Google's Chrome Contender

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is continuing its march into the mobile operating system business with its Chrome OS, which is initially aimed at the netbook market but could eventually move into the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)-dominated PC world.

In keeping with the Google Chrome browser with which it shares a name, the search giant is promising the operating system will be "fast and lightweight" and enable users to get on the Web in seconds. Like the company's Android smartphone operating system, Chrome will be open-source: Google says it will be released to the developer community later this year.

Google is initially targeting one of the fastest growing mobile computing sectors with the code: the tiny laptop computers called netbooks. (See Little Laptops Could Drive Big Data Usage, 'Smartbooks': A Dumb Idea, Ericsson Wants Slice of Netbook Pie, Fixed/Mobile Convergence: The $49.99 Answer, Review: Netbooks & Integrated 3G, and Netbook Realities.)

It says it's working with OEM vendors and expects to have devices running the code on the market by the second half of 2010.

The decision to target netbooks sees the company move directly into competition with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), which has its Windows CE and XP operating systems in various vendors' netbooks.

The OS will allow third-party developers to modify the code base, which may be appealing to computer vendors looking to get an edge in a crowded market.

Ironically, in addition to Microsoft and Linux, Google will also be competing with its existing Android OS in the netbook market: Acer Inc. and Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA) have been expected to develop netbooks using the smartphone OS.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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