According to an announcement Tuesday on the official Google blog, the OS will be open source and “lightweight” in size, specifically customized for netbooks — those tiny PCs that are designed mainly for web and email use.
The Linux-based platform is being built for “speed, simplicity and security,” Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, engineering director, wrote on the company’s blog.
“And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates,” the pair said.
Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said Google has made strong security strides through its Native Client code technology and Chrome web browser, which was released last year and includes features such as “sandboxing” to help contain malware.
“If [Google] brings that kind of thinking to the operating system and looks at it from a clean sheet of paper, they should be able to introduce some significant improvements,” Jaquith told SCMagazineUS.com on Wednesday.
He said Google has the added benefit of not being constrained by the millions of line of legacy code and Windows application programming interfaces like Microsoft is.
“They can make their own assumption about what an OS should be, from a security standpoint,” Jaquith said.
Vincent Weafer, vice president of Symantec Security Response, said he supports Google’s intention to build a more hardened OS. But he said a robust platform is just one step toward securing users.
“The challenge is you have sophisticated attackers out there and the threats are constantly changing,” he told SCMagazineUS.com on Wednesday.
Jaquith noted one other potential concern with the planned Chrome OS: privacy. Google has come under fire in the past over how it tracks user activity on the internet. In addition, privacy advocates have criticized how the company protects health information and privacy in its on-demand web applications.
“Google has taken the position that all of your searches belong to us, and one wonders how much of that attitude will be brought to user-activity monitoring in the operating system,” Jaquith said.
The new platform is expected to be made available to customers in the second half of next year. As for how the product will be received by the public, researcher Rich Mogull, founder of Securosis, thinks it may only generate a niche following to start.
“I think this will have a fraction of the market share that Macs do, and Macs aren’t challenging Windows yet,” he told SCMagazineUS.com.