After reading the announcement GDGT engineer Jon Ursenbach got to work compiling the code, trying to see if he could get an instance of Chromium OS running in a virtual machine. Its not a stand alone version of the OS but it is a workable version that is great for fooling around and it does show of the potential for the new operating environment.
If you want to test it out and see what the hype is all about you can download a copy of the virtual machine to use in VMware, VirtualBox, and on a USB drive here (300MB compressed / 700MB uncompressed): http://gdgt.com/google/chrome-os/download/.
There is a second option for downloading and running the OS which involves getting the files via torrent. This option however can be a bit risky and getting things working can be tricky. Fortunately TechCrunch has posted a fairly easy walk-through that should help. Just make sure you check the torrent, and make sure you can the files with an AV. There have been reports of many fake builds showing up on torrent sites.
Everything You Need To Know About Chrome OS
Since Google's initial announcement that they'd be building an OS there was a lot of hype and speculation as to what it would and how it would look and run. Well here are a few brief answers to what it is. Keep in mind the OS itself has not officially been released, Google has said that won't happen until some time next year. Right now we just have access to the source code, so some things might change and builders of course will build upon what's there so we will see several different variations.
- It's an operating environment not a system: Essentially Chrome is not a traditional operating system its more of a browser than anything. Meaning that it'll be based around preexisting Web services like Gmail, Google Docs, and so on. There are going to be no conventional applications, just Web applications—nothing gets installed, updated, or loaded locally in any way. Therefore what you have is an operating environment not a system
- It only runs Web apps: It's going to integrate Web apps into the operating system deeper than we've ever seen before, meaning that a) they'll seem more like native apps than Web apps and b) they'll be able to tap into local resources more than a typical Web app in Firefox, for example. They're Web apps in name, but they'll have native powers.
- How, exactly?: With HTML 5. This is the next version of HTML, which gives the browser more access to local resources like location info, offline storage—the kinds of things you'd normally associate with native apps.
- Chrome is Chrome: The user's experience with Chrome OS will basically be synonymous with their experience on Chrome Browser. Technically speaking, Chrome OS is a Linux-based OS, but you won't be installing Linux binaries like you might on Ubuntu or some other Linux distribution. Any "apps" you have will be used within the browser. Chrome OS is effectively a new version of Chrome, that you can't leave.
- It's super-light. It starts up in a matter of seconds, Google has said 7 seconds or less, which is viable since you have no applications to load. You'll boot straight into the Chrome browser which is apparently very, very optimized for Chrome OS, so it should be faster than we've ever seen it.
- It won't support hard drives, just solid state storage and I assume that means USB storage as well. This is going to be a bold move I mean SSD drives are becoming cheaper but they still aren't mainstream and who is going to want to boost the cost of a cheap netbook by adding an SSD just to run Google Chrome?
- You'll have to buy a Chrome OS device: Hardware support sounds like it might be pretty slim. Chance are you'll be able to hack this thing onto your current machine, but you won't just be able to install it to replace Windows, or opt for it on your next laptop, for example. You'll have to buy hardware that Google approved, either component by component, or in a whole package. They're already working on reference designs.
- For now, it's for netbooks. It's not intended for desktops, to the point that Google is saying that the first generation of Chrome hardware will be secondary machines.
When will Google Chrome be released and what will it run on?
For now, at least this is all speculation because Google hasn't set an official release date nor have they given specifics on any upcoming devices. From the details given on the Chromium Blog and the Official Google Blog we do know that the release of the code comes "almost a year before Google Chrome OS will be ready for users" and they mentioned that the Chrome OS will be ready for consumers this time next year. So we can speculate that they will have it ready for "beta" by late spring possibly even early summer.
As for actual device that will be running the new OS Google has said it will launch Chrome OS netbooks in the holiday season 2010; tablets and laptops running Chrome OS will launch at a later date. Chrome's demo at the presentation was running on an Eee PC, so that seems one likely target.
As mentioned, the upcoming hardware will feature SSDs only so that puts a lot of limits on what devices will and won't be released with the OS. So netbooks, MID devices and possible some other handhelds are likely. Google's vice president of product management, Sundar Pichai, said the reasoning behind going SSD only is because "We want Google Chrome OS to be blazingly fast. From the time you press boot, you want it to be like a TV. In addition to making the boot time fast, we want the end-to-end experience to be fast."
My thoughts and opinion
In my personal opinion Google Chrome doesn't sound like anything I'd be interested in. I've ran some of the insta-boot linux environments that offer limited functionality and I really wasn't impressed. Sure you can get online in a flash but that doesn't offer me much. I spend more time logging onto the web based sites to get my work than I would if I just booted into Windows where it was saved.
Web based applications are nice to have and do make life a little easier especially since I don't have to buy some of the software that is available. But what happens when I'm offline and in a pinch? What do I do then? If files or apps aren't stored locally I guess I'll be SOL.
I enjoy fast boot times, and I enjoy a fast OS, but I'm not willing to give up the conveniences that go with having a fully functional OS. At least not at this time. Sure the devices the Chrome OS is meant for are meant more or less for basic usage (web, email ect) but that's probably also the reason why I don't own those devices. I'm not a basic user and I want my devices to be able to handle my demands.