Google announced Chrome OS in 2009, promising the cloud-centric operating system would be available in 2010. Unfortunately, it will be next year before Chrome OS is widely available, Engadget confirmed this week. Google may release its own Chrome OS netbook next month, and there are already experimental builds available based on the Chromium OS source code. But if you don't want to wait for a finished, supported cloud-centric OS there are several you can download today.
Jolicloud, based on the Chromium browser, is one of the most talked about cloud-based operating systems thus far. And considering that it's based on the same browser, it's the one that's most clearly analogous to the Chrome OS. Jolicloud supports over 700 web applications.
Peppermint is a fork of Lubuntu that incorporates Mozilla Prism and configuration files from Linux Mint (hence the name Peppermint). The goal of Peppermint is to create an easy to use Linux-based cloud operating system. You can read our previous coverage of Peppermint here.
EasyPeasy started life Ubuntu Eee, but changed its name after Canonical complained. As the original name suggests, EasyPeasey was first designed for use with Asus Eee PCs. However, the OS now supports other hardware as well. It's focused on low power consumption, providing wireless support out of the box and small screen optimization. In addition to the interface shown below, users can optionally turn on a more Gnome-like interface.
MeeGo is Linux-based mobile operating system based on the Qt framework. It's the result of the merging of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin. Unlike the other operating systems mentioned here, there are versions of MeeGo designed for handsets, tablets and vehicles. However, unlike the others, Meego can't run standard Linux applications. Our previous coverage of MeeGo is here.
It's a shame that Chrome OS and Microsoft's forthcoming ServiceOS (formerly known as gazelle) are getting most the attention right now. There are many other exciting projects in the works. Cloud OSes could be an exciting are to watch if the smaller players can gain traction and challenge the big guys. Meanwhile, if you want an ultra-light web-centric operating system, there are plenty to choose from today.
Lead photo by Michael Roper