Google ChromeIt’d be interesting to be a fly on the wall at Microsoft’s headquarters today.

Why? Well, Google has just fired the most blatant shot yet in its battle to take business from Microsoft, with news that the search giant is working on its very own operating system, to be called Google Chrome Operating System.

The announcement comes about ten months after Google introduced its own web browser – a move which itself was widely perceived as being an attempt by Google to get people to switch away from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

As the company says on its own blog:

“So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.”

This is a big deal: it’s currently the third story on the BBC news homepage and nobody online seems to be talking about much else this morning.

What’s an operating system?

Let’s start with the basics. The operating system (OS) is the core software that runs on your computer. It manages all the various resources available (like memory, the hard disk, etc) so that other programs can access them.

Although there are lots of different operating systems available, most people use Microsoft Windows. It has by far the biggest market share, so you’re probably using it right now.

Why is Google launching one?

Although it’s best known as a search engine, Google has long signalled its ambitions to move into other areas.

Industry pundits talk a lot about the battle between Microsoft, which dominates the software on people’s computers but has consistently failed to become a force in online search, and Google, which totally dominates search but doesn’t have much of a foothold in the software market.

Google Chrome Operating System is the company’s most blatant attempt yet to change that and take Microsoft on in one of the areas it totally dominates.

What’s different about this OS?

Google already offers lots of different services – what they all have in common is that they shift tasks online.

For instance, when you use Microsoft Word to edit a document, the program runs on your own computer and the files you create and edit are stored locally.

But if you use Google Docs to edit a document, you don’t actually run the program on your own computer. Instead, you access it online, through your web browser and when you save the document, it gets saved onto Google’s servers.

You might have heard the term ‘cloud computing’, where everything is stored online, or ‘in the cloud’. Well, Google Docs is a really good example of cloud computing in action.

The new operating system will extend this principle further. As Google says in its blog post:

“We’re designing the OS [operating system] 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.”

In short: with Google Chrome Operating System, any programs you run will run online, through the web browser. In fact, in some ways this operating system won’t be an operating system at all, because it will move a lot of the stuff that currently happens on your computer onto the internet (or into ‘the cloud’).

It’s also worth pointing out that the new operating system will be based on Linux, and it’ll be open source, so anyone who wants to can access the code and change it however they like. That alone makes it very different to Microsoft Windows.

When can I get it?

Google Chrome Operating System should be released in a year or so’s time, but as it’s open source you can expect to see the code for it become available much sooner.

What sort of impact will it have? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But I bet Microsoft’s work on the new version of Windows (due out later this year) has just taken on a new level of urgency. Interesting times lie ahead.

Will you use it?

What do you think of this latest announcement from Google? Just an attempt to create some hype, or could this signal the beginning of the end of Microsoft’s dominance in the operating system market? Leave a comment and let us know.

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7 Responses

  • Kevin Elks

    I have recently brought a new PC and asked for Linux and Windows to be put on so I could compare the two systems. the chap building the PC tried Linux and was full of praise for it as he was with the bundle of free generic Microsnot Office software that was with Linux. Guess what, when I got the PC it only had Windows on it with the excuse that Linux might have been causing a conflict. It seems that there is a full load of brainwashing going on when it comes to Microsnot.

    I have often wondered why it is not against the UK and EU anti-competition laws to have new PC’s pre-loaded with Windows or is it just the same old business that the wealthy giants can get away with anything they like, even murder, Blair and Bush did.

    July 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm
  • Kevin Elks

    I would add another point to my previous post. I would prefer to have all the software on my PC because not everywhere has high speed internet access. For instance I spend time in the Philippines (Cagayan De Oro City) and even when broadband is available it is slow compared with the UK. I see that for some, even those in the countryside in the UK, web based software and storage could be a severe problem.

    July 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm
  • James

    I too spend time working abroad – Tbilisi Georgia and the internet while abundant by comparison to some countries is very slow.

    You get 2 meg if your lucky and the wind is blowing strong behind your workstation.

    My internet used to be crippled during the day and would prohibit me using the net for anything at all.

    If i used the cloud I would have been sat with my head in the clouds waiting for stuff to come down the pipe all day.

    The cloud works in a thriving metropolis where everyone has T1 / T3 hardwired to their a-hole.

    The cloud is nonsense anywhere a bullet proof connection isn’t available.

    July 17, 2009 at 11:21 pm
  • Timbo D

    Totally agree guys!

    The idea that we are all tethered to an internet connection is a mistaken one. UK mobile broadband is still quite expensive and slow so not too many travelling laptop owners will be in the market for cloud computing IMHO.

    If you don’t want to use Windows, a recent Linux release of Kubuntu is pretty damned good and it boasts speed and open-source software.

    July 18, 2009 at 3:56 am
  • Ian

    Can’t even contemplate online software until we have a 99% guaranteed broadband link. Out here in rural Devon I would not risk having all my business files online.

    July 18, 2009 at 9:12 am
  • Santari

    Great news. Great news for broadband users. Great news for people who want technology that’s up-to-date and free and reliable – and doesn’t require you to apply a truckload of patches to fix an unending stream of security breaches.

    I love the idea of this rethink, so that we can have a product that will take our breath away by its infinite possibilities.

    July 18, 2009 at 2:11 pm