Google to launch PC operating system

SAN FRANCISCO – Google has taken direct aim at Microsoft’s core personal computer software business, with the announcement of a PC operating system to rival Windows.

The system, based on Google’s Chrome web browser, is designed for all classes of PCs, “from small netbooks to full-sized desktop systems”, and will be available in machines from “multiple” PC makers in the second half of next year, the company said. 

Google also promised that the new software would solve many of the frustrations felt by users of Windows-based PCs, from slow start-up times to threats from computer viruses.

Google’s venture into the PC operating system business caps a steady move into software that has seen it encroach on to Microsoft’s turf. As well as a series of internet-based applications to rival Microsoft’s Office suite of software applications, those moves have included the Android operating system for mobile handsets and, last year, the Chrome Web browser.

Pushing those initiatives to their logical conclusion, Google said it would now extend Chrome to become a full PC operating system.

A number of PC makers had already started to explore using the open-source Android software on low-priced netbook computers – the fastest-growing category of PCs – and the announcement of the Chrome OS replaces that with a purpose-built piece of software that the company said would be better suited to PCs.

“We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better,” Google said in a blog note posted late on Tuesday in California.

Among the main attractions promised for the Chrome OS is much faster “boot” time to give users instant access to their e-mail and web browsers. That echoes a wider challenge to Microsoft from other software makers who have also targeted the slow start up times of PCs.

In other veiled attacks on the Windows operating system, Google added that users “want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them”, and that they “don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates.”

Microsoft has faced considerable criticism over the slowness of its Windows Vista operating system, though the next version of its operating system, Windows 7, has already drawn good reviews for working far faster, particularly on low-powered, cheaper machines such as netbooks.

Google said the Chrome OS would first appear on netbooks in the second half of 2010, and that it was announcing the software now because it had already started discussions with hardware makers that wanted to use it in some their machines.

The new software, based on the so-called kernel, or core, of the open-source Linux operating system, had been designed to run Web-based applications such as those developed by Google itself, the company said, making it the first PC operating system developed from scratch for the internet age.

In another attack on one of the main pillars of Microsoft’s business, Google said developers would be able to write applications for the Chrome OS using standard web development tools – a challenge to Microsoft’s own developer tools business.