SAN FRANCISCO, California — Google unveiled a beta version of its Chrome OS Tuesday morning.
The company showed off the operating system, which has been in development for over a year, during a press event here. Also making an appearance at Tuesday’s event was the Chrome Web Store, which we expected to see launch today. If you’re using the Chrome browser, you can visit the store and start installing apps now.
Chrome OS, which doesn’t go into general release until next year, relies entirely on web-based applications for basic productivity tasks like mail, document editing, photo sharing, social networking and reading news. Its inner workings are based on Google’s own Chrome browser.
To get around the connectivity problem inherent to web-based apps, Google says every Chrome OS laptop will ship with both wi-fi and cellular connections. The company has partnered with Verizon — when you buy a Chrome OS laptop, you get 100MB of free data per month for two years. There are no long-term contracts. If you want to upgrade, you only pay for what you need. Chrome OS users can buy a day pass from Verizon, or choose from a few long-term plans starting at $10 per month.
Acer and Samsung Chrome OS laptops will go on sale in mid-2011, with more OEMs to follow, the company says.
In the meantime, Google is launching a pilot program to get hardware running Chrome OS into developers’ hands. Early adopters can sign up to get a black, unbranded Chrome OS notebook, codenamed “Cr-48.”
Google VP of product management Sundar Pichai held one up during the event — it’s a full-sized laptop with a 12.1″ screen, an Intel Atom processor, a world-mode 3G radio, a flash memory drive, and it has a built-in “jailbreaking” mode so you can hack it. Google is also giving away a few of the pilot laptops to its Facebook fans.
From what we’ve seen so far, Chrome OS is extremely fast (the demo we saw was running on the Cr-48 laptop) and, provided you already have a Google account, it literally takes under a minute to get up and running.
Pichai, who has been using ChromeOS for six months, continuously gushed about its speed, which was evident during the demos.
“By building an experience based totally on the web, we’ve made all of the user experiences instant,” he said.