John Paczkowski

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Chrome OS: “Turning On a PC Should Be Like Turning On Your TV”

tv_static_googleDirect from Google headquarters, and liveblogged by John Paczkowski, Google’s Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management and Matthew Papakipos, engineering director for Google Chrome OS, explain some of the advantages of the operating system. This is the second of three segments:

Among Chrome OS’s advantages: Speed, simplicity and security. Every application will be a Web application. There will be no desktop apps. Chrome OS is essentially a browser with a few modifications. All data in the Chrome OS reside in the cloud. Pichai: “We want all of personal computing to work that way….If I lose my Chrome machine, I should be able to go out, buy a new [one] and re-create my previous computing experience easily.” Chrome OS will run completely inside the browser security model, he adds, noting that security is one of Google’s (GOOG) top priorities along with speed. “Turning on a PC should be like turning on your TV,” he says.

Chrome OS is very similar in appearance to the Chrome browser. “Chrome OS is Chrome,” says Pichai. Google made it look like a browser, because the browser is familiar.

And indeed, Chrome OS does look quite a bit like a browser. Multiple apps load into tabs, for example. It also features “Panels,” which Pichai describes as persistent lightweight windows. “All Chrome data resides in the cloud. Anything you put in the machine is immediately available to you anywhere.”

As netbooks become more advanced and battery life improves, they will evolve into entertainment devices, says Pichai, who notes that via Google Books, a netbook can become an e-reader, and through YouTube, a video device.

A quick demo of the user interface, which seems very simple and intuitive. “It just works,” says Pichai in an unintentional nod to Apple (AAPL). An interesting remark: Anyone who writes an app for the Web has written an app for Chrome, says Pichai, joking that Microsoft (MSFT) is already developing for it.

Speed, simplicity and security, says Pichai. We’re trying to make the computing experience delightful.

With that, Sundar Pichai hands the stage over to Engineering Director Matt Papakipos.

Papakipos, too, offers the “we want to make computing delightful” sound byte and notes once again that turning on the PC should be like turning on the TV.

Chrome OS eliminates the bootloader, auto-launching the browser. The OS also auto-updates itself, making sure that it’s always current with security patches, etc. Everything from the firmware to the kernel is secured with a cryptographic signature to ensure a secure boot. In the event malware is detected, the system repairs itself automatically.

The basic application security protocol for current operating systems allows apps the same privileges as the user. This presents obvious security issues. Whenever you install a new app, you’re taking a risk, says Papakipos. But Web applications like those that Chrome OS use are different. They are Web apps so they don’t have system-level privileges. Additionally, all apps run in secured sandboxes that are separate from one other and from the OS. Finally, all apps must be signed and verified before each use.

In terms of file systems, Chrome’s is locked down. It’s a read-only root-file system, obviously quite different from other operating systems. All user data are encrypted and synched to the cloud. Essentially, Google uses the PC for caching. Again, if you should lose your machine, you buy a new one, fire it up and it synchs with the cloud, restoring your previous computing experience.


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google