Today, Google announced the beta launch of its Chrome operating system, along with a new notebook to run it on. If you spend most of your time on the Internet, Chrome OS has a lot going for it, but you may want to wait for a piece of hardware that's not quite so incredibly ugly.
The big idea behind Chrome OS is that it blends an operating system on your computer with the happy fluffy cloud that is the Internet. You don't need to be running programs on your computer anymore, you can just run them online instead. Want to edit some pics? Picasa has you covered. Need to work on a spreadsheet? Google Docs is right there. By making programs and data platform independent, Google is making sure that everything you do is always backed up and available from anywhere and everywhere, since Chrome will automatically sync itself to wherever you happen to be. And for anything that Google can't do for you directly, there's also a new Chrome Web Store, which offers both free and paid apps.
Google hasn't had the greatest luck when it comes to hardware, and with this in mind, they're not really going for anything amazing when it comes to their demo platform. Their beta program notebook, called Cr-48 after an isotope of chromium, is deliberately unbranded and uninteresting, featuring a dull black color scheme with dull black highlights, all wrapped up in a boxy dull black case. In mid 2011, companies like Acer and Samsung will be release Chrome notebooks for consumers that will hopefully be a bit easier on the eyes.
Once you get past the case, the notebook is fairly respectable, with a 12-inch screen, full-size keyboard, oversize touchpad, flash storage, the obligatory and questionable eight hours of battery life, and integrated 3G with a free Verizon data plan. Before you get too excited about the 3G, you should know that you're limited to a mere 100 MB per month for free, and if you go over, which you will if you do much more than check your email, Verizon will start charging you $10 a day for unlimited access. The coolest thing about the Cr-48 has more to do with the software than the hardware: the OS boots from zero in ten seconds flat, and resumes from standby instantly.
If you just can't wait to get your hands on a Chrome notebook, you can apply for a free one here as part of the beta program. Also, if you're a Chrome user, there's apparently a small chance that you'll get a random pop-up window in your browser offering you an invite. Otherwise, look for Chrome notebooks to go on sale towards the middle of next year.
Via Google Chrome OS