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Google’s next big move: Chrome OS unveiled

The Chromium OS open source project has been released today and Google provided more information about their future operating system targeted at netbooks, along with screenshots of the user interface explaining the concept behind and a video with a brief demo of the OS.

The applications menu looks like any other tab but it displays a panel with all your applications. The term “applications” means “web applications” for Chrome OS, as it will not support native applications: all applications for Chrome are web applications on the internet. However, this won’t be a issue for heavy computational calculations in the future: Google started researching and developing last year a browser plugin, NativeClient (or NaCl), that would allow for intense calculations to be performed by the browser. If you have a Chrome browser from the Dev Channel, you already have an internal NativeClient. In Windows, add this to the launching command:
chrome.exe –internal-nacl –no-sandbox
Google explains that using NaCl requires to temporarily disable the sandbox. NaCl demos display an incredible calculations capacity, being able to run Quake engine within the very same browser window.

Applications tabs can be “pinned” and thus reduced to only its favicon. From the GMail icon here, we can tell that additional functionality will be built into the pinned tabs to display notifications or something else.

Back to Chrome OS and now with the so called “Panels”. Panels are  floating windows that remain on top even if you open a new tab or a new window, which in the case of Chrome might be like having different desktops in Linux. These panels are not only for chatting, but for notifications, applications such as an audio player and even to see the photos in the camera you just plugged in (see this in the video at the end).

Looks like you will be able to drag & drop contents from one panel to the other, I assume part of this will be achieved with HTML5 since no native applications will be allowed.

Finally, Google’s UI designers thought about some other alternatives for the location bar, first like a launcher. This could have been interesting, having some sort of launcher like Enso or Ubiquity, but as they explain, the url of the current page would have been hidden. The other alternative was to move the control interface to the left with the advantage of a lot of real state for tabs, but not for the full name, however not many of us identify tabs for a long name: only the favicon or if it’s missing the first characters are enough.

The following video gives a complete overview of the concept for the UI of Chrome OS. It might not be the finished product but it gives a good approximation to what Google Chrome OS will be.

You can get all the relevant info at the site for the open source project Chromium. So, will you jump into Chrome OS or will you choose Windows 7?

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