Google’s Biggest Direct Assault on Microsoft: Open Source Desktop OS Based on Chrome

Update: Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has officially announced it. And they are open sourcing it, as I suspected below: “Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010.”

Some details from its announcement:
— Later this year it will open-source the code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010.
— Will be lightweight and minimal, similar to Chrome browser.

— Will be completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates, Google says.
— Will run on both x86 (Intel (NSDQ: INTC) and AMD chips) as well as ARM chips (used in mobile).
— Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel.
— All web-based apps will on the OS, but would also run on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux.
— It is downplaying the overlap between Android and Chrome OS.
— This is a rare pre-announcement of a product from Google, who likes to hold cards on products close to chest. This means it is still talking to OEMs and manufacturers.
— Don’t expect an Open Handset Alliance type of organization to help develop standards, as Google did with Android. Likely Google will have tighter control, despite it being open source.
— For perspective, see this latest OS sector marketshare: MSFT’s still in high 80s percen in marketshare, though lower than its ever been.
— This gives more fodder for antitrust investigation into Google’s dominance of the search/online ad market. Won’t effect anything anytime soon, though.

Earlier: Google is preparing to launch a desktop operating system, based on its Chrome browser, in its biggest direct assault on Microsoft’s mainstay, according to NYT. The announcement will be made tomorrow, the story says.

Google has already been making inroads into MSFT’s OS territory for some years now, with its Google Docs service, its year-long support of StarOffice OS, and more recently, Google-supported mobile OS Android, which has moved into Netbooks sphere (though not officially encouraged by Google). All of this hasn’t yet made a big dent into MSFT’s OS revenues; Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is pretty capable tripping itself up, with Vista and now Windows 7.

With Google Chrome OS, as it is supposed to be titled, its vision of everything delivered through the Web may come a little closer. It will also mean apps would run within Chrome when users are offline (it has already started doing that with some of its services like Gmail). The rise of netbooks — Sony (NYSE: SNE) just announced its own Vaio lines of netbooks this morning — will give Google a new avenue to its OS ambitions: these low cost machines are primarily designed for web browsing and e-mailing, and rely heavily on online apps. For now, about 96 percent of all netbooks in the market run on MSFT’s Windows OS, but with companies such as Acer announcing using Android for netbooks, that may have hastened some of Google’s plans for its own OS. At some point down the line, though, you would have to think that Google’s Android and Chrome OS plans would collide, even though Google has previously said it would not develop an Android version for netbooks. It would be interesting to see how open — or open source — the new OS would be. ArsTechnica has some more info on the new OS plans.