We all know that Google is in the operating system business these days. What hasn't been clear is exactly what Google has planned for its Chrome operating system. We all know that Android is Google's Android Linux smartphone and tablet answer. But where does Chrome, a Linux and Web browser-based operating system fit in?
It hasn't been an easy question to answer. After all, you can use Android as a desktop operating system and you can use Chrome as a tablet operating system. So, what's what here? Now, we're beginning to get come clear answers.
In a TechRadar interview with Google Chrome senior product manager Anders Sandholm, Sandholm said, "What we are focusing on [in Chrome] is netbooks in terms of form-factor and providing a really good experience for that."
Sandholm also said that while his team is experimenting with touch, the real focus of the Chrome OS design team is on the netbook/laptop. Netbooks have not been doing that well in the market lately, but I think Chrome netbooks may just change that.
As useful as tablets like the Apple iPad are and the coming flood of Android tablets promises to be, there are still a lot of things you can always do well with a physical keyboard. I strongly suspect that a cheap Chrome OS netbook, where you'll work all the time with Software as a Service (SaaS) and Web applications will find a lot of happy business users.
It looks though like it's going to take longer than I had first thought before we'll see Chrome OS netbooks. I had expected the first Chrome netbooks to be out by the end of the year. Sandholm makes it sound like you won't see the first of them until early 2011. Even then, it appears that they'll only be available in sample quantities. At this rate, I don't think we'll see shipping Chrome netbooks until the 2nd quarter of 2011.
Even with this late start, I expect Chrome OS to give netbooks a new lease on life. I think there's room between full-powered laptops and tablets for inexpensive, work-friendly netbooks. We'll soon see if I'm right.