Google has announced that they will be releasing a operating system called "Chrome OS" next year. The operating system will have the Linux kernel at its core and will be released as Open Source. Google say that Chrome OS will initially be aimed at the netbook market which although initially dominated by Linux distributions are currently primarily Windows based.
The new operating system will be a lightweight system that is simple to use for average users. In essence this new offering will be a "web OS" - a operating system that is tied tightly with the Internet and its enabling technologies. This strategy appears to work hand in hand with the Google Cloud Computing approach, which allows developers to develop and deploy applications on Google architecture, and thus make their applications available to a wide range of users. Google are aiming to making computing more appliance like, with faster bootup times and better reliability and security.
One of the issues all Linux distributions have had to date is getting computers in the retail market to carry alternatives to Windows. When various Linux distributions managed to enter the market on netbooks, storming the market, we quickly saw those doors shut and Windows XP get adopted on netbooks despite Microsoft previously trying to end of life Windows XP.
Google has ensured that they have a channel into retail sales of Chrome OS based computers by making deals with Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba. They have also been talking to chip manufacturers such as Intel. This should ensure that major OEM companies will make Chrome OS based products available next year, initially in netbook format.
Chrome OS isn't just another Linux distribution. It will be using a totally different windowing technology to KDE or Gnome. Its primary user audience will not be technical people, but rather average users wanting a machine to check mail, browse the web, and run web based applications such as Google Docs. It will therefore probably not compete with Ubuntu and other distributions which are popular in the technical community.