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Google names Chrome OS partners

Jul 10, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Google followed up on yesterday's announcement of a Linux-based Chrome OS for netbooks by listing nine technology partners that are supporting its new open-source platform. Meanwhile, one report claims that Intel, which is not on the list, is also collaborating with Google on Chrome OS.

Google's follow-up "FAQ" blog clarifies that the lightweight, web-oriented Google Chrome OS is free and open source, which had seemed clear enough from yesterday's announcement. The search giant also actively invited the open source community to help out on the project, starting in the fall when the first code is released, and published links to its various job-listing sites around the world.

Google also revealed a list of nine technology partners that includes the top three ARM semiconductor vendors for consumer electronics devices (Freescale, Qualcomm, and Texas Insruments), as well several netbook vendors (Acer, Asus, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, and Toshiba), and a software vendor thrown in as the cherry on top (Adobe). The netbook vendors include a company that has not previously supported Linux (Toshiba), as well as companies that have de-emphasized their Linux netbooks (Asus, Acer, and Lenovo).

Not included on the list is Intel, but PC World reports that an Intel executive has confided that Intel is collaborating with Google on the project. The story quotes Nick Jacobs, Asia-Pacific spokesman for Intel, as saying, "We've been privy to the project for some time."

Google has stated that Chrome OS, which is said to combine the Linux kernel with Google's Chrome browser, will support both x86 and ARM architectures. As the story suggests, Intel wants to make sure that if Chrome OS is a hit, the Intel Atom and upcoming Moorestown processors get a piece of the action. Yet, with Intel putting such a major effort behind its own Linux-based Moblin distribution for netbooks, including partnering with Nokia on the technology, one should probably not read too much into this. At least until Intel actually shows up on that list of technology partners.

Feedback Loop: the day after

Google's FAQ barely scratched the surface in answering all the questions that have emerged in the technology press over the last 24 hours. Responses range from wild enthusiasm about the beginning of the end of Microsoft's Windows hegemony, to smug nonchalance from Windows lovers, in part, perhaps, because Microsoft is expected to release its own Google Apps-killing web version of Microsoft Office early next week, as reported in an intriguing (and only moderately smug) story yesterday on our sister site, WindowsForDevices.

The positive entries were represented by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch, who suggests that Chrome OS is a major reinvention of the operating system and a "very serious competitive threat" to Microsoft. One of the more thoughtful pieces by the Windows faithful comes from PC World's Ian Paul, who questions whether Chrome OS can succeed anywhere beyond very low end netbooks and MIDs, due to the fact that users have still shown that they demand a full suite of native applications. Paul concludes that Microsoft is not losing any sleep over Chrome OS, but then again, maybe the folks in Redmond stopped sleeping months ago.

Other observers, meanwhile, questioned whether this might be the end of Android. Quick answer: no, only the blunting of the experiment of using Android as a netbook OS. Even so, it still appears that a flock of low-end Android netbooks are going to arrive over the next year as people wait a year and a half for Chrome OS netbooks to arrive — and that's only if the final version shows up on schedule.

A number of publications, such as the The Deal, have speculated that it is Canonical, and vendors of other consumer Linux distributions, that should worry as much as Microsoft. In other words, Google has become the new Microsoft, which is going to roll in and smother the desktop Linux community. Yet others, such as Renai LeMay in ZDNet Australia, argue that the move is bad for Linux for the opposite reason. It will only further balkanize desktop Linux, argues LeMay, and just when Ubuntu was beginning to emerge as a leading platform and a potential savior.

Writes LeMay: "Who are you going to trust and believe in? The non-commercial Ubuntu Foundation (and wider project), which has developed an open-source operating system second to none and virtually ended the Linux distribution wars? Or Google, which also makes free products (well, mostly) and packages advertising in (sometimes)?"

Linux: Clear winner or road kill?

The reactions from the Linux crowd were mostly positive. Sometimes, however, they seemed to have that same nervous optimism that my dog gets when he sits panting and grinning by the door, wondering if he's going to be invited on the car trip.

The official Linux pronouncement (or as official as it gets without a quote from Linus Torvalds himself) came from the blog of Linux Foundation (LF) executive director Jim Zemlin, who sounded a positive note. Zemlin called Linux "the clear winner" in the announcement. Considering that the LF is now the official sponsor of the Intel-backed Moblin, a netbook-oriented Linux stack that would seem, along with the various Linux distributions that adopt it, to compete directly with Chrome OS, this might seem to be the usual "this announcement validates our efforts" type response from a competitor.

It is difficult, however, to refute Zemlin's logic when he suggests that with Google's name behind it, and the pricing and flexibility advantages of open source Linux, Chrome OS should help other Linux contenders compete against Windows as well. Indeed, Chrome OS should give Linux the same step-up for netbooks as Android has begun to do for Linux on smartphones. As for fragmentation, meanwhile, it's hard to see that one more Linux distro is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Linux, what Linux?

Those who see Chrome OS as a either a threat to Linux or a potential victory for the OS are missing the point, suggests John Gruber on his Daring Fireball blog site. It appears, he writes, that Chrome OS won't really be Linux at all, but will only be using a commodity Linux kernel. Instead of using Gnome or KDE, it will introduce its own windowing system and therefore stand entirely to the side of Linux, he argues.

In the end, however, it won't matter, he says, as Chrome OS may well be too bare-bones, or as he puts it, "thin," to really pose a major threat to Microsoft.

That appears to be the real question underlying all the Chrome OS feedback: have we really reached the age of thin-client, cloud-based computing, or has Google jumped the gun a little? If it has, it has probably not jumped it by too much, especially in comparison to Sun, which had the same bright idea back in the '90s. And Google has plenty of money and will to stick with Chrome OS over the long haul (unless the Feds decide that bundling browsers and OSes is really still a bad thing after all).


Google's Chrome OS "FAQ" is available here. Deon Designs has helpfully compiled a fairly comprehensive list of Google Chrome OS coverage (picked up by Google itself), here.

Our own initial coverage is listed under our sister site, Linux-Watch, where it was also posted. Other stories mentioned in this article include:

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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