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Chromium OS is the open source development version of Google's Chrome OS. Chrome OS's source code was released on November 19, 2009 under the BSD license as Chromium OS.
The alpha release includes an applications page, launched by a button in the upper-left corner of the screen. The page links to Google web applications, including Gmail, Google Apps, and YouTube, as well as other applications, such as Yahoo mail, Pandora, Hulu, Facebook, and Twitter. Chromium currently also provides a calculator, clock, battery indicator, and network status indicator. The function key F12 brings up a multi-window view, with the option to open additional browser windows and switch between them. The F8 key toggles a keyboard overlay that shows the function of all the shortcut keys, including task and memory managers comparable to those found on the Chrome browser, and a command-line interface that accepts common Linux commands.
In preliminary design documents, Google describes a three-tier architecture: firmware, web browser and window manager, and system-level software and userland services.
- The firmware contributes to fast boot time by not probing for hardware, such as floppy disk drives, that are no longer common on computers, especially netbooks. The firmware also contributes to security by verifying each step in the boot process and incorporating system recovery.
- System-level software includes the Linux kernel that has been patched to improve boot performance. Userland software has been trimmed to essentials, with management by Upstart, which can launch services in parallel, re-spawn crashed jobs, and defer services in the interest of faster booting.
- The window manager handles user interaction with multiple client windows much like other X window managers.