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Google launches Chrome OS, says Windows is 'torturing users'

Google provides first look at Chrome OS laptops

By , Network World
May 11, 2011 04:27 PM ET

Network World - Google co-founder Sergey Brin said Windows and other traditional PC operating systems are "torturing users" at Google's Chrome OS launch event Wednesday, where the company claimed 75% of business users can be converted from Windows to Chrome OS right away.

Google is partnering with Samsung and Acer to ship laptops based on Google's browser-turned-operating-system on June 15, it was announced at the Google I/O conference. In a briefing with reporters afterward, Brin was asked how many Google employees still use Windows. As a rough guess, he said it's about 20%. The rest must use Macs or Linux. But by next year, Brin hopes the vast majority of Googlers will be doing their work on Chrome OS.

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"I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with Windows," Brin said. "Windows 7 has some great security features."

But Chrome OS, by putting most of a user's applications and data on the Web with some offline capabilities, presents a "stateless" model that Brin believes will eliminate complexity for users and IT departments by un-tethering people from machines that are difficult to set up and manage.

"With Microsoft, and other operating system vendors, I think the complexity of managing your computer is really torturing users," Brin said. "It's torturing everyone in this room. It's a flawed model fundamentally. Chromebooks are a new model that doesn't put the burden of managing the computer on yourself."

Google executives said they surveyed 400 companies and found that with a combination of Web applications, offline access to Google Docs and other services, and applications delivered through virtualization software, businesses could move 75% of their users onto Chrome OS devices.

Microsoft (and even Apple) could probably come up with a survey showing exactly the opposite. But Google does have an interesting plan to market Chrome OS devices, including partnerships with VMware and Citrix to deliver remote access to enterprise applications.

Chrome OS is basically nothing more than the Chrome browser on top of a stripped-down version of Linux, with no need to install antivirus software because of Chrome's sandboxing security, and cloud-based backups to restore data on the off chance you get a virus. All user data is encrypted by default.

While the devices are primarily designed to surf the Web, the laptops will have a file system and some offline access to key productivity applications.

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Devices from Samsung and Acer will be sold at Best Buy and for between $350 and $500, but businesses can get the devices in a package for $28 per user per month, which includes support and hardware replacements. A similar deal for $20 per user per month is available to schools.

Samsung will offer a $429 version with a 12.1-inch screen and Wi-Fi, and Verizon will ship a 3G version for $499. An Acer device with an 11.6-inch screen will start at $349.

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