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Google backs 'Chromoting' remote access for web-bound OS
'Yes, unlike Android, Chrome OS is open source'
Google has confirmed that it will offer remote access software with Chrome OS, the browser-based operating system now due for official release in the middle of next year.
Code for this service – currently dubbed "Chromoting" – is already part of the company's open source Chromium OS project, and speaking with The Reg on Tuesday at the company's Chrome press event in San Francisco, Google director of product management Caesar Sengupta indicated that the service will be rolled into the official OS at some point after launch.
With Chromoting, Chrome OS users will have the option of remotely accessing other desktop and laptop PCs. It's similar to existing services such as LogMeIn and GoToMyPC. "People have multiple computers," Sengupta told us. "So you're sitting on your couch and you want to play some music that's on a different computer, so chromoting will help you do that.
"You might use your Chrome OS netbook all-the-time, but you might still want to access other machines with other OSes. The way we handle [development] is we use the OS and we see the problems people will face, and we try to develop stuff around it."
This summer, in a message posted by a third party to a public mailing list dedicated to Chrome OS, Google software engineer Gary Kačmarčík discussed the service in brief. "With this functionality (unofficially named 'chromoting'), Chrome OS will not only be [a] great platform for running modern web apps, but will also enable you to access legacy PC applications right within the browser," he said.
He also said it was "something like" Remote Desktop Connection, the Microsoft Windows service that gives you real-time access to distant PCs. And Sengupta acknowledged that the service will work something like GoToMyPC.
Asked if chromoting would be available with Chrome OS at launch, Sengupta said he was "unsure of timelines," but pointed put that Google will be constantly updating the OS, streaming to code to users over the web. "Remember that every few weeks, you'll get a new version," he said. "As and when a new feature is ready, you'll get it."
Asked if the Chromium OS project represented Google's main code tree for Chrome OS – if any coding was done behind closed doors – Sengupta said that Chrome OS is "completely open source." In other words, it's not Android. "Engineers check code into an external repository," he said. "Sometimes Sundar [Pichai, another vice president of product management] or I find out that some code has been checked in by reading something some blogger who's tracking our changes.
But he did acknowledge that some code is held back, including the firmware work Google has done to improve boot times and some code that belongs to partners. "If there's a partner IP we're using that we don't have the right to, we can't expose it," he said.
Could they open source the firmware work? "I don't know," he said. "It's speculation."
Chromoting is separate from Google efforts to offer remote access to applications through Citrix Director. Bundled with Chrome OS, Citrix Receiver will offer businesses access to apps running in the data centers. Chromoting will offer access to apps running on other PCs. ®