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First look at Google Chrome OS: 'Nothing but the Web'

Google Chrome OS
The rumors are true: Google's big Chrome event today was all about Chrome OS. As expected, Chrome OS is a "nothing but the web" operating system that runs entirely on web apps, with the Chrome browser at the center of the experience. Google walked through the whole Chrome OS user experience at the event, and it really looks like a solid choice for everyday users who just want to browse, share, work and play games on the web.

Setup for Chrome OS takes less than 60 seconds. In four steps, you can create a user account that already has access to your Google Apps data, and even carries over the themes, bookmarks and other settings from your existing Chrome browser. If you close the lid of your Chrome netbook and then open it again, your system and your internet connection resume faster than you can even type a Google Search.

In terms of sharing, each user's data on a Chrome OS machine is kept totally separate, so you can let your family make their own accounts (or let a friend use guest mode, which starts an Incognito session) and nobody will see anybody else's browsing history. Meanwhile, anything you do in Chrome on any of your computers will be synced to your account on the others. That means you can install an app or delete a theme on your Mac or PC, and it'll sync to your Chrome OS netbook in a few seconds.

All this "nothing but the web" stuff seems like it would make offline work difficult in Chrome OS, but you can work offline in Google Apps and have the changes sync automatically as soon as you get a connection again. Printing is possible too, via the long-awaited Cloud Print feature. Plus, you won't be disconnected very often, because Google has partnered with Verizon to provide pay-as-you go data plan for Chrome netbooks. 100mb of data per month will be free for the first two years, and you can buy as much or as little as you need on top of that, with no contract or commitment. In fact, they've even included an unlimited day pass option. Of course, regular old wifi is an option, too.

Last, but certainly not least, is security. Protecting your data is the elephant in the room with all this cloud computing stuff, but Google argues that Chrome OS's security features make it the most secure consumer OS ever. The OS uses the same auto-update and sandboxing features the Chrome browser does, taking the burden of keeping apps and the operating system up to date off of the user. It also encrypts all user data by default, making it harder for someone who steals your netbook to steal your data, too. Chrome also uses something called verified boot that will detect any malicious changes to your firmware and let you recover from a verified backup.

Consumers can fill out a form right now to try to enter the small test pilot program for the new 12" CR-48 Chrome notebooks.

Tags: breaking, chrome, chrome OS, chrome web store, ChromeOs, ChromeWebStore, cloud computing, CloudComputing, google, google chrome, GoogleChrome, web