Talks are under way between Google and Dell to bring Chrome OS, the search giant's cloud-centric operating system, to Dell's computer lineup, according to a Dell executive. Dell wants to be "on the forefront" of "unique innovations" like Chrome OS that will hit store shelves in the next few years, Amit Midha Dell's president for greater China and South Asia recently told Reuters.
No official announcements have been made by either Dell or Google, and despite the confirmation of talks by a Dell executive it's not clear when or if Dell would actually produce a Google Chrome OS-based computer. Google recently announced that Chrome OS devices would be launched at some point between the fall and the end of the year.
When Google announced Chrome OS, the company said it was working with a number of technology firms to produce Chrome OS devices, including Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba. Dell, however, was notably absent from that list.
Nevertheless, the manufacturer's interest in Chrome OS is hardly surprising. Shortly after Google announced Chrome OS in July 2009, Dell said it would consider testing Chrome OS for future products. Several months later, a Dell employee released a free download of Chromium OS for Dell Mini 10v computers on a company blog. Chromium OS is the open source project that Chrome OS is based on.
Chrome OS is essentially a version of Google's Chrome web browser and a set of device-specific hardware drivers. Unlike full-featured operating systems like Windows or Mac OS X that primarily use desktop-based applications, Chrome OS is capable only of accessing the web and web-based applications like Google Docs or Microsoft's Office Web Apps.
However, in recent months several new features have appeared that may help Chrome OS overcome at least part of its web-only limitations. In April, Google announced the Cloud Print project that would give Chrome OS devices wireless printing capability via the Internet, bypassing the need for a library of printer drivers installed on the PC. Before Cloud Print was announced, it was unclear how Chrome OS would interact with peripheral devices like printers.
Then in June, information about a new remote desktop feature called Chromoting for Chrome OS appeared on Google's Chromium OS discussion threads. Chromoting would enable Chrome OS devices to remotely access and use full-featured desktop applications installed on a Windows computer right in the browser. Google has not officially announced Chromoting as part of Chrome OS.
Dell's addition to Google's list of potential partners would bring four of the top five computer manufacturers in the US under the Chrome OS tent, and all of the top five computer makers worldwide.
Dell was the second-largest computer manufacturer in the US behind HP during the first quarter of 2010, according to separate reports from research firms IDC and Gartner Worldwide, Dell came in third behind HP and Acer.