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Google's Schmidt pitches Chrome OS netbooks

Network computer, fully baked

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Browser-obsessed netbooks running Google's Chrome operating system will be the freshest thing to hit computing in two decades, Eric Schmidt claims.

Speaking at the Atmosphere Cloud Computing Forum the Google CEO heralded the coming of "completely disposable" mobile devices running Chrome OS that boot up in two seconds and incorporate web-based storage, HTML5 for security, and combine input, communication, and data-sharing capabilities.

Chrome devices will be priced between $300 and $400 -in line with current netbooks - when they arrive later this year, Schmidt said. Of course, price-setting is the province of the device makers. But Schmidt noted that Chrome is free so there won't be a "software tax". Hardware vendors pay Microsoft a license for every device they make that runs Windows.

Schmidt appeared to rule out the idea that Google might one day bundle Chrome-based netbooks to customers of its web apps. Mobile telcos are offering customers netbooks as part of their calling plans, which means the companies are making the money off the voice and data charges instead of selling the hardware.

"We are not in that business," Schmidt said. "We are in the ads and enterprise software business - I don't think we'll go that far."

NCs, here we come!

For Schmidt, Chrome delivers the network computer dream articulated in 1995 by Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison, and adopted by many other companies seeking to combat Microsoft's dominance of the PC market. Eric Schmidt, CTO at Sun Microsystems at the time, was a staunch advocate of the NC, so he has had plenty of time thinking how to make the concept work. [For more background, check out Oracle's Lost Revolution, Daniel Roth's excellent feature on Larry Ellison and the NC.]

"There has not been a new successful platform in this [mobile] space in 20 years," Schmidt said. With cloud computing and HTML5 he thinks the enabling technology is in place to turn the network computer into reality.

According to Schmidt Google is having to rewrite some internal applications that are tied into existing platforms as it deploys Chrome netbooks.

"I said: 'Okay, good, let's imagine that from this day forward everything we did was a perfect web app, what would the world look like?'

"We found applications that were part of our business: operations, sales, accounting, so forth... they are in the process of being rewritten, and it's no big deal - make them browser resident - but even at Google, we have this problem." ®

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