Google released the source code for Chrome OS on Thursday, beginning the process of producing a browser-based operating system by the end of 2010 for lower-end PCs called Netbooks. Although Linux runs under the covers, the applications all run within Google's browser.
The upper-left corner has an applications menu with links to a variety of Web applications. Those applications can be permanently lodged as narrow tabs between that menu and ordinary browser tabs.
Although screen real estate is tight--especially given the presence of a clock and status icons to indicate Wi-Fi connections and the like in the upper right--more than one browser can be open at a time even if others are hidden in the background.
This Chrome OS panel shows use of the address book. Chrome OS doesn't store data permanently on its local machine, but instead relies on central servers--in this case Google's Gmail system--to store data. That means address books are accessible from any Chrome OS machine, from any Web browser, and from higher-end mobile phones.
Google has three top priorities for Chrome OS: speed, simplicity, and security. All three are aided by the fact that Chrome OS runs on a limited set of approved hardware, available next year only from cooperating manufacturing partners.
For speed, Chrome OS uses only flash memory-based solid state drives (SSDs), which are faster and more power-efficient than conventional hard drives with rotating magnetic plates. Chrome OS also uses a simplified software suite because the only application it has to run is the browser.