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(Pocket-lint) - Google has officially announced Google Chrome OS, its operating system it hopes will allow it to get more people on the web, while at the same time offering an alternative to Microsoft's Windows 7 and Apple's Snow Leopard OS. But what does it offer, should you be getting ready to ditch your OS now and when will it be available? Here is what you need to know:

It will be fast

Really fast in fact. Google are promising a nippy boot time of currently just 10 seconds with the promise that it will get faster as the launch approaches. That's done by cutting out everything they can think of that you don't really need. It won't, for example, check to see if you've got a floppy disk drive, it just assumes you won't. Nor will it show you a splash screen. Hardware requirements within the OS state that the device must have a Solid State Drive.

It will be secure

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Trying to get around the concept of viruses wiping out your machine (just like Apple's OSX) the system will require you to install nothing on devices with the OS running. Instead everything, applications and all will be stored in the "cloud" allowing Google to run daily security checks making sure nothing is out of sync. While the search giant isn't promising that the OS will be virus or malware free, it does say that it will be able to track and fix issues and threats as they happen, patching the software and applications as needed.

It will be easy to use

As easy as using a browser in fact because that's pretty much what it is: a glorified browser with a few nifty features, fast boot times and the promise of greater security. If you can use a browser (and chances are that means the one you are using to access this site), then you'll be fine when it comes to Google Chrome OS.

There will be plenty of applications

Any application that is coded for the web will work on the Chrome OS. That means anything from Google Maps, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Google's Reader, Lala, Flash-based games, you name it, it will work.

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There's going to be an API

Google is keen to get this rolling and let everyone get in and play. That means the code has been made open source for all to tinker with and there will be an extensive range of APIs so developers can get the most out of the system.

It will be free

In keeping with Google's free mantra the OS won't come with a price. It will be free.

You won't be able to buy for your current computer

It might be free, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to download it and install it on your current computer. The Chrome OS will only work on devices launched and approved by Google very much in the same way that the company offers the Android operating system. Does that mean will see Dell and HP doing the same custom skins a la HTC, Motorola and Sony Ericsson? Time will tell.

You'll only be able to run Web Apps

If you're wondering whether Adobe or Microsoft will be releasing a Chrome OS version of Photoshop or Office stop. The only way those applications will get on the OS is via the web, so in that case for both of those you should be fine.

You'll be able to multitask

The OS will run like a browser allowing you to run multiple tabs with programmes running in each one. You'll also be able to run persistent windows either at the bottom or to the side that allow you to chat or stream music.

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You won't be able to save anything to a Chrome OS device

Whatever apps you do run, don't expect to save them to your new computer to access on a rainy day. You won't be able to. The OS doesn't allow you to save anything locally instead insisting that you save it all to the cloud.

You'll need to be online most of the time

With no local storage options (it's not certain at this time whether you'll be able to save to an external hard drive) you'll have to be online all the time either via a 3G connection or Wi-Fi. This isn't going to be the OS for you if you spend most of the time out of the loop from the connected world.

There won't be a hard drive in sight, just SSD

That's right. Hard drives that whirr and floppy disk support is out of the window. It's flash drives (SSD) and nothing else. Cry in horror? Only if you are a hard drive manufacturer.

You will only be able to play Flash games

Games will be offered but only via the web, meaning Google isn't hoping this will be the next big games challenger, unless of course someone works out how to pump state of the art games down the intertubes.

You'll be able to connect other devices

Cameras, mice, keyboards and printers will work we are told, however only so you can access the content on the device rather than store to it. Details are sketchy how printers will actually work (you mean you still print?) but promise more details on their innovative approach in 2010.

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It's not coming till Christmas 2010

It might have just been announced, but you won't be able to start using the official Google OS until November 2010. Hardware is expected to be announced mid-2010 to whet your appetite with actual devices expected in time for the Christmas gift guides.

Will I be able to get it earlier?

Like Chromium, the Chrome-based browser for the Mac, you'll probably be able to get Chromium OS ahead of the official Google launch. The Chromium homepage is already calling for developers to get involved. 

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Writing by Stuart Miles.