Jolicloud aims to steal Chrome OS's netbook thunder

Jolicloud will boot up in 10 seconds -- and allow apps -- in a more Mac-like interface than Google's Chrome OS

Jolicloud, an upcoming Web-centric operating system for netbooks, will be prettier and more flexible than Google's Web-only Chrome OS, the company's CEO says.

Based on the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, Jolicloud will also support better-quality video and Web integration on netbooks than other Linux operating systems, Tariq Krim, Jolicloud's CEO, told Computerworld.

The OS received strong praise earlier this month from a Computerworld reviewer, despite being in alpha stage.

Jolicloud is expected to go into final beta by the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January, and is expected to be finalized sometime early next year, Krim said.

While Krim says Jolicloud shares Google's "Web approach," it also lets users run applications such as Skype locally, and store data on their machines if they are afraid of Google's spying eyes. "People don't want an advertising algorithm that goes into their files," Krim said.

Jolicloud will be free, with optional features and services offered for a fee. And, like Google's Chrome OS netbooks, will offer very fast boot times. "With the latest Linux kernel release, everyone will be able to offer a 10-second boot," he said.

But he said Joilcloud will deliver a more compelling netbook OS than today's crop. "We think we can shake up the OS market," Krim said.

Krim is backing up his bold claims with announcements of several technical advances with Jolicloud:

* Jolicloud is the first Linux distribution that fully supports Intel's GMA500 graphics chipset, used on Atom Z-series netbooks such as the Dell Mini 12, the Asus Eee 1101HA, and the Acer Aspire One 751. That support will allow netbooks to display 720P HD video, he said, enabling Linux to match Windows on those netbooks for the first time, Krim said.

* Jolicloud will offer better built-in support for connected devices than other Linux distros, even Ubuntu, Krim said. Balky hardware drivers continue to plague desktop Linux, something Google hopes to avoid with Chrome OS by banning certain components, such as conventional hard drives.

* Jolicloud plans to make it very easy for owners of an Windows XP- or Windows 7 Starter-based netbook to install Jolicloud for dual boots, Krim said. That and the GMA support are key: Jolicloud plans to release the OS on the Web for free download, rather than trying to craft OEM deals with netbook manufacturers, as Google plans. "We're a small company of 12 employees, so we can't pay people to have meetings with everyone," he said.

* Jolicloud's interface will be optimized for smaller netbook screens. While Chrome OS will offer something "generic, we will have something closer to the Mac for our UI," Krim said.

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Eric Lai

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