Google plans a direct attack on Microsoft's core business with the Google Chrome OS.

In a direct attack on Microsoft's globally dominant Windows OS, Google has announced that it is working on a new operating system — Google Chrome OS — for people who "live on the Web — searching for information, checking e-mail, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends," as search engine giant describes it.

Google already offers a suite of e-mail, Web and other software products that compete with Microsoft. And now with the Chrome OS, Google signals the start of the next Great OS Wars. Google says the new, free operating system will initially be targeted at netbooks.

Google and Microsoft have locked horns over the years in a variety of markets, from Internet search to mobile software. Only a month ago, Microsoft announced the launch of its search engine called Bing to eat into the market share of Google who plays a major role in the lucrative Web search market.

Now it remains to be seen if Google Chrome OS can take market share away from Windows OS on which Microsoft's global empire is built. And not to forget the fact that Windows is currently installed in more than 90 percent of the world's PCs.

"Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year, we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010," Google said in a blog post.

The company also added that it was working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. "Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve," explains Google.

Google pitches the Chrome OS as ideal for low-cost, light-weight netbooks, by saying, "Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the Web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work."

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the Web is the platform. All Web-based applications will automatically work, and new applications can be written using your favourite Web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Google already has an Android operating system. So, what might be the difference between Android and Chrome OS? Google elaborates, "Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the Web and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems."

"While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google," the company adds.

According to IDG News Service, Google's Chrome OS won't be an immediate threat to Windows, but it may force Microsoft to reinvent its operating system more quickly into a product that takes full advantage of the Web and can move more nimbly across devices and form factors.

Well, Microsoft may or may not be forced to reinvent Windows? But one thing is clear that Chrome has an uphill battle for software compatibility and hardware-intensive software. It will definitely force Apple, Microsoft and Cannonical to step up their game. The end result: we'll get better OS in return.