Googles Chrome, Android Give Netbooks a Boost

Giving a boost to both cloud-based personal computing and to the category of cheap, bare-bones Web-connection machines known as “netbooks,” Google Inc. (GOOG) pulled the dust cloth off of its Chrome operating system last week. Adding a layer of intrigue to the preview of Chrome, which won’t actually be available for another year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin indicated that the lines between Android, Google’s mobile OS, and Chrome, for ultra-mobile PCs, will eventually disappear.

“Android and Chrome will likely converge over time,” Brin told reporters at the Chrome presentation, according to CNET.

Google also announced the launch of the Chromium OS open-source project, which will include the Chrome code base, user interface experiments, and initial design projects.

The Chrome-Android convergence will further blur the lines between smartphones, like the iPhone and the Droid, the Android-based device from Verizon Wireless (VZ), and the still-emerging netbook devices, which cost in many cases less than high-end smartphones and are designed to run a browser and not much else.

The release of devices running on Chrome could also advance Google’s Google Voice, Google’s VoIP offering.

Google will specify to hardware manufacturers what a Chrome-based netbook (a “Chromebook,” as some are already, unfortunately, calling them) must include, hardware-wise. Those specs include full-sized keyboards, a solid-state drive, Intel (INTC) or ARM (ARMH) architectures, and even designated WiFi chipsets. Chrome devices will run no desktop applications.

“First, it’s all about the Web,” said Caesar Sengupta, group product manager, and engineering director Matt Papakipos, writing on Google’s official blog. “All apps are Web apps. The entire experience takes place within the browser.”

Since Google announced the Chrome OS last July, many analysts have questioned why the search giant would produce both a mobile OS and a laptop, or netbook, OS – especially since Android looks to be a significant smash, judging from users’ enthusiastic responses to the Droid, manufactured by Motorola Inc. (MOT). Brin’s reference to a converged OS answers those questions at least in part.

“As [Google VP of product management] Sundar [Pichai] said in his presentation, we’re reaching a perfect storm of converging trends where computers are behaving more like mobile devices, and phones are behaving more like small computers,” the company said in a statement following last week’s event. “Having two open source operating systems from Google provides both users and device manufacturers with more choice and helps contribute a wealth of new code to the open source community.”

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