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Dell Tests Google’s Chrome Operating System on Some Computers

Dell Inc., the world’s third-largest personal-computer maker, is testing Google Inc.’s Chrome operating system on some computers, a move that might give users an alternative to Microsoft Corp.’s Windows.

Trials of Chrome OS are being conducted on prototypes of netbook-style devices and tablet computers, Stephen J. Felice, Dell’s consumer and small and medium business president, said in an interview yesterday at Dell’s annual analyst meeting.

“We have to wait and see how this product is received,” Felice said at the meeting in Austin, Texas. He called Chrome a “very compelling” operating system.

Dell is trying to lessen its dependence on PCs, moving into technology services and smartphones and releasing a tablet computer called Streak that is powered by Google’s Android operating system. Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell said yesterday that Chrome “runs great on many Dell products.”

Chrome OS, a free operating system based on the open-source Linux software, is designed to let computer users quickly boot up their machines and access the Internet. Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, aims to have Chrome drive more users to the Web as a means to boost advertising sales. The first machines using it are due later this year.

Chrome and Android will “eventually play a role” on personal computers, Felice said. The concept of “always-on technology,” which allows users to quickly get online, could be compelling to customers, he said.

Dell, based in Round Rock, Texas, was little changed at $12.93 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. They have dropped 9.9 percent this year.

Microsoft Rivalry

Chrome OS increases Google’s rivalry with Microsoft, which includes Internet search, browsers and business applications. Microsoft Windows runs about 90 percent of the world’s PCs.

Mark Martin, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, declined to comment.

Google, at the time of the Chrome OS announcement last year, said it was working with Acer Inc., Asustek Computer Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Lenovo Group Ltd. and Toshiba Corp., among others.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, declined to comment directly on Dell’s plans.

“The Google Chrome OS team is currently working with a number of technology companies to design and build devices that deliver an extraordinary end user experience,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Dell is selling its Streak tablet in the U.K. and plans to introduce it in the U.S. in July, Paul Bell, president of Dell’s public sector business, said at a reception for analysts earlier this week. The company plans to sell several tablet computers by early 2011, he said.

Dell’s testing of Chrome OS was previously reported by Reuters.

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