Google's long-awaited Chrome OS - a full, lightweight operating system based around its open-source Chrome web browser - has finally gone official, with the company holding a small event to preview the features and functionality of the OS.

Engadget, present at the event, explains the core ethos behind the package: a cloud-based operating system which runs entirely from within the Chrome browser. Rather than having a 'desktop' per se, all applications are simply integrated links to Google cloud services - such as the 'Notepad' package which actually creates a document on Google's Docs site.

While it's cloud-based, the OS does use local storage to keep things nipping along - and should be able to function in an 'offline' mode when a 'net connection is unavailable.

Perhaps most interesting is the news that Chrome OS will not be made available for generic hardware, but rather for a specific design of platform that Google will mandate: as an example, a Chrome OS-based machine must use an SSD rather than a traditional mechanical hard drive. The rather better news is that the entire OS is now released under an open source licence, and supports both x86 and ARM-based CPUs.

GigaOM, also present at the launch event, describes an innovative security protocol which should prevent malware from taking over a Chrome OS-based system: in the unlikely event of infection, all cached data is saved and then a fresh copy of Chrome OS is automatically downloaded and installed on to the machine. Because of its cloud-based nature, no personal data is lost.

If you want to try the system out for yourself, an enterprising hacker has already compiled the source code for the Chromium OS - Chrome OS's open-source moniker - and posted the result as a VMWare disk image to popular BitTorrent search site The Pirate Bay. In order to use the image, a copy of the free VMWare Server virtualisation package is required.

Google's Chrome OS gets official launch Google's Chrome OS gets official launch
Chrome OS is very closely related to the Chrome browser, but adds a tab UI and apps menu

If you want to see exactly what happened at the launch event for yourself, Google has posted a video to YouTube for your delectation.

Do you like the look of Google's Chrome OS, or does the idea of everything you do hitting Google's servers fill you with the heebie-jeebies? Will you be trying the open-source version yourself - or even contributing code to the project? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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