Google releases source code for Chrome OS
Google has released the source code for the Chrome OS operating system at an event at the company's Mountain View offices. The event saw Google give the first details of the new operating system which was announced in July this year. Chrome OS has been described by Google as "our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be". Traces of the browser-centric system had only been spotted in changes in the source of Chromium Browser. Google have now taken the wraps off Chrome OS and Chromium OS, the open source version, which it expects to launch on devices in the fourth quarter of 2010. The company has released the source code to Chrome OS to allow technology partners, the open source community and other developers to collaborate on the work bringing the operating system to market. Google also announced that they have opened up their design documents for the operating system to allow developers to get a better idea of where Google want to take Chrome OS.
The core of Chrome OS is a lightweight Linux and firmware designed to boot in seconds "as quick to start as a TV". In a demonstration, it took seven seconds to boot to a login screen and three seconds to log in with the browser started. The operating system will be available for x86 and ARM processors. The Linux kernel is the basis for the device, but the rest of the operating system works through a browser window interface. For developers, this means existing web applications will run unchanged. Chrome OS is being developed to create an environment where web applications can safely get access to native hardware and resources.
The developers also promise that Chrome on Chrome OS will be faster than Chrome on other operating systems thanks to integration and optimisation between the browser and operating system. Among refinements to the browser for use as the main interface to the operating system, Chrome OS introduces a new concept of Application Tabs (which are fixed tabs for web applications) and multiple full screen instances of Chrome with a simple application switcher. Among the demonstrations were full screen and windowed video and text chat, opening and viewing PDF documents quickly, and retrieving images from an Android-based phone.
The source code has been published on src.chromium.org. It appears to be a Debian-based distribution with a number of well known packages, such as Host AP Linux drivers, XScreenSaver, authentication with PAM and the SysLinux lightweight bootloader. The system also includes the xserver-xorg-core and Intel video drivers, Clutter (the animated UI library) and drivers for Synaptics touch devices. Google promise to contribute their code changes upstream to allow the wider community to benefit from Chrome OS development. For more details, the Chromium OS project page includes information on how to build the source code, the software and security architectures and other documentation.