What Is the Google Chrome OS?

Chrome OS Launchpad
Google Inc.

Google announced the Chrome operating system in July 2009. They were creating the system in conjunction with manufacturers, just like the Android operating system. The operating system bears the same name as the Google Web browser, Chrome. Devices started coming out in 2011 and are still readily available in stores today.  

Target Audience for Chrome OS

Chrome OS was targeted initially towards netbooks, super small notebooks designed primarily for Web browsing. Although some netbooks were sold with Linux, the consumer preference tended toward Windows, and then consumers decided that maybe the novelty wasn't worth it. Netbooks were often far too small and far too under-powered. 

Google's vision for Chrome extends beyond the netbook. The operating system may eventually be competition with Windows 7 and the Mac OS. However, Google doesn't consider Chrome OS to be a tablet operating system. Android is Google's tablet operating system because it's built around a touch-screen interface while Chrome OS still uses a keyboard and mouse or touchpad.

Chrome OS Availability

Chrome OS is available for developers or anyone with an interest. You can even download a copy of Chrome OS for your home computer. You must have Linux and an account with root access. If you've never heard of a sudo command, you should probably just buy Chrome pre-installed on a consumer device. 

Google has worked with well-known manufacturers, such as Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba. 

Cr-48 Netbooks

Google launched a pilot program using a beta version of Chrome installed on a netbook called the Cr-48. Developers, educators, and end-users could register for the pilot program, and a number of them were sent the Cr-48 to test. The netbook came with a limited amount of free 3G data access from Verizon Wireless.

Google ended the Cr-48 pilot program in March of 2011, but the original Cr-48s were still a coveted item after the pilot ended. 

Chrome and Android

Although Android can run on netbooks, Chrome OS is being developed as a separate project. Android is designed for running phones and phone systems. It's not really designed for use on computers. Chrome OS is designed for computers rather than phones.

To further confuse this distinction, there are rumors that Chrome is indeed destined to become a tablet OS. Netbook sales have been eroding as full-size laptops become cheaper and tablet computers like the iPad become more popular.  However, iPads have declined in popularity in American schools while Chromebooks have gained popularity.  


Chrome uses a Linux kernel. Long ago there was a rumor that Google planned on releasing their own version of Ubuntu Linux dubbed "Goobuntu." This isn't exactly Goobuntu, but the rumor is no longer quite as crazy.

Google OS Philosophy

Chrome OS is really designed as an operating system for computers that are only used for connecting to the Internet. Rather than downloading and installing programs, you just run them in your Web browser and store them on the Internet. In order to make that possible, the OS has to boot up very quickly, and the Web browser has to be extremely fast. Chrome OS makes both of those happen. 

Will it be enticing enough for users to buy a netbook with Chrome OS instead of Windows? That's uncertain. Linux hasn't made a huge dent in Windows sales, and it's been developed for much longer. However, cheap devices and a simple, easy to use interface may just entice users to switch.