After years of speculation, Google is finally entering the (non-mobile) operating system market with Google Chrome OS.
Google Chrome OS is an open source operating system running Google Chrome exclusively on top of a Linux Kernel. The new OS will be aimed at netbooks, and naturally is focused on running web applications.
According to Google
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.
Notably Google states that they are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of Chrome OS netbooks to market next year.
The adaptation of Linux on netbooks by a variety of manufacturers over the last two years has opened the door for non-Window's based operating systems for consumer computers. Google steps into this space with the strength of its brand, and the power of being the world's largest internet company behind it.
Although Google Chrome (the web browser) hasn't seriously dented Microsoft's share in browsers, a cheap (presumably free) open source operating system from Google will present a serious challenge at the bottom end of the market. Microsoft is already throwing money at OEM's to get Windows back on to Netbooks (Asus' EeePC comes to mind), so expect even heavier discounts from Microsoft now that their main competition in netbooks will soon be Google.
The devil is obviously in how the end product works, but if Chrome OS is well received and warmly embraced by the public, it could also be the begging of the end for traditional operating systems in place of the fabled Web OS.
Google says that Chrome OS will be open sourced "later this year" (whether that includes a usable version at that time isn't clear) and that the OS will start appearing on netbooks in the second half of 2010.