Many challenges will have to be solved before Google is ready to release Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system for Netbooks. One of the biggest ones could be something as far offline as it gets.
Driver support has derailed many an operating system release, perhaps most recently causing headaches for Microsoft and Windows Vista. As a result, Google is paying close attention to the thorny problem of making sure Chrome OS will work with the myriad devices consumers can be expected to connect to those Netbooks, said Linus Upson, engineering director for the Chrome browser and Chrome OS.
"The good news is that for most input devices today, there are basic standards that allow them to operate without needing a specific drive for each device," Upson said. For instance, manufacturers of USB storage drives and cameras have all pretty much settled on standards that make it easy to ensure those devices will work with your software.
But printers are another story. Printer drivers are generally unique to the device and pose problems for computer makers.
"We want to get out of the business of printer drivers. All the problems related to drivers we want to go away," Upson said.
That means Google is going to have to come up with a "wonderful printing solution" that it has yet to discuss in public, although talks are ongoing with printer manufacturers, Upson said. Expect to see something from Google along those lines prior to the expected launch of Chrome OS in late 2010.
As for the other driver problem--the so-called "long-tail" of USB devices--don't hold your breath waiting for Chrome OS support for your Wacom tablet. "If that's important, Chrome OS is not the OS for you in 2010," Upson said.
Google does want to figure out a solution to this problem, but it's not something that will be ready in time for launch. Google wants to "get to a model where (Chrome OS Netbooks) can communicate with the OS without a driver."
CNET's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.