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Google Chrome OS LogoGoogle’s Chrome OS is in the wild, and while you’ll have to wait a while for it to appear on new PCs, it has given us a glimpse of the future. Want to know how Google’s OS is reinventing the way we use our computers? Read on, and we’ll spell it out, step by step.

1. The web browser is the desktop
Google’s not playing around here. Where we’d expected its Chrome browser to be just one of several apps included in Chrome OS, it turns out the browser is the OS. There’s simply nothing else to select. Chrome OS boots into the browser and plonks you straight onto the web. Everything, and we mean everything, is done within the browser. It’s a little weird at first, but makes complete sense in Google’s grand plan.

2. There are no files or folders
Forget keeping stacks of documents on your desktop. Chrome OS doesn’t have traditional files or folders, and since there are no local apps at all, there’s nothing for them to load into anyway. Sure, there is a file structure behind Chrome’s front end, and the browser will let you save files locally. But everything is done within the browser, so there’s really very little point.

Google Chrome OS: First look!

3. It’s always on
The Chrome OS doesn’t have a shut down button. Google has designed Chrome OS to be kept on all the time. It doesn’t want you shutting it down, and while prodding the power button on your PC will force it to close, there’s no way to shut down through the software itself. It means Chrome OS will be ready as soon as you wake it from sleep mode. It also makes sure to remember your browsing sessions, even if you do force it to shut down, dropping you straight back online where you left off last time. There’s also scope for true always-on connectivity too. Maybe laptops with 3G SIM cards could receive e-mail while the OS itself is in standby, just like push e-mail lands on your mobile while it’s not in use. The possibilities for an always-on OS are endless.

See Google’s official Chrome OS video!

4. No more software updates
Since Google Chrome OS uses web applications instead of local applications there’s never any need to update them. They’re loaded fresh each time, so you’ll see updates as the app maker ads them, not as you install them. Kiss goodbye to security worries too – once an app is patched centrally, everyone using Chrome OS will see the benefit.

5. It’s virus free
In theory, at least, Chrome OS is the most secure computing platform in the world. Since nothing is stored locally, there’s nowhere for a virus to hide. We’re sure that’ll be put to the test once Chrome OS goes mainstream, but at first glance it seems Google has side-stepped one of Windows’ biggest weaknesses completely.

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