Google plans Chrome operating system

Google plans to attack Microsoft's core business by taking on the software giant's globally dominant Windows operating system for personal computers.

Google, which already offers a suite of email, Web and other software products that compete with Microsoft, said on Tuesday it would launch a new operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.

Microsoft shares fell 1.4 per cent to $22.22 in early Nasdaq trade on Wednesday. Google shares rose 1.2 per cent to $401.36.

Called the Google Chrome Operating System, the new software will be in netbooks for consumers in the second half of 2010, Google said in a blog post, adding that it was working with multiple manufacturers.

Netbooks are low-cost notebook PCs designed for Internet surfing and other Web-based applications.

"It's been part of their culture to go after and remove Microsoft as a major holder of technology, and this is part of their strategy to do it," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "This could be very disruptive. If they can execute, Microsoft is vulnerable to an attack like this, and they know it," he said.

Google and Microsoft have locked horns over the years in a variety of markets, from Internet search to mobile software. It remains to be seen if Google can take market share away from Microsoft on its home turf, with Windows currently installed in more than 90 per cent of the world's PCs.

The news comes as executives from the world's biggest technology and media companies, including Google and Microsoft, gather in Sun Valley, Idaho for an annual conference organised by boutique investment bank Allen & Co.

Key to success will be whether Google can lock in partnerships with PC makers, such as Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc, which currently offer Windows on most of their product lines.

Hewlett-Packard, the world's largest PC brand, declined to confirm if it would sell PCs running on the new operating system.

"We are looking into it," said HP spokeswoman Marlene Somsak, referring to the operating system. "We want to understand all the different operating systems available to customers, and will assess the impact of Chrome on the computer and communications industry."

Google's Chrome Internet browser, launched in late 2008, remains a distant fourth in the Web browser market, with a 1.2 per cent share in February, according to market research firm Net Applications. Microsoft's Internet Explorer continues to dominate with nearly 70 per cent.

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