We’ve known for some time that Google has been looking to bring some of its Chrome OS features to other operating systems, and now new information all-but-confirms that a Mac version of the Chrome OS app launcher is on its way.
The leak came from Chrome engineer François Beaufort, who also provided a picture and a link to a beta version that’s ready to trial. You will, however, need to download at least one app from the Chrome web store to get it running.
Google wants to emulate the experience of Chromebooks on other machines using the launcher, which lists all of your web apps in one convenient place.
The Chrome OS platform runs web apps instead of traditional programs, which makes the app launcher an integral part of the Chrome experience.
Instead of having to enter Chrome to execute app functions, the launcher opens the apps into a separate window. Currently there’s no word on a launch date and Beaufort didn’t offer up any other teasers.
It is likely, however, that Google will release the app launcher with Chrome 28 and Chrome 29, both of which are heading our way soon.
Instant messaging is great, unless the person you want to chat with is using an incompatible service – but Google could soon come to the rescue with the ultimate cross-platform solution.
Geek.com reported Tuesday that Google may be preparing to expand on its Google Talk instant messaging service by building an all-in-one chat solution from the ground up – one that works across all mobile platforms.
The new service known as Google Babble could debut at this year’s Google I/O developer conference in May, although sources were quick to note the company has yet to pin an actual release date on the calendar.
One thing sources were willing to discuss was the cross-platform nature of Babble, which is said to expand beyond Android and onto iOS, BlackBerry and even Chrome OS.
In addition to chat unity, Google Babble will reportedly combine the best of the search giant’s current Google Talk features, which are built on the open-source Jabber (XMPP) protocol.
That means support for sending images back and forth, Hangout-style video chats and conversation-style messaging threads users have come to know and love.
The service appears aimed at also uniting Google’s own disparate offerings, which include Talk, Hangout, Voice, Messenger, Chat for Google Drive and even Google+ Talk integration.
Babble could have one Achilles’ heel out of the gate, however: Chrome OS aside, the report only discusses support for mobile operating systems, with nary a peep about the company’s desktop plans, if any.
Google has made both headline writers and Chrome OS fans deliriously happy by finally unveiling the touchscreen Chromebook Pixel.
We won’t suggest that this is Pixel perfect, but the 2560 x 1700 device certainly takes the burgeoning Chrome OS to a new level – adding touch to the mix while giving it the highest resolution to ship on a laptop to date.
“I’m pretty sure every laptop will be touch in the future – so we wanted to push that forward,” Google SVP Sundar Pichai said during a hush-hush event today, signaling that this isn’t just a romp in the PC park for Google.
The firm means business with this ‘book, which will come in both Wi-Fi and LTE models – it’s packed the Pixel with a lovely touch capable screen, solid insides and the rapidly expanding Chrome OS into an anodized aluminum bodied machine.
And though it’s priced princelier than some of chief competitor’s products, Google is clearly taking aim at Apple’s MacBook line, and we think it stands a fighting chance.
This is Google’s project all the way, completely designed and built by the crack G-team. Using Cr-48 as a reference, Google flushed out, built and finished its notebook aspirations with Pixel.
Google is billing Pixel as a high-end premium product, and its inner and outer workings speak volumes about that marking.
The Gorilla Glass screen is where the bragging rights begin – its aspect ratio is 3:2 and with a pixel density of 239ppi, it’s home to 19 more pixels per inch than the MacBook Pro with Retina.
The display stretches to 12.85 inches, larger than other 11.6- and 12.1-inch Chromebooks made in tandem with various partners.
It needs that extra space to pack in the Chromebook’s 4.3 million pixels.
As if there isn’t enough about the display already, specs for the screen also mark it as 400 nit with a 178-degree extra-wide viewing angle.
Powered by a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, the laptop’s battery snags more than five hours of life. RAM sits at 4GB, while solid state drive mojo is 32GB for Wi-Fi only and 64GB for the LTE model.
Intel is also providing the graphics power with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 card.
There’s the expected backlit keyboard and a fully clickable, etched-glass touchpad. Google has gone for a seamless exterior – rounded edges, vents are stashed away, screws invisible and stereo speakers are tucked beneath the keyboard.
Two microphones near the camera create a surrounding sound cancellation effect, and a third microphone under the keyboard adds further noise-muffling powers. Combine the microphones with a 720p webcam and you can make some decent home movies.
There are two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-display port and two-in-one card reader supporting SD and MMC. All told, the machine weighs in at 3.35 pounds.
Google didn’t skimp on some niceties either: The hinge is of a luxury build (for smooth opening) and for those who can’t stand the whir of their laptop fan, it’s tuned to mute as much buzz as possible.
Google’s made full use of its recent acquisition of QuickOffice, as Pixel will open Excel natively in the browser and allow it to work offline.
Photography, something apparently very dear to the Google+ employees who’ve been tinkering with Pixel, as moved Google to provide quick, high-quality uploads in the laptop.
To that end, Google said it’s developing an app that will let users automatically upload, view and share photos. The app is expected soon, and will let start the upload process as soon as an SD card is inserted into Pixel. After transfer, Pixel will put those pics to Google+ directly.
But, how to store all these pics? Google’s seemingly thought of everything as it’s bundled 1TB of Google Drive data for three years.
Uses will also get 12 free session of GoGo Inflight internet, 100MB of mobile broadband a month for two years from Verizon in the U.S., with a data plan of course.
The U.K. and U.S. will both see the Wi-Fi version, though Google is gifting just the States with an LTE variant. Both models are available for today through the Google Play Store and will be available soon through BestBuy.com. Google expects the Wi-Fi version to start shipping next week and LTE will hit the U.S. in April.
Price wise Google is marking the Wi-Fi version at $1,299/UK£1,049 and the LTE flavor $1,449. Cost reflects local storage capacities – 32GB for Wi-Fi only and 64GB in LTE.
The clear comparison on the cost front is against the MacBook Air, which Apple charges US$999 for the 11-inch version and $1,199 for the 13 inch.
However, though more expensive, Google justified the Pixel’s price with its extra offerings.
“One terabyte of drive, that’s very expensive, and that’s included as well,” Pichai said.
“That’s not a straight forward comparison,” he continued. “Air doesn’t have high resolution or touch, and what you’re getting from hardware is far superior.”
Programs are essentially like web apps, and the whole system is designed to be responsive and secure, although functionality does become limited when you’re away from an internet connection.
Google’s move into hardware is fascinating – attacking the homeland of Microsoft and former friend Apple.
Google Glass and partnerships with major hardware manufacturers on Nexus phones and tablets has illustrated the companies desire to provide not only software and services, but the devices on which it can run.
With Apple slowly cutting Google out of its own devices, and Microsoft also moving into making its own kit with things like the Surface, it’s clear that controlling the products end to end is potentially vital.
Even if Pixel doesn’t become a hit Google will still need hardware, and designing its own devices will make sure that it stays in the game.
A YouTube slip-up might just have revealed a new Google Chromebook called the Pixel.
The original video that tipped this Chromebook has already been taken down (though more videos are, heroically, taking its place), but that won’t stop the internet buzz about it.
The video doesn’t dish many details about the possible Pixel, likely named after its high-resolution display.
What it does say is that it’s a touchscreen laptop housing 4 million pixels on the display. According to guesswork around the net, that amounts to hearty a 2560 x 1700 resolution.
The video originally comes from visual guide company Slinky.me, which claims the video got loose when the company’s servers were attacked by hackers. But the video could very well have been a mistake public post.
Whatever the reason, we got a nice rumor to chew on to be taken with a few grains of salt.
Chromebooks are nothing new: there’s the Acer C7 Chromebook and the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, both released in the last few months.
The video said this will be the first laptop completely designed by Google, which is somewhat true. Google attempted to release a Chromebook in 2010 called the Cr-48. But that notebook only made its way into a few hands and was never commercially available.
There’s no telling if the search engine will manufacturer the Pixel itself, or partner with another company to put it together, much like Google does with the Nexus brand of devices.
The leak goes along with a rumor that made the rounds in November. It was from a suspect source, the China Times, which said Chinese manufacturer Compal was producing a Google-branded touchscreen notebook.
But that rumor doesn’t lend too much credence to this one.
Whatever the case may be, we’ll make sure to keep a close eye on any possible Chromebooks to come.
Until then, feast your eyes on what is, at least for the moment, the Pixel:
Acer is upgrading its C7 Chromebook with a handful of new parts that seem like questionable choices for the cloud-based operating system.
Part of what makes Chromebooks so appealing is that the cloud-based OS means most of the system’s heavy lifting is done on the web, rather than with the hardware.
That hasn’t stopped Acer from bumping up the C7′s specs. The new model wil have an upgrade to 4GB of RAM instead of the original 2GB, a hard drive increase from 320GB to 500GB, and a larger capacity 5,000 mAh battery.
What’s more, the battery is the big news in the new C7 Chromebook. It has nearly double the estimated run time for the laptop at six hours over the original’s three and a half hours of battery life.
Like the original C7 Chromebook, the new Acer model still uses an Intel Celeron 847 CPU with an 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 display.
It also still includes 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage instead of relying on a hard drive.
The upgraded RAM and hard drive in the C7 won’t see much use with the preloaded Chrome OS, but it could make the new model an attractive option for users who want to load a version of Ubuntu as a second operating system.
The new Acer C7 Chromebook retails for $299.99, $100 more than the original C7. That’s quite the price jump in the realm of Chromebooks, which might be hard to justify on the battery alone if you plan on sticking exclusively with Chrome OS installed.
A new Google patent surfaced, and it seems to detail a device that could become a Google Nexus-branded transforming laptop.
The patent, titled “moveable display portion of a computing device,” describes a transforming laptop-tablet hybrid with the capability to flatten into a tablet and expand into laptop without any additional pieces.
The new device can even swivel on a corner, although the purpose of this function is anyone’s guess.
With Google’s lines of Chromebooks and Android devices continuing to expand, this new patent could indicate plans to bring Chrome OS and Android Jelly Bean together into one comprehensive Google Nexus device.
But at least one analyst thinks it’s a terrible idea.
J. Gold Associates analyst Jack Gold answered simply “No” when asked whether he thinks the device described in Google’s patent is a good idea.
In Gold’s opinion, the Android ecosystem is becoming far too complex, and it wouldn’t make sense for Google to add yet another possible form factor to the mix.
“The issue is that there are so many different form factors and different models,” Gold said.
“On the other hand, if you get too complicated and too complex, especially if Google’s doing it, one, you compete with your ecosystem, and two, people don’t know what to make of it.”
In Google’s latest patent, the screen slides forward over the keyboard and then lies flat to transform the device into a touch tablet. But Gold says that design may be too complicated and prone to breaking down.
“What people want – what people mostly want today – is simplicity,” he said.
“They also want functionality, but you know, if it’s something weird, you have a hard time selling it.”
Past transforming laptops haven’t been terribly successful for a number of reasons, Gold said, one being that they simply don’t work very well.
He added that the Microsoft Surface’s solution – which adds a physical keyboard to the tablet’s magnetic cover – is “actually pretty elegant.”
“There’s no connector to break. It’s fairly simple and straightforward,” he said.
“Simple is good,” he concluded. “It really is, when you start talking about these devices.”
Google has explained why its staff have not all been shifted over to Chrome OS, with two senior Googlers explaining that they believe people should move over when they choose to.
Google is a big believer in what is termed “Dogfooding” – with the company’s first consumers of any of its technology the staff itself.
When asked in a briefing why many senior Googlers are still seen using Macs and Windows PCs, vice president of Engineering Linus Upson and product management director for Chrome OS Caesar Sengupta explained exactly why.
“The way it works at Google is that when new arrivals come in they can choose what kind of computer they want,” said Upson. “We’re just now making Chromebooks available to all new employees when they come in.
“The thing is that, unlike many companies Google is a very diverse culture, and so when we launched Chrome [browser] I’d show up at meetings and see what people were projecting and the odds were it was going to be Firefox.
“It wasn’t like everyone started using Chrome overnight but after a year when we made Chrome better and better… then you were more likely to see Chrome projected in meetings.
Upson: “We’re not forcing it on anyone – we want to delight people with it so they choose it.”
“We’re seeing the same thing with Chromebooks. We’re not forcing it on anyone – we want to delight people with it so they choose it, and we’re starting to see the same kind of adoption as we did with Chrome one year in.”
Sengupta pointed out that Chromebooks are a cheaper computing option, and that people can opt for more expensive computers when they join.
“Remember that we have fairly big IT budgets within Google so people can choose from three times the price of the Chromebook
“What we’re seeing is that a very large of people are starting out with Chromebooks.”
Google’s released so many new things this week you’d probably need a special Google Map to find them all: there was new hardware, new software, more new hardware, a bit more hardware and a new online service.
The biggest announcement was the new version of Chrome OS, Google’s alternative operating system. As Patrick Goss reports, it’s a bold new vision with some room for improvement, and the new Chrome-running, Mac Mini-esque Chromebox PC “could carve itself a nice little niche in the desktop market.” There are new Chromebook laptops from Samsung and Acer too, and Google promises more from other firms too.
The most obvious new thing in Chrome OS is a desktop, which Gary Marshall reckons “is worth a titter at the very least… what we’ve ended up with looks considerably less radical than Microsoft’s Metro interface for Windows 8″.
For Marshall, Chrome is an OS designed for “a big but fairly dull market: the locked-down boxes you’ll find in hotel internet suites, on check-in desks and in giant corporations’ offices”. For consumers “it appears to be the Google+ of operating systems, the answer to a question somebody else has already answered”.
Chrome OS and Android to merge
One Chrome device you won’t see is a tablet, because Chrome and Android will ultimately merge. “We are not working on a Chrome OS tablet,” Google says.
Google certainly is working on an Android tablet, though: the Nexus 7, which has shown up online and appears to be made by Asus. It’s a quad-core, seven-inch job that should run Android 4.1, and we’re expecting to hear much more about it at next month’s Google I/O event, along with details of Google Glasses, the augmented reality eyewear that Sergey Brin hints will be released next year.
Google is mainly an online services company, of course, and its latest wheeze is Google+ Local, a location-based section of its social network that will compete with the likes of Yelp, Urban Spoon and even “a significant chunk of TripAdvisor”. It’s part of Google’s ongoing process of integrating everything with everything else, so, for example, it integrates Google+, Google Maps, the Google-owned Zagat restaurant guide, Circles, Hangouts and businesses’ Google+ pages.
Apple is lurking
With WWDC 2012 just over a week away we’re about to enter the annual Apple news frenzy, and it kicked off early this week when CEO Tim Cook took to the stage at the AllThingsD conference to talk about Apple’s past, present and future.
TV is an “area of intense interest”, Cook said, all but confirming that Apple is working on a TV; at the very least we reckon the WWDC event will unveil iOS-style apps for the existing Apple TV device. Cook also slammed hybrid tablet/laptop devices and gave Microsoft’s tablet plans a good kick, suggesting that combining PC and tablet was like combining a toaster and a fridge.
Gary Marshall felt that the interview showed Cook stepping out from the late Steve Jobs’ shadow. “In among the assertions of Apple’s general awesomeness, there was some real substance to the interview,” he says, noting that Cook promised a more open Apple (but not about future products) and improved corporate responsibility, suggested that the ill-fated Ping social network is on borrowed time and strongly hinted at imminent Facebook integration.
When Cook promised great things from Apple this year, Marshall wasn’t “detecting a reality distortion field. Roll on WWDC.”
Praise for Jobs
Cook praised Steve Jobs during his interview, and he wasn’t the only one to do so this week: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison called the late Apple founder the Henry Ford of the tech industry, while Pixar’s Ed Catmull said that, in his final years, Jobs “was very kind. There was a notion of fairness that wasn’t there in the early years.”
From the sublime to the utterly ridiculous: this week we discovered the existence of the Play-A-Grill, a piece of jewellery that doubles as a tongue-controlled MP3 player. Marc Chacksfield couldn’t resist. “Wonder who will wear it first?,” he asked. “Queen La-teether, Tooth-pac Shakur or Root canal Manuva?”
Google has redesigned Chrome OS with a more traditional desktop-style appearance. But why has it done it? And is it any good? Here’s everything you need to know.
Chrome OS was originally released last year inside Chromebooks laptops from Samsung and Acer. They were essentially netbooks with a different operating system than Windows.
But Chrome OS met with huge criticism – not least from this site – that it was too simplistic (the interface was just Google Chrome the browser with no desktop) and that it didn’t really work when you weren’t connected to the internet.
Google simply hadn’t done enough work on making its tools work when offline. This is now set to change though – read on for more. Chrome OS could finally be in a position to challenge more basic versions of Windows.
Read our Hands on: Samsung Chromebox review
Read our Hands on: Samsung Chromebook review
Chrome OS is now on version 19
The new Chrome OS is actually version 19 of the operating system – updates have been constantly dripping down to older Chromebooks – Google has created eight releases of the software since Chrome OS launched.
Chrome OS desktop
Chrome OS has been redesigned completely, with the “just a web browser” interface now complimented by a Windows 7-style desktop complete with Chrome icon instead of the Windows Start Menu orb. The apps display on the desktop also rather resembles Launchpad in Apple’s Mac X Lion.
Multitasking is now possible in multiple Chrome windows, but you can’t pin apps to the desktop itself. You can, however, pin your most used apps to the task bar. Yep, just like in Windows 7. You can also flick Windows to view them side-by-side using the square box icon in the top right of the browser window.
Here’s Google on why Chrome OS needed Windows.
Chome OS apps
Chrome OS uses the same apps you’d fine in the Chrome Web Store – the apps in Chrome still open in a Chrome browser window. That’s because they are still web apps and aren’t stored offline.
However, this means that truly powerful apps are still beyond Chrome OS until cloud-based versions are built (while the amount of apps is also limited but growing), so you probably won’t use a Chrome OS PC as your main machine. However, it could be a great hybrid solution for those of us who find a laptop too simplistic.
New Chome OS PCs
There are two new Chrome OS PCs announced by Google – first up is the re-booted Samsung Series 5 Chromebook which features an Intel Atom processor , 16GB SSD, 4GB RAM and a completely revamped touchpad for £379 or $449 (£429 and $549 for the 3G versions). Yep, that’s still pretty expensive – would you really plump for one over a full Windows PC?
There’s also the Chromebox, a small form-factor PC which we’d probably call a nettop. Again it’s by Samsung.
Chrome OS speed
The big boon of Chrome OS is speed – it’s quick and responsive because it’s essentially based around Chrome the browser. Even though it looks like you’re using a separate browser, all apps actually open in the browser window. The new OS also includes more GPU acceleration.
“We’re pretty happy with the progress of Chrome OS,” Google’s vice president of engineering Linus Upson told TechRadar. “The new generation of hardware is two or three times faster so that is also something we’re pretty excited about.”
Chrome OS file system
There’s still a big question mark over how usable Chrome OS is with different files. However, Google is working on this and says the next version will use Google Drive as its cloud storage file system. However, file handling is better, and the system can now open all Office documents and can work online or offline.
Google has also allowed copying to the local drive from USB flash drives in Chrome OS. The files now accessible include Office docs, PDF, ZIPs, RARs and movie and sound files.
Chrome OS offline support
Google has been working hard to ensure that Chrome OS works a lot better offline. There is offline Google Mail while documents, music, photos and movies will also work offline in due course. The lack of offline Google Docs has been a massive problem, but Google promises this is imminent.