Feeds

Google Chrome OS: unlike Android, it's open source

The code's already there. If anyone wants it

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Code freeze imminent. If you want it

Judging from Hexxeh's conversations with Google developers, Chrome OS code will be frozen this week. He predicts that the first machines will be unveiled later in the month, as separate rumors have indicated. Google merely says — as it has always said — that machines will arrive by the end of the year.

These will be netbooks — and maybe tablets as well. And they'll be priced not unlike "what computer buyers expect today." But, according to Google's pitch, they'll be easier to use than the average notebook — and more secure.

Google's isn't just building a new OS. It's rebuilding the netbook itself. "We are working on the Chrome OS image — the software — but in addition to that, we are actually going and working with partners to specify components at the hardware level," Google VP of product management Sundar Pichai said last fall. "We really want software to understand the underlying hardware so we can make it much faster and more secure. It's an important part of what we're trying to do."

Most notably, Chrome OS doesn't run on hard drives. It runs on solid state devices, part of Google's effort to improve boot times. In the fall, Google showed off a Chrome OS netbook that booted in seven seconds, and by way of system firmware, it's working to reduce that time even more. As we said, the firmware is the one major part of the project that isn't "open." And considering what a large role it plays, you could argue that, in fact, Chrome OS is closed to unofficial partners. But this work may eventually be released as well.

Chrome OS panels

More Chrome OS (click to enlarge)

In limiting all apps to the web and confining each app to its own sandbox, Google also claims the Chrome netbook is more secure than today's machines. And the ultimate goal is to build an OS that can verify its own integrity and reload itself if necessary. But whatever Chrome OS gains in the areas of boot time and security, it loses a few points when you consider that it can't, well, run local applications.

If you don't have a net connection, a Chrome OS machine is bit tongue tied — though Google is offering tools that let applications operate offline (up to a point). And there are still certain advantages to running local applications. "There are applications today that are not available on the web," Pichai said. "There will be some things this will not be able to do."

In an effort to shrink the gap between local apps and web apps, Google is building Native Client, a Chrome plug-in that runs native code inside the browser. But it seems that Native Client — another open source project — won't quite be ready in time for the release of Chrome OS.

In May, Pichai unveiled a working prototype of the Chrome Web Store, which will offer up web apps for Chrome and Chrome OS, and among the apps "on sale" was a version of Lego Star Wars built to run on Native Client. Earlier this fall, when we spoke to David Helgason, the CEO and co-founder of Unity, the outfit that's working with Google on the app, he indicated Native Client wasn't as far along as it needed to be. Last week, we asked him again about the progress of the plug-in, and he declined to comment.

Some would say this is no great loss. Native Client undermines Google's ostensible commitment to web standards. But the point is that Chrome OS will face an uphill battle to win converts in a world that includes so many other devices that don't artificially limit themselves to the web. Pichai says that the Chrome OS netbook will be a "second machine" for most buyers. But so is the iPad.

Unlike iOS, Chrome OS is open source. But that sells only so many machines. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
OpenBSD founder wants to bin buggy OpenSSL library, launches fork
One Heartbleed vuln was too many for Theo de Raadt
Got Windows 8.1 Update yet? Get ready for YET ANOTHER ONE – rumor
Leaker claims big release due this fall as Microsoft herds us into the CLOUD
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: Great changes, but sssh don't mention the...
Why HELLO Amazon! You weren't here last time
Patch iOS, OS X now: PDFs, JPEGs, URLs, web pages can pwn your kit
Plus: iThings and desktops at risk of NEW SSL attack flaw
Next Windows obsolescence panic is 450 days from … NOW!
The clock is ticking louder for Windows Server 2003 R2 users
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
Apple inaugurates free OS X beta program for world+dog
Prerelease software now open to anyone, not just developers – as long as you keep quiet
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.