Since Google announced Chrome OS there have been lots of questions asked (and very few questions answered) about what hardware it will run on. They’ve listed the names of some hardware partners, but that’s about it.
Will it be a general purpose OS that can be installed on any PC? Will it only be available for specific netbook hardware? As it runs on Linux, does that mean it will work with any hardware supported under Linux? I suspect the answers to these questions are NO, NO and NO. But with caveats…
Google want their OS to be fast. Really fast. Just a few seconds from power on to web browser fast. They’re not going to get that by writing a general purpose desktop OS. They’re not going to get that by including drivers and auto-detection code for hundreds of devices, like many Linux distributions do. Instead they will target specific hardware – specific chipsets used in netbooks, in particular. But I don’t think that’s all they’ll target.
Google want lots of people to use Chrome OS. To play with it. To fix and improve it. And that’s not going to happen if you have to own some very specific hardware before you can even join the game. So instead I predict a virtualised version of Chrome OS fairly early in the development cycle. Something all packaged up and ready to run under VMWare, or VirtualBox.
That will give developers a chance to work with it on their desktop machines. But if the boot-to-browser speed is as fast as they want it to be, it might even end up being comparable in speed to launching a “normal” desktop web browser. Perhaps that’s how Google are planning to spread excitement about Chrome OS – by also making it appear to be just another application that you can install and run on your desktop PC.
So that’s my prediction: a Chrome OS virtual machine as a means to soften you up before you next buy a netbook.