tinker with our machines will finally have a chance.
It was made clear in the conference that the primary focus of Chrome OS was speed. They want users to have an experience like flipping on a TV. Since the operating system and browser are tied inextricably together, Chrome OS will be capable of browsing faster than any other OS. At least, that's the claim Google is making. I have a feeling it will hold up under scrutiny when the 3rd party speed test results come out.
One of the goals with Chrome OS is to allow users to use a variety of different computers with little to no difference in the user experience. One of the devs mentioned buying four or five netbooks to leave around the house. If they ran Chrome OS, each one of them would be a virtually identical machine.
With Chrome OS, the machines are more cachelike. User data exists in the cloud, locked up in your Google account. That means any customizations you make to improve your user experience will carry over to all other machines. Google is talking about a whole new method of computing now, where your "computer" isn't really a single device, but a set of data living in the cloud, waiting for you to access it on any compatible terminal.
Anyway, down to brass tacks. Chrome OS WILL have printer support, but not in the usual way. Google's described it as an "innovative approach" to printing, whatever that means. Chrome OS will launch with support for all common keyboards and USB mice, as well as support for at least the Codecs that Chrome is compatible with. They stressed that their primary vision for Chrome OS is on a netbook type device, and that neither laptop nor desktop support was on the plate for the immediate future.
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That said, the whole OS is open so anyone is welcome to cobble together a version that's optimized for laptops or desktops and distribute it for free. Google just wants as many people as possible to use their OS. They're even working on ARM support. During the conference they confirmed that they were working to find a way to make all of their Native Client applications work with ARM and x86.
Much was made of Chrome's new App Tab. This tab will not be unique to the OS, but will also carry over to Chrome. Users of Chrome OS will have access to every single web-based application out there. Google made the statement that anyone developing for the web, is a Chrome OS developer. They made it clear several times that Android apps would not work straightaway with Chrome OS.
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More announcements about Chrome OS are due before the year is out, so we could still be looking at a launch early next year. More information will be coming out over the next few days, as developers and nerds alike begin to play with Chrome OS for the first time. I think it's going to bring a significant shift to the way we see computing. At least when it comes to a browsing machine, it's no longer about the device. It's about the data.