Google unveils Chrome Web store, laptop (live blog)

Google says it has "exciting news" about Chrome. Will it be a beta of the Netbook OS or a finished Chrome app store? We'll be live-blogging the news as it happens.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
16 min read

Editor's note: This live event has concluded. You can read a summary of what was announced today in our story here. To see the complete live blog, with updates from CNET's Erica Ogg, Rafe Needleman, and Seth Rosenblatt, along with some questions and commentary from readers, you can replay it in the Cover It Live module at the bottom of this page.

Google has invited us to an obscure corner of San Francisco on Tuesday for a special announcement concerning Chrome. It all starts at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, and we'll be live-blogging the event from Dogpatch Studios. You can also follow along with their live stream here: https://www.youtube.com/googlechrome.

What the announcement will be, exactly, we don't know yet. Chrome OS is Google's browser-based operating system that runs Web applications only. It's unlikely that Chrome will be ready for Netbooks this year as earlier promised, but the Chrome team might be demonstrating a near-final version for us. Or it's possible Google isready to take the wraps off its Web-based version of an app store, called the Chrome Web Store.

We'll have all the details in the CoverItLive module below as they unfold.

10:18 a.m. PT: Rafe: Hi folks!

10:19 a.m.: Rafe: Here at Google's Chrome OS event with Erica. Pix and news upcoming.

10:21 a.m.: Rafe: About 150 people, I think. They're doing a cute little video right now. We're in a warehouse-like building in the Dogpatch area of SF.

Sergey's toe shoes have not yet been spotted.

10:24 a.m.: Erica Ogg: OK, hi everyone. We're starting in about five minutes, they say. In the meantime we have some very soothing music to keep us company here.

10:25 a.m.: Comment from reader Anchel: I sincerely think this can be Google's most important event in some years. Not just because of Chrome OS, but because of the WebApp marketplace! If they show some promising apps this could be the real deal.

10:26 a.m.: Comment From naggyman: I am sure that they will talk about Google Cloud Print, among others.

10:28 a.m.: Rafe: Lots of silly cartoons about Chrome browser being shown right now.

10:30 a.m.: Rafe: Looks like we got a live video: https://www.youtube.com/googlechrome

10:31 a.m.: Erica Ogg: OK, we're about to start. VP of Product Management Sundar Pichai is welcoming us here.

10:32 a.m.: Erica Ogg: There are three areas we're going to cover, he says. First up, Chrome. Preview of where they're at now, future features, Chrome Web Store.

10:33 a.m.: Erica Ogg: There has been a profound shift from how people used to use browsers to now, he says. Chrome has the principles of modern OSes: speed, simplicity, and security.

10:34 a.m.: Erica Ogg: During Google I/O they said they had 70 million active Chrome users. Now there are 120 users today, he says. That growth is from every country, but especially in emerging markets like the Philippines and Albania.

10:35 a.m.: Rafe: Sundar is pointing to logs from leading tech blogs, saying Chrome is their leading browser. Do the digerati really drive mainstream adoption?

10:35 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Where does the growth come from? People say they like it because it's fast, he says.

Now we're going to hear from Brian Rakowski, director of product management for Chrome. He's going to talk to us about speed.

Brian Rakowski, director of product management for Chrome. Rafe Needleman/CNET

10:37 a.m.: Rafe: Speed speed speed. Eventually this is not going to be a differentiator, I hope.

10:37 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He's talking about the Google Search omnibox and how fast it is. With Google Instant in the search box, it's learned--for example, that when he types in "E" he wants ESPN.com.

10:39 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Content has to be fast, too. They're working on Chrome's built-in PDF reader. He uses, of course, the Chrome comic book as an example. He shows us how fast it loads, and it was pretty fast, though a 30-page PDF. Now he's using the Healthcare Reform Bill, at 1,990 pages. That shows up pretty quick, too.

10:42 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Graphical content should be fast, too. He's showing us a visualization of earthquakes with a spinning globe.

10:43 a.m.: Erica Ogg: One more demo of WebGL in the browser: the health team's model of a human body that, with a dragging motion, lets you peel away layers of skin, muscle, tissue, etc. It also allows quick searching for body parts, organs.

Getting under the skin of Chrome OS: graphics demo. Rafe Needleman/CNET

10:46 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Pichai is back. He's talking about speed again. He says all browsers are getting faster, but Google is adding an enhancement to V8 called Crankshaft. That means Chrome is 50 times faster than browsers two years ago, he says.

10:48 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Next topic: simplicity. Chrome is only there to help you use the Web, so it should be minimal and subtle. There are just 7 click targets on the top of the browser. Now, Chrome will have seamless updates, no modal dialogues asking you a question, and a synced experience on any computer.

10:49 a.m.: Erica Ogg: On to security, the most important area. "The bad guys have it easy on the Web these days," Pichai says.

That's because users don't update their browsers frequently enough. "It's never possible to design a perfectly secure system," though.

10:50 a.m.: Erica Ogg: So Google has full automatic updates for users. Also it's adding sandboxing, which means in case a bad piece of code gets in your browser, it's contained in your browser and doesn't compromise the rest of your data. "Chrome is the only true sandbox in a modern browser," according to Pichai.

10:51 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Now there is plug-in sandboxing. Google is working with popular plug-ins, like PDF, to do this. They're also sandboxing Flash, and are working with Adobe on that.

10:52 a.m: Erica Ogg: Now we're going to talk about the Chrome Web Store. We're getting a full demo today, after a recap, though.

Chrome Web Store Rafe Needleman/CNET

10:53 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He uses the Flixster phone app as an example. He didn't know that Flixster has a Web application too. Chrome Web Store will help Web apps stand out and make some money online.

10:53 a.m.: Rafe: Sundar: "Users and developers are not connecting." Right. Like on Apple app store. No connecting there.

10:55 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He's showing us the NPR news app in the Chrome store. It's a series of horizontal sliding panels, not a typical Web layout for stories. You can click on articles and add them to a "playlist." Then the stories will be read to you in the background while you're working/browsing.

Chrome NPR app Rafe Needleman/CNET

10:56 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Another type of apps is games: "the most popular application in every app store," Pichai says.

10:57 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can buy games in the store. The purchase process is integrated with your Google Checkout account so you can click to buy instantly.

10:58 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can also buy subscription apps that you can try for free.

10:59 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Mark Frons, CTO of digital operations for the NYT, is here to discuss their Chrome app.

10:59 a.m.: Comment from reader Terry: Rafe, regarding the Apple app store, I'm pretty sure it provided a lot of "inspiration" for Google. The distinction is mobile apps versus web apps... This is all good news for developers in that there might be some income streams in the midst of the free software desert... ;-)

10:59 a.m.: Erica Ogg: The app was built using HTML5, CSS3, and some special features of the Chrome browser, he says.

10:59 a.m.: Comment from reader naggyman: I am sure you guys have noticed that there is a bookmark for CNET on that demo!

11:00 a.m.: Rafe: naggyman: News to me!

11:00 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can choose different views of the NYT app. If you want to choose a photo-heavy presentation, or one that's just text, or one that prioritizes based on editors' picks, you can.

New York Times app Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:00 a.m.: Comment from reader Zack Williamson: Like I was saying in the BOL chat room, this is starting to get annoying. I don't want an App Store in my browser. I wanna code something once and it work across browsers. I want browsers to follow standards.

11:01 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Pichai adds after Frons leaves the stage that the NYT app works offline, too.

11:02 a.m.: Erica Ogg: EA is here to demo a game app, too. John Schappert, COO, is showing us how the integrated payment system works with their games on the Web Store.

11:04 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He's showing us a game called Poppit, a casual game where you pop balloons of the same color. In Chrome it's a full-screen game, a lot faster, and with a lot richer color.

Poppit demo Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:04 a.m.: Rafe: Really, EA? Poppit? "It's the fastest popper we've ever made."

11:05 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Poppit will be "embedded in Chrome 9," he says.

11:05 a.m.: Rafe: Poppit = Chrome's Minesweeper?

11:06 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Now, Eva Manolis and David Limp of Amazon are here to talk about their apps.

11:07 a.m.: Erica Ogg: The first one is Windowshop, available now through the Chrome Web Store. It's a stripped-down version of Amazon.com. You browse by images of the products in categories at the top of the app.

Amazon's Chrome app Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:07 a.m.: Comment from reader carolm: This MUST be a build-up to a new netbook or tablet!

11:07 a.m.: Rafe: It would make sense, carolm.

11:09 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can also browse for Kindle books. It's a new app called "Kindle for the Web." All the books you want right in the browser, no plug-ins, no downloads.

11:11 a.m.: Erica Ogg: When you launch Kindle for the Web, it looks like an app, not a Web page. You can choose different views, one that looks like Cover Flow for iTunes, or a grid layout. When you click a title, it brings in content from Shelfari, summaries of the book, etc. Or you can just read it.

Kindle for Web Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:12 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can choose typography, fonts, margins, colors. Anyone can add this to their own Web site and make a bookstore for themselves, with one-click purchasing, too.

The Web Store is ready today. It will roll out on Chrome.Google.com/Webstore later today.

11:13 a.m.: Erica Ogg: The store will be featured "very prominently." And in the U.S., it will have payments integrated first in Q1.

Erica Ogg: Now, to Chrome OS.

11:14 a.m.: Erica Ogg: People use the Web most of the time on their computers, Pichai says. But how most computers work is that most of the code on the system has nothing to do with the browser or the Web.

11:15 a.m.: Erica Ogg: "We wanted to rethink the personal computing experience on the modern Web," he says. "We've made sure it's as close as possible that Chrome is running on hardware directly."

A full demo of a Chrome notebook is coming.

11:17 a.m.: Erica Ogg: When a user gets a Chrome notebook and opens it up, the experience will be like this: open the box, choose Web connection, accept terms and conditions, check for updates, take profile account photo, then you're launched directly to a browser. It has apps, bookmarks, themes, extensions already in there.

Chrome OS desktop. Looks like Chrome. Rafe Needleman/CNET

Last step in setting up Chrome OS Netbook: Taking a new picture to connect to your Google account. Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:17 a.m.: Rafe: Chrome Netbook and OS on a new machine demo: "Zero to done in less than 60 seconds." Sweet OOBE.

11:18 a.m.: Erica Ogg: People always close the lid on their laptops, but it takes awhile for them to boot up again, he says. Chrome notebooks will have instant resume too. He's demoing this for us.

11:19 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He says the only "delaying factor" is how fast users can type when they first wake up their computers.

11:19 a.m.: Comment from reader Ami: Why a Netbook and not a tablet?

11:20 a.m.: Rafe: @Ami: I'm guessing they're going for the productivity market. Plus, they're Android for tabs.

11:20 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He's showing us a PC with Chrome next to a Chrome notebook.

11:20 a.m.: Erica Ogg: When you change something like a theme on the PC, it's instantly synced to your other Chrome device.

11:22 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can have different user IDs on a Chrome notebook. There's also a guest mode. All your guest needs to do is choose that mode, and a full Incognito browsing session starts.

Once he closes guest mode, the browsing session is wiped out completely.

11:24 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can work in Google Docs offline eventually and when you reconnect, it will show up in your Chrome device.

11:26 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can switch between Wi-Fi and cellular connections on a Chrome notebook.

11:27 a.m.: Erica Ogg: You can also print using Cloud Print to any device on your network with a Chrome notebook. That's in beta right now.

11:28 a.m.: Erica Ogg: They've partnered with Verizon to offer connectivity with Chrome notebooks. 100MB of free data every month for two years. You can pay for a plan, which starts at $9.99 for a day pass. He says no contracts, no activation fees, no overage fees or cancellation fees.

Chrome OS & Verizon Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:29 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Chrome notebooks have a Gobi world modem from Qualcomm inside.

11:31 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Now he's talking security on PCs. It's "an afterthought." With Chrome it's built-in, Pichai emphasizes. Auto updates, sandboxing at "the operating system level" not just the browser, default encrypted user data, and "verified boot."

11:33 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Verified boot takes the core initial part of the OS, it goes on read-only firmware, so no software can modify it. When you boot Chrome OS, it checks to make sure nothing has been modified. "It's very, very hard to compromise" that, he says. "The most secure consumer operating system that's ever been shipped."

11:33 a.m.: Comment from reader pesem: verified boot = anti rooting

11:34 a.m.: Comment from reader jamie: 100MB of free data sounds great; but what does a "day pass" mean?

11:35 a.m.: Rafe: You can buy cellular data access for just a day.

11:40 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Citrix is demoing how Citrix or SAP software can be used inside Chrome from a company's private cloud.

11:41 a.m.: Comment from reader Jonathan: i think [verified boot] will protect from malware, but it will also prevent tech geeks from fully enjoying their operating system.

11:44 a.m.: Rafe: Sundar's wrapping up...unless there's "one more thing," like hardware
Chrome OS: "Nothing but the Web."
* Instant Web
* Same experience everywhere
* Seamless sharing
* Always connected
* Security built in
* Forever new

11:45 a.m.: SethR: Not sure I buy the "computers get slower over time" line. My experience with Windows 7 has not had the system slowdowns that I experienced in XP, even after a year of using it.

11:45 a.m.: Rafe: Aha...hardware announcements.

11:46 a.m.: Erica Ogg: They're not fully done yet. Cloud Print is in beta stage. They need to tune performance more in Chrome. Acer, Samsung Chrome notebooks will go on sale in mid-2011. Other PC makers will follow that.

Pichai says he's been using a Chrome notebook as his primary device for six months. (Acer or Samsung? He doesn't say.)

11:47 a.m.: Erica Ogg: There will be a pilot program for early adopters who don't mind beta software. He's showing the Cr-48, a plain-looking, unbranded black notebook they're giving to pilot program users.

The Google Chrome OS Netbook, the Cr-48 Rafe Needleman/CNET

Chrome Netbook specs Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:48 a.m.: Rafe: I think the announcement that the branded Chrome OS Netbooks will ship in mid-2011 is in fact a big delay.

11:48 a.m.: Comment from reader Mehboob: wow looks good

11:48 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Funny: no caps lock key, which "will improve the quality of comments all over the Web."

11:49 a.m.: Erica Ogg: There's also no spinning hard drive, no function keys, and jail-breaking mode is built in.

11:49 a.m.: Rafe: I'm trying to square "verified boot" with "jail-breaking mode built in." Although the consumer products won't of course have that.

11:50 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Businesses in the pilot program: American Airlines, Kraft, Logitech, Virgin America, Defense Dept. researchers, the Intercontinental Hotel Group, and more.

11:51 a.m.: Rafe: Sundar: Dept. of Defense is interested. "And they know a thing or two about security." Uh huh, sure they do.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt Rafe Needleman/CNET

11:53 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Eric Schmidt is here too.

11:53 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He's talking about scaling complex systems to make simple solutions. Why is this so hard, he asks?

11:55 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He's talking about innovation on the Web, and the network computer with Oracle and others introduced in 1997.

11:57 a.m.: Erica Ogg: He says this is very similar. They did not understand exactly how big costs were going to be back then, though.

11:58 a.m.: Erica Ogg: Only now could a modern browser like Chrome emerge, he says. But he was not interested in being in the browser business and tried to block it. But Larry and Sergey hired some people who worked on Firefox anyway.

12:00 p.m.: Erica Ogg: He says he now likes how a whole industry is working on a set of platforms. HTML5 makes it possible to build powerful apps on a PC or a Mac on a browser. Every vendor, including competitors of Google, have announced an HTML5 strategy.

12:00 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Finally there's a viable third choice for browsers, Schmidt says.

12:01 p.m.: Erica Ogg: "Think of this as a journey," he says. They didn't have the tools years ago. But now it does work. You can build everything on the Web now. Mobile computing architecture enables this now, but previously it wasn't, he says.

12:02 p.m.: Erica Ogg: And that's it from Schmidt.

12:03 p.m.: Erica Ogg: And that's a wrap. There's a Q&A with some of the Google speakers now.

A panel of Googlers answer questions about Chrome Web Store and Chrome OS. Rafe Needleman/CNET

Rafe: In picture: Sundar Pichai, Linus Upson, Brian Rakowski, Ceasar Sengupta, and the PR guy.

12:04 p.m.: Erica Ogg: First question on everyone's mind: Price.

12:04 p.m.: Rafe: OK, so here's what you get later today: the Chrome Web Store, at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/ Not live yet though.

And in 2011, you get Chrome OS hardware. Unless you're a developer or one of the Chosen, in which case you might get the Cr-48, the Nexus One of Netbooks.

12:04 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Partner OEMs will announce their own prices when they ship them. No other details from Google.

12:06 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: "Are you defining 'Web' as the 'new native app'?" A: Yes.

12:06 p.m.: Rafe: Sundar reminds us: "It is fully possible to use standard Web apps" to do everything you want today in a productivity app.

12:07 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: Will Chrome Web Store be on other browsers too? A: It can work on every browser, but the install, navigation, and integrated payments work with Chrome.

12:08 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: Will Cr-48 work with other carriers besides Verizon? A: Users are tied to Verizon.

12:08 p.m.: Rafe: Q: Will Web store work on Chrome on Android? A: No.

12:09 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: How do you think Chrome OS will differentiate from Microsoft OS and how is it better? A: The entire experience is different. You won't confuse it with Windows. Your data is in the cloud.

12:13 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: How do you put Chrome OS on a Windows XP PC? A: We're not supporting every PC that's ever been shipped. But verified boot, for example, requires new hardware. Chromium OS is already out there that you can install on a range of hardware.

12:14 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: Is this a better tablet OS than Android? A: These are two different approaches to computing. Both are valid and provide choice. Our hope is that several OEMs will adopt this. We want users to use what they want. As long as it's Google, we're happy.

12:14 p.m.: Rafe: Google blog post about Web Store and Chrome OS: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/

12:15 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: How do we make money on the Chrome Web Store? A: Businesses who want this will be a source of revenue. Kind of like Google Apps for enterprise.

12:16 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: When will new version of Chrome launch? A: The version with Crankshaft is available today but it's for very early adopters. Chrome 9 is in beta.

12:17 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: When will Chrome notebook with ARM support hit the market? A: Current partners are using Intel architecture and we're relying on them to lead the way.

12:19 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: How will Chrome OS data sync to, say, an Android phone? A: We don't have plans or announcements on Android right now.

12:23 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: Since we last heard about Chrome, how have Android tablets and the iPad changed how consumers will use Chrome? A: This experience can be brought to a variety of devices. We're starting with laptops right now. But we scale larger and smaller. Cr-48 is what we've had in mind since the beginning, that hasn't changed at all. But after that there will be more interesting things.

12:24 p.m.: Erica Ogg: You can do anything you want with the hardware as a developer. You can install any software you want. There's a hardware switch to allow that.

12:25 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: Will there be a Google-branded Chrome notebook? Will you sell directly? A: No. First devices from Samsung and Acer.

12:26 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: How will encryption work? Will it be legal everywhere around the world? A: I'm not a lawyer, I don't know encryption law everywhere. For more details, look up Chrome OS security.

12:27 p.m.: Comment from reader Mike Hayes: Is the developer mode hardware switch guaranteed to be made available on branded devices from the likes of Acer and Samsung? I can imagine different manufacturers deciding to pull this out of their hardware.

12:27 p.m.: Rafe: @Mike Hayes, yes, it does not sound like a Verizon-friendly feature.

12:27 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: Do you sign in with your Google account? A: Yes. Working with standards to allow OpenID. But you can use guest mode too. Nothing ties Chrome or Chrome OS to Google. But you don't need to use Google account to use Chrome or Chrome OS.

12:28 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Q: Can you talk about ports on existing devices? HDMI, DisplayPort coming? A: We support keyboards, mice through USB. Printers, etc.? We have Cloud Print so you don't need drivers or have to install anything.

12:28 p.m.: Rafe: With Cloud Print, Google is really trying to eliminate the whole issue of having to deal with printer drivers, both for users and in their own OS. Godspeed on that, Google.

12:29 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Other ports over time? Definitely. HDMI is on our road map.

12:31 p.m.: SethR: "The difference between ChromeOS and Windows/Mac is that we're trying to separate the drivers from the OS."

12:32 p.m.: Erica Ogg: Last Q: Will there be LTE capability when these are launched on Verizon? A: Too early to tell.

12:33 p.m.: Erica Ogg: OK, that's the end. Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Editors' note: The original, barebones version of this story was posted December 6 at 3:29 p.m. PT.