Google releases Chrome OS source code

Ahead of an event designed to show off the OS for the first time, Google has released source code for the project. More is expected, including a demonstration.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
4 min read

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Google has released the source code for its Chrome OS project, as it prepares to show off the lightweight operating system for the first time.

Sundar Pichai, Google's VP of product management
Sundar Pichai, Google's VP of product management Google

Google has invited much of the technology press to an event here at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters Thursday morning to demonstrate Chrome OS, which it is developing for Netbooks as a new type of operating system. However, those of you who speak code can get started poking around with the operating system at the Chromium project blog, as spotted by the Google Operating System blog.

Several Google engineers are expected to speak at the event Thursday morning, as Google shows off Chrome OS after first announcing it in July. We'll have regular updates as events warrant.

Updated 10:10 a.m. PST: Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management for Google, kicked off the presentation by setting expectations: Google is about a year away from releasing Chrome OS. There will be no beta today, and no products to announce, but the main news is that the "code is fully open," he said, allowing Google developers to work on the project hand-in-hand with the community.

Updated 10:22 a.m. PST: Pichai ran through a lot of things we already know building up to the big reveal: Netbook shipments are growing, people are doing more and more in their browser as opposed to running desktop applications, and laptops and smartphones are converging into new types of devices like tablets and e-readers.

Every application on Chrome OS will be a Web application, Pichai said. This will help improve speed and especially security, since users won't be installing applications to their systems, he said.

Google is actually running the presentation on a Chrome laptop, although Pichai warns that because Chrome OS is a year away from release, the actual UI could change between now and then. If you've used Chrome, you've seen the basic Chrome OS UI.

Watch this: Google Chrome OS unveiling

Updated 10:36 a.m. PST: Matt Papakipos, engineering director for Chrome OS, took over for Pichai to explain how Google is making Chrome OS work under the hood. Google's whole idea is to make Chrome-based laptops more like televisions: flip a switch, and it's on. They are eliminating the boot loader and optimizing the kernel so that all the services that normally load with an OS at start-up don't load until they are needed.

They are using a verified boot process that uses multiple signature keys to verify whether or not Web applications are legitimate. Papakipos demonstrates what happens when Chrome OS tries to download malware: it detects the malware and reboots the system back to a clean image, which is much easier than doing such a thing on a regular PC or Mac because it's Web-oriented and the data is backed up in the cloud.

Updated 10:46 a.m. PST: Pichai retakes the stage to talk about how Chrome OS Netbooks will make it on store shelves. They're not ready to talk about these plans in detail since we're about a year away, but there's a few plans that are relatively solid.

Google will specify components for Chrome OS Netbook partners: you won't be able to download Chrome OS on an existing Netbook, you'll have to buy a Chrome OS-optimized Netbook. For example, Google won't support hard drives: Chrome OS Netbooks will have to use solid-state drives. "We really want the software to understand the underlying hardware," Pichai said.

The hope is that these Netbooks will be ready by next year's holiday season, Pichai said. There's no word on price yet, but Google hinted that it's going to require Netbook makers to deliver slightly larger Netbooks than are currently en vogue, with full-size keyboards and bigger touch pads.

Updated 10:55 a.m. PST: Even though Google is specifying hardware components, Pichai was not ready to talk about pricing for Chrome OS-Netbooks during a question and answer session. It's hard to predict a year ahead of time what components will cost, he claimed, and said that Google is not setting a specific price point for Chrome OS Netbooks. He did say that Chrome OS Netbooks will likely slot into the prices that people are used to paying for Netbooks today.

Updated 11:11 a.m. PST: Pichai said Google is working on ways to make Chrome OS useful in offline situations, taking advantage of technologies like Google Gears. But this is an operating system designed primarily for online use, he said, later dodging a question about whether or not wireless WAN chips for cellular networks would be part of the Chrome OS Netbook specifications.

Chrome OS Netbooks will run on both x86 and ARM chips, Pichai said. All applications created for the Netbooks will be Web applications, he said: Google does not appear to have plans to allow native applications to run directly on the processor.