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Is Google getting ready to drop a Chrome OS bomb on WWDC 2010?

Google was pretty clear about their timetable for Chrome OS when they first opened up the Chromium source code last year. It would be just 12 months, they said, until it was ready to be released.

Fast forward to today -- Google I/O recently wrapped up, and Chrome OS was given a little time to shine. We got a quick look at the upcoming Web Store and a few native apps (like Lego Star Wars and Plants vs. Zombies). Chrome OS certainly looked pretty complete, and that's not too unexpected.

After all, Chrome OS is little more than a minimal Linux layer with the Chrome browser on top. Chrome has been publicly available since September 2008. While their OS ambitions haven't been public for that long, it's likely work has been going on behind the scenes before any announcements.

Recently we heard rumblings that Acer would be demoing Chrome OS devices at Computex -- and as I predicted, that turned out not to be the case. Though in hindsight, Acer could easily have shown off a Chrome OS device that was as stable and usable as the buggy EP101TC Asus decided to demo...


Still, after compiling and playing with Chrome OS repeatedly this month it's starting to look pretty solid. UI roughness has been smoothed out. Errors are becoming less frequent. In short, Chrome OS looks like it's very nearly ready for a public beta.

Three recent additions -- and one historical precedent -- all contribute to the possibility that a Chrome OS beta might be coming soon. First, a bug reporting feature has been added. Click the smiley face/talk balloon icon at the top of your screen and you can select from 13 different bug types, enter a description, and attach a screenshot. The report also includes a detailed snapshot of your system information -- which build you're running, your CPU, your network configuration.

The second addition is the CHROME_RELEASE_TRACK value in the bug report. This change was mentioned recently in a note on the Chromium OS buildbot waterfall, and it's the first time "channels" (like Chrome's stable/beta/dev) have been mentioned.

The final addition speaks to Acer, HTC, and other would-be Chrome OS hardware manufacturers. Options have been added to Chrome OS to build in customized EULA and help pages as well as a manufacturer-specific registration URL.

As for the precedent? Google loves to steal their competitors' thunder. They've done it repeatedly with other product announcements -- like the initial release of the Chromium OS source code, which just happened to coincide with Microsoft's PDC 2009.

So what might be a juicy target for an assault during the summer of 2010? Why, Apple's WWDC, of course -- which is less than a week away. Will Google seize the opportunity, or will they play it coy this time and let Apple enjoy a nice, quiet WWDC?

We'll find out soon enough.
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Tags: announcements, apple, beta, chrome, chrome os, ChromeOs, CrOS, google, netbook, osupdates, release, testing

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