Google isn’t blind to the current situation though: it knows that tablets, handsets and smartphones are hotter now than netbooks were when Chrome OS was announced. More than 340 million mobile phones were sold globally in just the third quarter of this year, for example. Compare that to Gartner’s recent estimate of 352.4 million computers sold around the globe in all of 2010, and it’s not surprising that potential demand for a small Chrome OS computer, or any netbook, for that matter, is lower now than it was a year ago. As a result, I suspect we’ll hear that Google has been using Chrome OS devices in-house and that Chrome OS consumer devices may launch early next year from a number of hardware partners. Here’s a recap of what to expect from these devices:
A netbook without Windows — You won’t find Microsoft Windows on a Chrome OS computer. Instead, it’s a Linux kernel under the hood with a customized version of Google’s Chrome browser as the entire interface.
Google Apps at the core — Google’s web-based applications are prominent throughout, even at the time of sign-in, which requires a Google account. Docs, Calendar, Gmail, Search, Google Talk and more are all integrated into the platform.
A mobile processor — Just like the majority of netbooks available on the market today, Chrome OS computers can run on Intel’s Atom chipset, although they can also run on low-p0wered chips built from the ARM architecture, currently used in many smartphones and tablets.
No hard drive — In lieu of a spinning hard drive, Google is looking to use solid state disks, or flash memory for all local storage, much like Apple’s new Mac Book Air. That configuration, combined with a light operating system should allow for Chrome OS to boot in roughly five seconds or less.
Connectivity will be key — While I expect some offline functionality in Chrome OS, the device’s primary use case is being connected, most likely to a Wi-Fi network, although support for mobile broadband is a safe bet for future iterations.