The operating system is initially intended for use in low-cost portable netbooks, but Google said it believed the software would also be able to power full-size PCs.
The Chrome OS will have a minimalist user interface, leaving most space on the screen to applications, and be available under an open-source license. The new OS consists of a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel.
The company, in a corporate blog posting, said it is trying to “attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.”
“All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies,” the company said in the blog post.
Google already has developed Android, an open-source system, for mobile phones. The software also is being built into netbooks by several manufacturers, but the search-engine giant hasn’t encouraged netbook makers to use Android.
Larry Augustin, a prominent Silicon Valley investor who serves on the board of a number of open-source software companies, said Google likely saw netbooks as a unique opportunity to challenge Microsoft.
Google released Chrome last year and has been adding features to it ever since.
“We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds,” said Sundar Pichai, Google vice president of product management.
Pichai said that the software would be released online later this year and netbooks running the software will go on sale in the second half of 2010.