For Google fans, trick-or-treat came a bit early. On Wednesday, a brief rash of Twitter posts suggested that the search behemoth had released a preview version of its forthcoming Chrome OS. An official-looking page offered the opportunity to download the public beta as a VMWare appliance—but it turns out that the download was a fake. The site, hosted on Google’s Web-hosting service, has since been shut down.
The news of the release seemed believable given Google’s announcement this week of the new Android 2.0 operating system, primarily intended for mobile devices. And the fall has so far been filled with big OS launches—Apple’s Mac OS X Snow Leopard in August and Microsoft’s Windows 7 last week.
Back in July, Google said that it aimed to ship Chrome OS in the second half of 2010, but preview versions of the operating system were widely expected to become available later this year. So it seemed plausible, until you started digging and saw that despite Google’s claims of grandeur, the download appeared to be little more than a hacked-together Linux distribution. This isn't the first instance, either: in September, screenshots surfaced purporting to be pictures of Chrome OS; a prankster later took credit for creating them.
When the real deal does show up, it will be a Linux-based OS, but it will be structured around the Chrome Web browser, which aims to be as minimalist and unobtrusive as possible. Google has also said that Chrome OS will pioneer a new window management system. The browser itself is still a Windows-only application as the Mac version is only available as a developer preview release.
Google’s goal is to deliver an OS that is lightweight, open-source, and free of security headaches. Because it is built around—and perhaps almost synonymous with—a browser, Chrome OS aims to move the user interface from the desktop to Web, encouraging the expansion of cloud-computing and Web applications.
I guess we’ll be waiting little while longer for Chrome OS to surface. In the meantime, beware those rumors and check your sources before you tweet.