Google is developing an open-source operating system targeted at Internet-centric computers such as netbooks and will release it later this year, the company said Wednesday.
The OS, which will carry the same "Chrome" name as the company's browser, is expected to begin appearing on netbook computers in the second half of 2010, Google said in a blog post.
It is already talking to "multiple" companies about the project, it added.
The Chrome OS will be available for computers based on the x86 architecture, which is used by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), and the Arm architecture.
Prototypes of Arm-based netbooks began appearing last month at the Computex show in Taiwan and Google's support for the architecture could give it a significant boost. Microsoft's mainstream Windows operating system doesn't run on Arm chips so many manufacturers were talking about using Linux or a version of Google's Android operating system. It's not immediately clear how much the two operating systems share in common code but Google said they are aimed at very different devices.
"Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android," it said. "Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the Web."
While Google is initially looking at the netbook segment of the market it might compete with Microsoft and Apple on larger, Internet-centric machines.
Chrome OS is "being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems," said Google.
The heart of Chrome OS is the Linux kernel. Applications, which can be written in standard Web programming languages, will run inside Google Chrome in a new windowing system. They will additionally run inside the Chrome browser on Windows, Mac or Linux machines, meaning that a single application could run on almost any computer.
Wide support for the platform will be key to getting developers involved and so an important factor in its degree of success.
"We have a lot of work to do, and we're definitely going to need a lot of help from the open source community to accomplish this vision," Google said in its blog post.
For end users Google promised a better computing experience on machines with faster access to e-mail, fast boot-up times, access to data from anywhere and the end of problematic hardware configuration, software updates and security issues.
"We are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work," Google said.