What It Means: Google to Launch Operating System

Media Morph: Chrome OS

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WHAT IT IS: Chrome OS is an "open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks," according to the blog post announcing it. So just like Windows runs on your PC or Leopard runs on your Mac, Chrome will run on those slimmed down, inexpensive netbook computers.

WHY DO IT: With Google, it all comes down to ads. In its eyes, the more people it can get to spend more time on the web, the more chances it has to connect those folks to advertisers.

Sure, the company hasn't been doing half bad on its own, without wide penetration in the software and OS space. But in less- developed countries, internet access still lags, and netbooks are seen as a potential cure. Additionally, there's still opportunity to increase internet usage in more- mobile European countries, and Google sees launching a free, open-source OS and apps as a way to solidify its ground in those markets.

THE ANDROID ANGLE: Google already has a mobile operating system called Android, which works across a variety of devices -- including netbooks -- although it's best known for running on smartphones. It does seem a little odd that Google would develop an entirely new system. The company explains that Chrome OS is more for spending time on the web and for computers, from netbooks (initially) all the way up to full-size PCs. Google acknowledges potential overlap in a blog post announcing Chrome OS, but believes "choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google."

WHAT ANALYSTS SAY: "An OS is significantly different than a browser or a cloud e-mail client, because if it doesn't work, your PC is useless," said Paul Jackson, an analyst at Forrester. But he said Google has made it work with Android, getting hardware manufacturers on board and executing a better-than-expected launch.

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