First Google Chrome Device Reportedly in the Works

There may be some truth to recent rumors of the upcoming Google Chrome operating system running on netbook- and smartphone-type devices. According to Kevin C. Tofel of the jkOnTheRun mobile technology blog, Nvidia's Tegra computer-on-a-chip platform will soon power Chrome OS-based hardware.

Back in July, as you'll recall, Google stunned the tech world by announcing plans to develop a new operating system based on its Chrome web browser. At the time, Google said its upcoming Chrome OS would be "lightweight" and web-centric, and that it would start shipping on netbooks in the second half of next year.

But is Chrome OS for smartphones too? The jkOnTheRun report, which is based on Tofel's interview with Mike Rayfield, Nvidia’s GM of Mobile Business, suggests Chrome OS may not be limited to netbooks.

Tofel writes: "Nvidia is 'working closely with Google,' on the Chrome OS platform, Rayfield tells me. And that stressed to me that Tegra isn’t just a handheld device play." No product ship dates were announced.

Tegra is perhaps best known today as the muscle behind Microsoft's Zune HD media player, although Nvidia has stated that Tegra-based laptops could appear later this year. The Tegra platform will support multiple operating systems, including Windows Mobile and Google Android on smartphones, and Windows CE and Google Chrome OS on smartphones and netbooks, Rayfield says.

While a Chrome OS-based Tegra netbook wouldn't come as a surprise, Nvidia's announcement does raise a couple of questions. First: Will Chrome OS makes its debut sooner than expected? Google's July announcement seemed awfully early for an operating system that wouldn't appear for another year at the earliest. Second: How will Google differentiate Android from Chrome, particularly if the latter runs on both smartphones and netbooks? Google execs have stated that each OS will have specialized jobs tailored to specific hardware, but it does appear that Chrome may be wandering onto Android's turf.

Then again, consumers probably won't fret over the proliferation of portable computing operating systems. I wonder how many people who buy the new HTC Hero phone will realize that it's running Android? If a smartphone or netbook is reliable, easy to use, and has the right mix of features, users won't worry about the OS.

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