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Google Shows Off Chrome OS, Releases Source

Google Chrome OS
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Google today released surprising new details about the Chrome operating system it's been developing.

First off, a final version of the Chrome OS won't be available until near the end of next year, in time for the holiday shopping season.

During a presentation here at the company's headquarters, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) executives also said the plan is to tie Chrome to systems using solid-state drives that support fast booting and performance.

Specifically, Google said Chrome OS will be available next year only in netbooks and other solid-state devices from companies working with Google.

"We are initially fully focused on the netbook form factor, the clamshell design," said Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management. "In the future, we want Chrome OS to be on laptops and desktops, but we're not focused on that for 2010."

The company also said that as of today, the Chrome OS project is going completely open source -- in theory, enabling someone to take the code and develop it for another browser.

Chrome OS: First looks

Google demoed the current prototype version of Chrome OS on a netbook, showing tabs for applications that can be easily bookmarked and easy access to information.

The OS includes what Google calls "panels," which are persistent, lightweight windows that don't move unless they are minimized or closed by the user. The advantage is that a chat window or notepad app, for instance, will stay persistently in the foreground, readily available.

With Chrome OS, data and applications are tied to the user account stored in the cloud -- so if, for example, you lose or don't have access to your netbook, you can move to another Chrome-supported netbook and have your same data and applications available.

In the demo, Pichai showed how some text he put into the OS's notepad app could be viewed easily when logging in via another system.

Pichai said there are no plans to offer an app store for Chrome OS, but he said the company was working on ways to make the "millions of applications available on the Web" more discoverable.

Pichai and Matthew Papakipos, the engineering director for Google Chrome OS, emphasized security advantages of the new operating system, detailing how the system's "sandbox" separates out applications and data to keep them secure -- and regularly checks the validity, safety and current version of the running OS.