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Google shows Chrome notebook, Web Store

At a press event, Google demonstrates a prototype Chrome OS notebook, called the Cr-48, as well as the Chrome Web Store, which is set to launch sometime today.

SAN FRANCISCO--The Chrome OS hardware Google promised in July of last year is still not ready for prime time. But if you're a developer or an eager early adopter, you're in luck.

At an event today here in the city's Dogpatch neighborhood Google showed us the not-yet-finished hardware that will run Chrome OS. It's called Cr-48, and it's not much to look at: a plain, black, unbranded notebook that companies and individual users who are accepted into Google's pilot program can use.

Google unveils a prototype Chrome OS notebook.
Google unveils a prototype Chrome OS notebook called the Cr-48. CNET

The actual Chrome OS notebooks that normal people can buy, from Samsung and Acer, are delayed until mid-2011. When Google initially pitched the idea last year, it said we'd be seeing them right about now.

But we did learn about a lot of features we'll eventually see in the hardware when it does arrive:

  • Every Chrome notebook will work with Verizon 3G service. Each user gets 100MB of free data per month for two years. You can also buy different plans, the first starting at a day pass for $9.99. There are no overage charges or cancellation or setup fees.
  • There are options to have different user IDs on the same machine as well as a guest mode with completely private ("Incognito") browsing.
  • Your experience with setting up and using Chrome will be the same no matter what machine you're using. Everything is synced through the browser.
  • They worked hard on tying the browser directly to the hardware for security purposes. There is auto updating, sandboxing at the OS level, and all user data is encrypted by default.
  • There's also something called Verified Boot. Verified Boot makes sure that the OS is in the read-only firmware of the computer, so no software can modify it. When you boot Chrome OS, it checks to make sure nothing has been modified. Google is calling it "the most secure consumer operating system that's ever been shipped."

In the department of products that are actually ready for public consumption, today we are getting the Chrome Web Store. It had been previewed before, but it's finally ready to go. The New York Times, Electronic Arts, Amazon, and Citrix demonstrated their apps for an audience of journalists and Googlers here today.

The store is integrated with the Google Checkout payment system so you can just click to buy and download apps. Some subscription apps have free trial mode, and some, like the New York Times app, work offline.

The Web Store will be ready for anyone to use "later today," according to the event host, Vice President of Product Management Sundar Pichai. It's made to work with the Chrome browser, but it does work with other "modern browsers," according to Google.

We also got an update on Chrome browser features:

  • Automatic updates
  • Browser sandboxing. If a bad piece of code gets in your browser it won't be able to get to the rest of your computer's data.
  • Plug-in sandboxing. They're starting to do the same thing with browser plug-ins like Flash and PDF.

CEO Eric Schmidt stopped by for a few minutes near the end of the presentation to talk up Chrome, specifically noting that he was against it when co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said they wanted to be in the browser business. Schmidt said he tried to block the project but the co-founders went ahead and hired a team of browser experts that had worked on Firefox.