Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Polishing the Chrome

By Andrew Till
Another week and another new OS to throw in to the melting pot of the mobile industry. I am of course referring to the announcement of Google’s latest “bling” Chrome OS designed for the Netbook market. While details remain somewhat limited and the release dates appear to be more 2010 than 2009 it does raise a number of questions. Why does Google need another OS for the mobile segment, what does this mean for all those busily working on Android netbooks and what’s the key story for developers. Of course some of these questions will not be answered until we can get our hands on the SDK and source code but here are some initial thoughts.

  • To date no one has been able to produce a single OS that crosses all platforms and I include Apple in this statement.
  • Android is designed for entry level netbooks down to mass market mobile phones. Chrome OS goes in the opposite direction and starts with netbooks and scales up to PCs. Notably support for x86 will be included from day one.
  • Both Chrome OS and Android use Chrome as the browser and therefore we can expect strong commonality for gadgets and web services and hence there should be a common development environment for application developers that want to span the broad range of mobile and desktop devices.
  • While Chrome OS is a separate project from Android it will, like Android, be an OSS project. Therefore we can also expect to see the community work to bring alignment to many common components that all devices will have such as the WiFi stacks for example.
  • We can also reasonably expect a strong level of commonality for development tools.

Finally while I can not help but wonder about the timing with the official release of source code being some six months away. Was this in part driven by Intel’s recent moves to support the Atom/Moblin platform? Or the growing rumours regarding Apple launching its own netbook at next year’s CES. One can only guess. However it does suggest that the market for netbooks is heating up and 2010 is set to be a key year for this emerging segment.

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