Your first question might be "What do you mean Google is launching Chrome OS, it's already been out for a year and a half," and you'd be right. However, Google held an official launch event today in which they detailed some of the advancements the OS has made during its time in development and, more importantly, outlined when and how consumers will be able to get their hands on official Chrome OS-touting hardware. Let's start with the features.
Living on the Web
As a company that provides a host of great web applications it certainly behooves Google to claim that, when it comes to computing, everything is better when it's served on the web. When you live in the cloud you can access all of your files and applications from any computer, you never have to worry about backing up because all of your information is stored elsewhere, and you don't have to worry about computer specs because almost any modern computer has enough processing power to run a web browser.
With Chrome OS you don't run traditional desktop applications, everything is web-based, and you can hone in on all of the benefits mentioned above. Google has refocused on speed, simplicity and security. If you've ever used the Google Chrome web browser Chrome OS will be a familiar sight, but because Chrome OS runs on the hardware directly (you don't need an operating system like Windows or Mac OS X to run the browser), browsing speed and computer boot times are increased significantly.
The Age of the App
It's fairly apparent that you can get most of your daily computing tasks taken care of via apps, but how are you going to get the applications in the first place? Google has a solution for you there as well. At today's event they went into a little more detail about the Chrome Web Store, which gives users access to a huge selection of web applications that they can run from Chrome OS. Think Apple's iOS App Store, or even Google's Android Marketplace except every app runs in the browser.
Amazon's offerings were featured at the event today as both the Windowshop and Kindle applications were highlighted, and I was very impressed with the translation these apps make to the web-only platform. I've used Windowshop and Kindle on my iPad and they both provide great user experiences, so to see that developers are starting to create well-rounded web applications that mimmick their desktop counterparts is impressive.
Google also announced that all of the Chrome OS laptops will come with a built-in data connection provided by Verizon. As a heavy user I'm a little concerned about the data caps Verizon has placed on the built-in data plans (only 100 megabytes per month, a limit that anyone of the folks at protocol 80 could probably blast through in an afternoon), but Google has noted that you can also buy "day passes" for $10 that will give you more access. Presumably there will also be plans that you can pay monthly for that will give you a higher cap as with Verizon's mobile phone plans, but they didn't announce pricing or availability on such plans today.
Take a Test Drive
Folks will actually be able to purchase a Chrome OS device by mid-2011, but if you just can't wait that long you can toss your hat in the ring and hopefully be picked as apart of Google's Chrome OS pilot program. As with any new platform Chrome OS needs to be tested, and right now they're accepting applications from various types of users so that they can work out the kinks in the hardware and software before traditional consumers can buy a Chrome OS computer. Head on over to Google's pilot program form to maybe get your hands on a laptop, and if we are selected you can look forward to future posts detailing the Chrome OS hardware and software!
Do you use the Chrome web browser, and if so do you think you could make it through a day using only a web browser to complete your computing tasks? Let us know in the comments below!