Described as a natural extension of its relatively new Google Chrome browser, Chrome OS is being developed as a fast and lightweight operating system that will boot quickly and get users "onto the web in a few seconds."
Like its Android operating software for mobile phones, Google said it plans to open Chrome OS's code a bit later this year to allow the community of open-source developers to help shape and mold the new software.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it plans to deploy Chrome OS initially for tiny notebooks called netbooks, with the first such devices running the new software expected to hit the market during the second half of 2010.
Since Chrome OS will run on both x86 and ARM chips, versions of the software that will function on full-fledged notebooks and desktop systems are also part of Google's forward looking plans.
The search giant describes the system's architecture as "simple," consisting of Google Chrome running within a new, minimal windowing system atop a Linux kernel that's designed to stay out of a user's way.
"We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better," Google said. "People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them."
Developers looking to author applications for Chrome OS will be able to do so using standard web technologies, and all existing web-based applications should also run on the software. Similarly, any application written for Chrome OS will also run in any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux.
Google is also placing an emphasis on security, and claims that it's "going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates."
Chrome OS won't require extensive configuration or the need for constant software updates, the company added. It also promises to make users' data accessible to them "wherever they are" so they "don't have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files."