PC makers don’t seem crazy about Chrome

Most PC vendors Google listed on its blog as partners for its new Chrome operating system say they’re evaluating the software but have not committed to creating devices around it.

And that’s a far less upbeat message than Google had portrayed.

“We are studying Chrome,” said Hewlett-Packard media relations officer Marlene Somsak in an e-mail. “We want to assess the capability Chrome may have for the computer and communications industries, and so we are studying it.”

HP, the world’s largest PC vendor, said that most of its products use Microsoft operating systems today, including Windows Mobile, XP and Vista. HP is one of the PC makers that Google is working with to develop devices around the Chrome OS.

The company also sells machines with Linux for some computing customers.

Lenovo, China’s largest PC vendor and the world’s fourth biggest, said it is actively assessing Google Chrome operating system’s development and evaluating it based upon customer value.

“Lenovo continually examines ways to bring customers more product choice and capabilities in terms of features and technologies,” said Kristy Fair, in media relations at Lenovo.

Asustek Computer, pioneer of the netbook devices that Chrome may appear in first, also said it was evaluating Chrome.

“We cooperate with many companies on various technologies and we are currently evaluating [Chrome],” said Alvin Chen, an Asustek representative.

“We have nothing to announce right now. We’re not sure yet if we’ll put out any products based on the operating system yet.”

Acer, the world’s third biggest PC vendor, did not respond to several requests for comment by e-mail and phone.

No design commitments … yet

Google said in a blog post late Wednesday that it was “currently working with a number of technology companies to design and build devices that deliver an extraordinary end user experience.”

But PC vendors listed on the posting indicate they are only studying Chrome, and are not yet ready to commit to any designs or devices.

The new Chrome OS will compete against Microsoft Windows in netbooks, laptop computers and desktops.

Google is developing the Linux-based operating system for heavy Internet users, and it will begin appearing in netbooks in the second half of 2010, the company has said.

Intel support important

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Intel has said the world’s largest chip maker is working with Google on the Chrome operating system and has been privy to the project for some time.

Intel’s endorsement is important for the Chrome OS project because of its standing in the personal computing world: Intel microprocessors go into around four-fifths of the world’s computers.

Google is aiming the Chrome OS at desktops, laptops and netbooks, all devices dominated by Microsoft Windows, so supporting Chrome could put Intel in an awkward position with Microsoft.

The two companies have so dominated the PC industry over the past few decades that the term “Wintel” (from Windows and Intel) is used to refer to PCs running Windows on a processor based on the Intel-developed x86 architecture.

“We work with Google on a variety of projects, including elements of this one. We’ve been privy to the project for some time,” said Nick Jacobs, Asia-Pacific spokesman for Intel.

He declined to elaborate on the extent of their relationship.

Chrome on netbooks

Intel has also been seeking more support for its drive to put microprocessors into smaller devices, led by its Atom microprocessor, the most popular netbook processor. Google said Chrome will launch first in netbooks, in the second half of next year.

But Intel had been working on its own mobile operating system for small computer devices, a Linux-based OS called Moblin. It was designed for netbooks and handheld computers Intel calls MIDs, or mobile Internet devices.

The goal for Intel is to sell more of its popular Atom microprocessors, which are used in netbooks including Acer’s Aspire One and most versions of Asustek Computer’s Eee PC. The chips are designed for longer battery life in small devices.

Ultimately, Intel hopes to put Atom processing cores inside smartphones and other mobile phone industry devices, a goal the company stated when it agreed to work more closely with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) on complex chips that require processing cores.

For users, Atom chips inside smartphones would mean people could run software designed for personal computers on such handhelds, instead of mobile phone software.

Software has to be compiled for the chip architecture it runs on, whether x86 chips from Intel, AMD or Via Technologies, or RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chips such as those designed by Arm Holdings.

There is more software available worldwide for the x86 architecture than any other.

Arm processors are used by the mobile phone industry in handsets and smartphones, and the top Arm processors remain far more power-efficient than Atom.

Google made no mention of Intel in a blog posting earlier this week when it named companies already working with the Chrome OS. The list includes PC vendors HP, Acer and Lenovo and mobile phone chip makers Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Freescale Semiconductor.

Google is developing the Linux-based operating system for heavy Internet users, the company has said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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