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Google will offer downloads of its Chrome operating system any day now, according to an internet rumor.

Citing a "reliable source," TechCrunch indicates an early version of the Chrome OS will arrive with a limited collection of hardware drivers "within a week."

Google had previously said that an early version of the OS would be available this fall. Considering that we're about two weeks away from the end of fall, a debut next week would hardly be unexpected.

The Mountain View Chocolate Factory announced the Chrome OS this summer, describing it as essentially the Google Chrome web browser running atop the Linux kernel. Intended mainly for netbooks, it will run on both x86 and ARM chips. Shipping systems are slated for release in the middle of next year.

Hardware partners on the project include Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba. But its unclear what machines will be supported when the OS is (maybe) released next week. TechCrunch reports/guesses that the first public version of the OS will run on Eee PC netbooks.

Last month, Google posted some Chrome OS code to the Chromium project, where the open source incarnation of the Chrome browser is developed, and an eager blogger managed to download the thing and take some screenshots. As you might expect, it looks like, well, a Chrome browser.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ®

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