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Built upon the open source web operating system Chromium, Google's Chrome OS is a standalone browser built for the netbook market, allowing them instant access to the internet, along with a slim OS, with minimal hardware requirements. Chrome OS has built in flash support, along with other media codecs built directly into its software. Everything written or created on the OS itself is stored within Google's cloud, or online storage, meaning as long as you have internet you can access your files, which works well with the always connected feature of the OS. With its auto-update feature, and built-in security, Chrome OS stays secure without the user needing to maintain any of the features.
Inspired by the popularity of netbooks and their little power consumption, Google developers began coding an Operating System that did what these netbooks were primarily used for, which was access the internet. To find the marketing requirements for a netbook specific operating system based on web transactions, Google did internal test with their employees, using some 200 Chrome OS machines. Developers, such as Matthew Papakipos, put three netbooks of the Chrome OS in his house, and did log in for brief periods to do a quick search or email.
A Linux Operating System, which worked exclusively with web applications, was announced by Google on November 7th, 2009 and on November 19th, 2009 Google released the open source version of the OS called Chromium OS. Chromium can be compiled freely by anyone, but Chrome OS will be only on specific hardware from Google's manufacturing partners. Due to the OS being aimed at users who spend most of their time using the internet, it will only contain a web browser with a built in media player.
November 19th, 2009 did not only come with the Chromium source code, but came with a demonstration by Sunder Pichai, Google's vice president overseeing Chrome, which showed a boot time of seven seconds. Along with the interface being very much like Google's Chrome web browser, which showed application tabs along with normal browser tabs.
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The CR-48 was prototype hardware to demonstrate the Chrome OS, and to allow the public to test the system and its capabilities. Beginning on December 7th, 2010 Google began to release them through their pilot program for testing purposes. The device showed the capabilities of the OS when it is connected to the internet, and when it is disconnected. While disconnected users cannot access applications, and their documents, and other files, stored online, but can use the built in guest account, similar to incognito mode on Chrome web browser, to use an offline version of Google docs.
The CR-48 meets the basic requirements to web-surf and play flash games, but falls short for more intensive task, such as using Photoshop. Many people say that the OS itself could work for people who really just browse the web or office workers, but overall what is already on netbooks is more useful then what the Chrome OS would bring.
Design and Direction
Google wanted to create a user interface that used minimal screen space through placing applications and standard web pages into a single strip of tabs, this already being built into the OS, using search and pinned tabs to quickly access applications. Two designs that Google wish's to have are a window management scheme which would operate in full-screen mode; secondary tasks would be floating windows docked to the bottom edge of the screen for social tasks, or possible more. The other is a split screen mode, to allow for working on two things at once. Chrome OS would follow what Chrome browser does by leveraging HTML5 offline modes, background processing and notifications.
Within the preliminary design for the Chrome OS, Google described three-tier architecture: firmware, system-level software, and window manager. The firmware does not probe for hardware, such as the not commonly used floppy disk drives, which reduces the boot time, and helps with security by verifying each step of the boot process and incorporating a system recovery feature. The system-level software includes the Linux kernel that has also been patched to help the fast boot process, with user software trimmed to essentials. While the window manager does exactly what the word is, manages the windows of the OS.
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Designed primarily for netbooks, not for primary PCs, Chrome runs on hardware incorporating an x86 or ARM-base processor. Chrome OS can support hard disk drives, though Google has told its manufactures to use solid state drives for performance and reliability, and due to its low capacity storage, since Chrome OS beats Windows 7 by consuming one-sixtieth as much space.
Chrome OS will feature a built in media player, enabling used to play MP3 files, and view image files such as JPEGs while offline. The OS will also print using a feature Google will create called Google Cloud Printing, which can help an application from any device to print on any printer. Though the cloud can support any device, the task of maintaining the print subsystems for all combinations of hardware and OS isn't feasible. An unresolved issue is the behavior on how web applications would handle specific link types. Such as what should open a PNG file, should a specific one open it? Which one? Should it be opened in a preview utility, or an editor? Even Windows has had this problem, but Google could incorporate an Open With feature to solve the issue.
Chrome OS's security was described by Will Drewry, Google's software security engineer, in March of 2010. He described the OS as a hardened operating system, featuring an auto-update service and sandbox features that reduce the number of malware exposure. Stating all Chrome OS netbooks will be shipped with the Trusted Platform Module, and include a trusted boot path, with read only memory, and a physical switch behind the battery that enables developer mode, which will allow developers to bypass the security measure to increase flexibility. With Chromium being open sourced, and contributing to Chrome's builds and updates, it allows constant developer feedback to Google. Google has claimed that Chrome is the most secure consumer OS.
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