Google’s inexorable drive toward world domination took a major leap forward Tuesday when the company unveiled plans to build its own operating system. Google says it is designing the long-rumored OS, called Google Chrome OS, “to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the Web in a few seconds.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

It remains to be seen how much of a threat Chrome OS will pose to established players such as Microsoft, which lives on just about every monitor and does much of its business on an enterprise scale. So far, Google’s effort is focused on netbooks — cheap, underpowered, ultraportable machines designed for light Web browsing — but the tech giant says the OS will also run on desktops.

From Google’s description of its “attempt to rethink what operating systems should be,” it’s fairly clear the company thinks operating systems should be minimalist and dedicated to the Web. That won’t sit well with everyone and it sounds like programs running on Chrome OS won’t be much more sophisticated than those that live in your browser.

But then that’s the whole point. Google knows users are moving to the cloud, and it’s building a suitable cloud-oriented OS to facilitate that transition.

No one knows what Chrome OS will look like yet or how robust or popular it will be, but chances are Google will come out with something that just works better than the competition. They’ve done it before.

Google Official Blog:

We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.

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