Google: Chrome OS Still Coming This Year (It Just Might Be In Beta Form)

There’s a lot of hoopla right now that Google’s Chrome OS has been delayed and will miss the stated release date of “this year”. Much of this is based off of the comment that Google CEO Eric Schmidt made last week at Web 2.0 Summit, in which he said that Chrome OS would be available sometime in “the next few months”. So I asked Google today if they were still sticking with the “later this year” availability of Chrome OS — the answer I got? An enthusiastic “yep!”

But just in case, I decided to follow up and ask if that meant an actual shipping product was coming or some test version of the OS? The answer there was much more murky. “We’re not going into details at this point,” is what I was told.

Looking over the code issues in the Chromium OS forums, it looks as if work is still progressing to knock out a lot of late-stage bugs before the OS can be released. Many of these bugs are UI-related, but several seem much more serious, as well. That said, there are a few indications that a “beta” release of the OS may be drawing near. As you can see here, there are only six bugs labeled as “ReleaseBlock-Beta”. And almost all of them are related to the UI of buying a 3G plan from a Chrome OS-powered netbook. There’s also a “ReleaseBlock-Nominate” list, which features 38 bugs.

There are other indications that Google is removing certain features that contain “show-stopping bugs” in order to get a beta out there.

So, if I had to guess, I would bet that we’ll see some sort of Chrome OS beta launch in December. But that will disappoint many people, as we were originally told that ChromeBooks (Chrome OS-powered netbooks) would be here in time for the holidays. Unless some vendors are willing to ship a very beta product, that’s probably not going to happen.

But maybe there is hope. All About Microsoft’s Mary-Jo Foley says she talked to Google recently about the OS:

I had a chance to ask the Googlers about Chrome OS  recently, and was told that a preview version of Google OS is still going to hit this year and be available in test form on several new form factors.

Of course, she also notes that “Google, like Microsoft, is not going to have a viable iPad competitor available in time for holiday 2010.” But Google is already distancing itself from the talk that Chrome OS is meant for tablets. At the same Web 2.0 Summit talk which featured Schmidt’s comments above, he also said that Chrome OS was meant for keyboards, while Android was meant for touch.

That said, there’s no denying that ChromeBooks and iPads are very likely to eventually go head to head in the market simply because both will likely cost around the same amount of money. And despite Schmidt’s comments, Google has been thinking about Chrome OS in the tablet space as well.