Today in an event in San Francisco, Eric Schmidt and other Google executives took the wraps of Chrome OS and revealed that notebooks running the new sysetm will be available in mid-2011.
Google also launched a pilot program for consumers: sign up at youtube.com/googlechrome and you can apply to get a 12.1-inch non-branded netbook running the new OS.
Google promises that notebooks based on Chrome will start up in less than 60 seconds, resume from sleep almost immediately, and–critically–will come with built-in cellular wireless connections. The company is also partnering with Verizon to provide a wide variety of low-cost cellular plans, including daily and 1GB use plans.
In demos, the OS itself looks like…the Chrome browser taking up the entire desktops.
Our transcript from the event is below:
10:30 PT: Vice president of product management Sudar Pichai is taking the stage. When they launched the Chrome browser, they almost thought of it as an OS. Focus on speed, simplicity, and security.
10:33: Chrome has 120 million active daily users. That’s 300% growth since January. Why? Biggest reason is speed.
10:35: Brian Rakowski is taking the stage to do a demo of the Chrome browser’s speed, using Google Instant in the Chrome “omnibox” (the address bar/search pane at the top). So far, no news…just a cheerleading session for a 2-year-old browser. So where’s the OS? Where are the netbooks?
10:38: Now he’s demoing Chrome’s super-fast PDF reader using the Chrome comic book. It is pretty slick–a 20 page PDF shows up immediately. The 1,990 page PDF of the health care reform bill? Also shows up immediately. That’s far better than PDF on Firefox/Windows.
10:39: Note: the Chrome demo is on Windows 7.
10:40: Now he’s showing a GPU-powered demo of interactive fish using WebGL, a part of the HTML5 spec. This is very similar to the HTML5 demos that Microsoft has been showing for Internet Explorer 9. Only this demo has sharks shooting lasers out of their eyes!
10:44: Pichai is back talking about the V8 engine launched with Chrome. At the time of launch in 2008, Chrome was 8x faster than any other browser, and 16x faster than the current version of IE.
10:45: First news: a new technology added to the V8 engine called Crankshaft that will make it even faster. Overall, the Chrome browser is now 100x faster than competing browsers four years ago.
10:48: A new feature called “same Chrome experience everywhere.” Basically you’ll get the same UI no matter where you log in from. Same home page, favourite sites, and so on.
10:49: Security update: “plug-in sandboxing.” This basically isolates third-party plug-ins so they can’t interact with other code in the browser or on your machine. The PDF reader built into Chrome is already sandboxed, and Google’s working with Adobe to get it into a sandbox as well.
10:52: The Chrome Web Store is officially unveiled. Not a surprise–the store was first announced at the Google I/O conference earlier this year and has been “coming soon” for a while now.
10:54: Here’s the demo. It’s got a gallery with a bunch of apps–looks a lot like Apple’s App Store (and just about every other one). NPR, Sports Illustrated. The apps look a lot like, well, apps. Not Web pages.
Photo: Matt Rosoff
10:56: Games! He’s showing how to buy and install an app. You enter your Google credentials and it installs the app in about 5 to 10 seconds. Nice. This is an interactive Flash game called Dreams, it costs $1.99.
10:59: Marc Frons from teh new York Times is now demoing NYTimes for the Chrome Web Store.
11:00: Hmm, it looks like an RSS reader. Once you get into it a bit, though, the pages are laid out in a more newspaper-like way. You can use your keyboard to navigate between sections. You can also browse sections from within any story, and up to the minute breaking news alerts.
11:01: The NYTimes application works offline. So will a lot of other Chrome Web Store apps. That’s new.
11:02: EA’s COO John Schappert is announcing that EA games are coming to the Chrome Web Store. He’s showing Poppit from Pogo.com in the Chrome Web browser. Now he’s showing the new HTML5 version. It looks prettier, performs faster.
11:05: That’s whey they’re demoing Poppit: it’ll be embedded when you download Chrome 9.
11:06: Amazon is coming on stage to demonstrate two Chrome Web Store apps. The first is Windowshop (which launched for the iPad in October) gives shoppers a more visually interesting way to search and browse products on Amazon.
11:09: Kindle for the Web. Built using HTML5 to read books directly within the browser. It looks and feels like an application. High performance as you scroll through the library. Reading looks a lot like Kindle app on iPad and elsewhere.
11:13: OK, they’re finally talking about Chrome OS. Pichai says it’s hard to name a single desktop application that isn’t on the Web. But most of the code on a PC are not related to the Web–most OSs were designed before the Web existed.
11:15: Now comes the Chrome demo. When you “first open a Chrome netbook,” the first thing you do is connect to the Internet. Then you take a picture of yourself. Then you’re up and running–60 seconds from the time you open the netbook to the time you are ready to start computing. Also instant resume. The machine is in full standby mode, connects to back to the Internet faster than the user can finish typing.
11:20:When you uninstall an app on one machine, it’ll disappear on the other machine as well. Changes in apps propagate across all Chrome machines within 20 seconds.
11:21: Sharing computers. She can walk away with the computer, log in with her credentials, and it’s instantly customised with her apps and info. It’s like Fast User Switching for Windows…only everything’s stored in the cloud. Guest mode–everything’s private, no access to your data, and when the guest closes out his session the data from that session is gone.
11:22: Now the big question: if everything’s in the cloud, what happens with no Internet connection? Google Docs works even when offline. When connectivity is restored, changes are automatically synced. (The Docs team is still working on this.) Games–can cache HTML5 games offline, play even on a plane. NYTimes reader app–same thing.
11:25: That said, “computers aren’t that useful when they’re not connected.” So they’re putting technology to help users always stay connected.
11:26: Every Chrome notebook will ship with built-in cellular connectivity through a deal with Verizon. The plan offers 100MB of free data per month for two years. No contracts. Plans start as low as $9.99. (Hmm, I’m suddenly glad I bought my Verizon VZ modem for Windows on a month-to-month basis rather than with a two-year contract.) There are day passes available, or 1GB at a time. Plans are not renewed automatically just because you buy it once.
11:29: Security. With other OSs, the user is responsible for making sure the entire OS plus all apps are up to date. Users have to decide what apps to install. Click wrong once, the machine’s compromised.
11:30: With Chrome, updates are automatic, apps run in sandboxes, and all data is encrypted by default. There’s also something called “verified boot.” The core initial part of the OS is locked in an area of the device where no software can touch it. It’s physically isolated. Every time user boots, that safe part checks every other component of the OS, if it detects any changes, will keep a backup copy. Microsoft has similar technology called BitLocker, but it;’s available only for enterprises–Google wants Chrome OS to be the “first consumer OS” with this kind of security.
11:33: Speaking of enterprises…Google says they’ve been inundated with interest. Citrix senior VP Gordon Payne is getting up to demonstrate how Citrix can be used on Chrome OS to access corporate applications. This is a direct blow against Microsoft’s enterprise business–it removes another reason why IT departments might require Windows. The app is Citrix Receiver, which already runs on a bunch of other platforms–iOS, Android, and so on. It’ll work with Chrome OS as well. Available in the first half of next year.
11:38: Demonstrating Microsoft Excel, running on a server, accessed through Citrix Receiver on chrome OS. It opens faster than Excel on some PCs I’ve used, that’s for sure. Here’s SAP. A CAD application. This is the heavy-lifting type of application that a lot of IT departments assume has to run locally on a user’s PC. Google is trying to show that’s not the case.
11:42: This is cloud computing in a nutshell. Everything runs in the datacenter, is accessed over the network. IT departments like it because it’s easier to manage a few instances of apps on a server than to touch every single computer every time client code needs to be updated. Of course, there are performance issues–if the network isn’t working, what happens then?
11:44: Pichai is back. He’s talking about how PCs get slower over time as software and hardware gets added to it. With Chrome, Google will completely update the OS periodically.
11:45: So when will these Chrome OS netbooks be available? It’s not quite done. USB–not quite there. Some apps demoed today–not quite there.
11:45: Acer and Samsung, along with Intel, will be delivering the first Chrome notebooks in the middle of 2011. But Google is testing it internally with “thousands” of Googlers.
11:46: Now they’re going to expand the pilot program beyond Google. Sweet. The device is a non-branded black notebook that they’re calling Cr-48 (named after a Chromium isotope). “The hardware exists to test the software.” It;’s got a 12.1-inch screen, built-in 3G, built-in Wi-Fi, 8+ hours of battery life. This is probably the baseline we can expect for real Chrome netbooks.
11:48: NO CAPS LOCKS KEYS ON THIS TEST NOTEBOOK. HOW WILL THE INTERNET SURVIVE?
11:49: Details of the pilot program. A bunch of companies, including Virgin America, Logitech, American Airlines, and Kraft are participating.
11:50: Ah, the pilot program for consumers. The offer will show up in a new tab of the Chrome browser. Click it, and they’ll ship you a Chromium netbook. Go to www.youtube.com/googlechrome and you can apply with a video. And audience members will also get one. Everybody else, apply through http://www.google.com/chromenotebook.
11:52: Eric Schmidt is taking the stage.There are no real new ideas in computing. So why is it so difficult to get cloud computing off the ground–the idea’s been around forever as network computing.
11:56: It was too hard to build great Web applications. AJAX apps came out in the early 2000s (Gmail was one of the first.). He also credits Linux, Apache, PHP/Perl, and other open-source back-end technologies. It took us all of this work where a modern browser could emerge in the form of Chrome.
11:58: Originally, Schmidt was absolutely not interested in being in the browser or OS business. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted to, so they hired some people who’d worked on Firefox, they ended up building Chrome. Schmidt came around eventually.
11:59: Schmidt also credits reliable networks. Finally, with the adoption of HTML5, it’s finally possible to build the powerful apps we’re used to seeing on the PC and Mac, but exclusively on the Web. “It really is a standard…even Microsoft has announced support.”
12:02PT: Schmidt has left the stage, the event is wrapping up.
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