Google Chrome OS will not support hard disk drives

Google says SSDs will lead to a fast boot time

Google said today that the upcoming release of its new Google Chrome operating system will not support hard disk drives in favor of solid state drives (SSD).

Google's vice president of product management, Sundar Pichai, made the statement during a press event to announce features of its first operating system.

Pichai said the new OS will support only SSDs because that is key to it getting a seven-second boot time on PCs.

"We want Google Chrome OS to be blazingly fast," Pichai said. "From the time you press boot, you want it to be like a TV. In addition to making the boot time fast, we want the end-to-end experience to be fast."

Jim Handy, an analyst with research firm Objective Analysis in Los Gatos, Calif., said if fast boot times were as important as Google is making them out to be, then Apple would own the PC market.

"Because all of Apple's products boot significantly faster than Windows products," he said. "And the price difference between an Apple product and a PC is not as big as the price difference between a PC with a hard drive and a PC with an equal size SSD."

Handy said SSD acceptance in notebooks is considerably lower than 10 per cent, and that netbooks have largely migrated away from SSDs toward hard disk drives because of the added cost. Google's decision, he said, "is hard to understand."

Matthew Papakipos, engineering director for the Google Chrome OS, said one of the main reasons other operating systems are slow today is that they spend a lot of time on unnecessary boot steps, including looking for floppy drives. "Does anyone have a floppy drive today?" he said. "That's symptomatic of why operating systems today are so slow."

"Speed is a big focus for us here. What we're going for here is that it feels more like a television than a computer. We want you to just punch the on button and it immediately comes on. You log in and you're on the Web," he said.

Papakipos said all Chrome OS hardware devices will be based on solid state storage. "It's all entirely flash memory-based storage solutions. he said. "We're reading out of RAM rather than a spinning magnetic drive."

Handy said it's unlikely that Google could exclude its OS from operating on hard disk drives. What's more likely is that the software would use a timing mechanism, and that anything that takes more than 10 seconds, for example, to boot would prompt an error message.

"I suspect it will work just fine with hard drives and if not, there will be people who will say, 'just use this patch' and it'll work with hard drives," he said.

Handy also pointed out what he called a "great irony."

"The Google search engine is designed to use the cheapest hardware possible and just do everything in massive parallelism to make up for the fact that they're not using fast hardware," he said. "So Google does not use fast hard drives and they don't use solid state drives."

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Lucas Mearian

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