Google Chrome OS announcement – Liveblogged!
Yes, this is last minute, but I just found out about an upcoming webcast – in theory – announcing the forthcoming Google Chrome OS. Watch here for updates…
13:02 EST — Apparently some presenters are stuck in traffic, webcast will begin soon…
13:05 EST — Webcast beginning – Google VP of prod development speaking. No launch today, about a year away from announcing a release… Lots of progress thus far…
13:06 EST — As of today, the code will be fully Open Source. Google developers will work on the same source tree as the rest of the world. Google Chrome is the foundation of everything being done.
13:10 EST — Tons of new stuff coming this year in Chrome. Chrome for Mac ready for production use before end of 2009. Same for Chrome for Linux. Extensions system will be significantly enhanced as well. Extensions will be automatically kept up-to-date for users. Google is working hard to give web applications more opportunities to access system-level resources, from within the browser – web applications should have access to the GPU, multi-core CPUs (and threading), and real-time communication. More offline usability, with local storage. The whole idea is to give web apps the full functionality and richness of desktop applications. In 2010 all these APIs should be fully integrated into Chrome, Google is also working with other browser vendors.
13:12 EST — There have been powerful trends happening in the industry along with Chrome’s evolution. Netbooks have been growing hugely, despite economic hardships worldwide. There is also more pervasive usage of cloud computing researchers. There is also a lot of innovation on the device front – phones are getting smarter, tablets are showing up on the market, there is convergence between traditional form factors and small portable form factors. Phones are becoming more like regular computers (horsepower wise) and netbooks are becoming more like phones. All these trends are changing our model of personal computing. This is what Chrome OS is.
13:17 EST — With Chrome OS, Google is focused on speed, simplicity and security. Needs to be blazingly fast, like an appliance – ready to use from turn-on. End-to-end experience, including boot time, will be very fast. In Chrome OS, every application is a web application – no installation, no updates, just a URL. This reduces the lack-of-familiarity encountered by new users. All data will be in the cloud (DR: hmmm, not sure how I feel about this). This will include all personalization, applications, data.
13:18 EST — With everything being a web application, can do different things with security than is done now. Since no binaries are installed on the system, malicious code can be detected much more easily, and problems can be fixed with a reboot.
13:19 EST — Doing a cold boot right now – 7 seconds to login! Holy cow! Google is still working to reduce this time further. Logging in takes about 3 seconds. It looks like Chrome, the desktop looks like a browser. Now going to do a walkthrough of the UI. This is not fully baked yet, will change over the next year, but everything is now open and many of the concepts shown today will carry over to the final product.
13:21 EST — Running apps are separated into tabs across the top of the screen, just like tabbed browsing. Apps are shown in a tab. Panels can pop up from the bottom of the screen; they’re “persistent lightweight windows” that can be rolled up and down. They hold things like chat windows, contacts, buddy lists, music players etc.
13:25 EST — Showing examples, such as flash-based full-screen chess game, e-book reading (such as from Google Books).
13:27 EST — YouTube and Flash are currently working, running very smoothly. I wonder what kind of hardware this demo is running on?? Tabs (within each browser) can be dragged and dropped between Chrome windows. There is also a “zoomed-out” view that shows all the running windows in real time.
13:30 EST — Showing a file browser; it’s columnar, like a Mac. Just plugged in a USB drive with pictures and Excel. Opening an Excel file opens it in MS Excel’s web version. The open framework – the web – allows access to all the existing web apps. Now taking a picture with the Droid, and plugging it in… Now showing pictures and videos from the Droid – pictures show right in the browser, and video plays in the persistent media player panel window (rolled up from the bottom). PDF files show directly within the browser (using Google Docs of course).
13:31 EST — Now some talk about under the hood… All code will be released today, open-source, you can build it yourself. All of the design documents are also open-sourced. So far, all Chrome OS hardware devices have been flash-based. This is part of the speed advantage that has been achieved. Google’s engineering efforts are going as far down as the BIOS, optimizing speed by cutting out legacy boot steps. There is custom firmware, an optimized kernel, and no need to start up background services to support traditional applications.
13:33 EST — On the security front, they have a core firmware, and there are signatures that are checked at each boot that verify the core components of the OS. If there are any malicious changes, the cryptographic signatures won’t match and the malicious code can be corrected. Control isn’t passed to a piece of code until its signature passes. The system will be self-repaired on a reboot – via a component-based re-image, but system settings and cached data are saved.
13:36 EST — How do we make sure applications don’t harm the machine? The traditional security model means each application runs with the user’s privileges. Users must make the decision to trust an application. Since all the applications are web applications, they have a different security model – Apps are treated as fundamentally hostile at the system level, so the browser restricts what they can do and access. Chrome OS goes even farther, using a “security sandbox”, chroot’ing, Linux namespaces and compiler stack protection. Every tab is completely locked down and separated from both other tabs, and the underlying operating system.
13:39 EST — The file system is locked down, and all user data is encrypted. System area is read-only; the operating system can’t be modified during normal run. User data is encrypted so it’s safe, even if the machine is lost or stolen. The user data is also replicated to the cloud constantly. Local data is only used as an accelerated cache. A new machine can be re-synced with the cloud.
13:43 EST — Go-to-market plan. No details today, just high level overview. Chrome OS will be released especially for reference hardware. For example, only solid state drives and specific WLAN cards will be supported. This ties the hardware more closely with the underlying hardware. Google are working with OEMs to bring Chrome OS to market. Consumers will not be able to download and install Chrome OS on existing hardware. The goal is to get these machines to market by Holiday 2010.
13:45 EST — Google working with OEMs to specify larger netbooks, full-sized keyboards, larger displays with higher resolutions. As of today, the full codebase is open. Google developers and community developers will work from the same source tree. Many open source projects have already been pulled in – the Linux kernel, Ubuntu, Mobiln, Webkit. Code will be committed back upstream, Google want to be good FOSS citizens. Chrome OS can be run on existing netbooks available on the market today, but devs will need to get out their screwdrivers and get ready to do some under-the-hood tinkering.
13:47 EST — Google showing a promotional video (update: you can see it over here at YouTube). Basically claims that the web browser is the most important thing on your computer. Talks through the things that make existing OSs slow compared with Chrome OS. Also advocates for web apps and cloud computing.
13:50 EST — Time for Q&A. Q: Can Android apps be run on Chrome OS? Could Chrome OS sync with your Android device, so that the Android device provides cloud services to your Chrome OS device? A: Google is focused right now on getting the OS to market. But with the openness of the OS and the platform, and community participation, they expect unique things to come from that. Q: What will these devices cost? A: Google expects price ranges to be consistent with what people are used to today. Official pricing will be released by the OEMs, and there is no price target being dictated to OEMs by Google. The demo was run on an off-the-shelf EeePC (DR: thanks!).
13:55 EST — Q: How can interested manufacturers get included in the hardware considerations for Chrome OS? A: Google has already been reaching out to a large and diverse group of OEMs. Device manufacturers can also look at the design documentation, and design for compatibility. Google is also working very closely with the standards bodies, and they want to make sure that both the hardware, the OS and the apps are as standards-compliant as possible. Q: Will Google approve drivers? Will substitution be allowed? A: Google is working closely with hardware vendors right now. They want to make sure the drivers are open-source and based on the reference designs wherever possible. Q: Will Google have an app store? A: There have been some app discovery concepts kicked around, but there are already many apps out there. Q: What sorts of editing applications (i.e. photo and video) will be available? A: Google anticipates early adopters will already have another computer at home. The use cases are primarily web-based, but the majority of use cases will be covered. There will be some things the machine won’t be able to do.
13:58 EST — Q: What codecs will be supported? A: Everything that works in Chrome will be supported in Chrome OS. This includes Flash. Working toward hardware acceleration wherever possible. There will also be feature feedback from Chrome OS back to Chrome – so apps developed for Chrome OS will be usable by the existing very large Chrome browser user base. Q: How about silverlight? A: Chrome OS will support certain select plug-ins, but the framework is still under development. Q: Will non-Chrome browsers be supported? A: If another browser vendor wanted to make a similar OS and integrate their browser, they can leverage the open source nature of the OS. There is no plan to offer multiple browser capability. Q: Is more device diversity (beyond netbooks) anticipated? A: Initial focus is fully on netbook-like form factors, but the system is being designed so that it can run on various other form factors – trying to avoid constraints.
14:07 EST — Q: What happens when you’re offline? A: The device is primarily intended for use with connectivity, specifically WiFi (focus is on 802.11n). However, there are use cases where you can plug in media, cache it locally, etc – such as music, video, e-books, etc. With HTML5, web applications can take advantage of offline capabilities and persistent storage. Q: What about virtualization? Can it be run in a virtual machine now? A: Yes, this is already being done now within Google’s development workflow. Q: Is Google working with partners to bring more rich web-based apps, or web-enabled versions of existing apps, to market? Will Android apps run on Chrome? A: Google wants to really advance HTML5 and advanced, high-feature web apps. Since every app in Chrome OS is a web app, it is not anticipated that Android apps will run on Chrome OS. Google’s plan is to only support web apps.
14:10 EST — Q: Will Chrome OS work on ARM architecture? A: Chrome OS will function on both x86 and ARM architectures. This includes Native Client. Google “will make sure” there is a way to run native client based applications on both x86 and ARM hosts. Q: When will Chrome OS move beyond netbooks? Is there a direct business model / monetization strategy? A: Google’s current focus is to get the OS ready and shipping on netbooks right now. As for the business model, it will be fully free and open-source, and increased use of the web benefits Google. There are no plans to include dedicated advertising.
14:12 EST — Q: What makes Chrome OS different from existing browsers? Is this anything that can’t be done with existing web apps? A: Google is taking a standards-based approach. So the browser is standard, so the idea is that the browser is the OS – cuts out a lot of overhead. The key advantages are fast boot, key-based security and malware protection, and filesystem-based security. Q: Why should people trust cloud computing? A: If the cloud is down, it affects most users, not just Chrome OS users. Trust-wise, it’s important to Google that users have choice. Since everything is open, developers can educate users on what’s happening.
I’m going to break off liveblogging now – amazingly, there is life outside of Google and Chrome OS! Hope you enjoyed daverea.com’s brief coverage of Google’s Chrome OS announcement… Keep your eyes open, as I’m sure there will be folks showing how to build and try Chrome OS yourself soon!