Introduction to Chrome OS:
In July of 2009, Google announced that they were developing an operating system in conjunction with manufacturers. The operating system bears the same name as the Google Web browser, Chrome. Devices started coming out in 2011 and are readily available in stores today, for about $250 to $300.
Target Audience for Chrome OS:
Chrome OS is targeted initially towards netbooks, super small notebooks designed primarily for Web browsing. Although some netbooks are sold with Linux, the consumer preference has tended toward Windows XP.
Google's vision for Chrome extends beyond the netbook. The operating system may eventually power full-sized desktop computers, which makes it potential competition with Windows 7 and the Mac OS. However, Google hasn't seen Chrome OS as a tablet operating system. Android is Google's tablet OS, because it's built around a touch-screen interface while Chrome OS still uses a keyboard and mouse or touchpad.
Chrome OS Availability:
Chrome is available now. You can even download a copy of Chrome OS for your home computer. You must have Linux and an account with root access. If you've never heard of a sudo command, you should just buy Chrome pre-installed on a consumer device.
Google is working with Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba, although that's not a guarantee that any of those companies will create a Chrome OS computer.
Google launched a pilot program using a beta version of Chrome installed on a netbook called the Cr-48. Developers, educators, and end-users could register for the pilot program, and a number of them were sent the Cr-48 to test. The netbook came with a limited amount of free 3G data access from Verizon Wireless.
Google ended the Cr-48 pilot program in March of 2011.
Chrome and Android:
Although Android will run on netbooks, Chrome OS is being developed as a separate project. Android is designed for running phones and phone systems. It's not really designed for use on computers. Chrome OS is designed for computers rather than phones.
To further confuse this distinction, there are rumors that Chrome is indeed destined to become a tablet OS. Netbook sales have been eroding as full size laptops become cheaper and tablet computers like the iPad become more popular. Why would Google need both an Android and Chrome tablet OS developed by competing teams from the very same company - especially when developers complain that Android is already too fragmented? That's a very good question.
Google's I/O developer's conference should shed some light on Google's Chrome plans going forward. Stay tuned.
Chrome uses a Linux kernel. Long ago there was a rumor that Google planned on releasing their own version of Ubuntu Linux dubbed "Goobuntu." This isn't exactly Goobuntu, but the rumor is no longer quite as crazy.
Google OS Philosophy:
Chrome OS is really designed as an operating system for computers that are only used for connecting to the Internet. Rather than downloading and installing programs, you just run them in your Web browser and store them on the Internet. In order to make that possible, the OS has to boot up very quickly, and the Web browser has to be extremely fast. Chrome OS will likely make both of those happen.
Will it be enticing enough for users to buy a netbook with Chrome OS instead of Windows? That's uncertain. Linux hasn't made a huge dent in Windows sales, and it's been developed for much longer. However, cheap devices and a simple, easy to use interface may just entice users to switch.