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Paris Start-up Anticipates Chrome OS

Called Jolicloud, it’s supposed to “transform netbooks into sophisticated web devices that tap into the cloud”

A consumer-oriented Linux-based Internet operating system for netbooks that anticipates Google's vaunted Chrome OS is already in private alpha in Paris.

It's called Jolicloud and - stop me if you've heard this one before - it's supposed to "transform netbooks into sophisticated web devices that tap into the cloud to provide free, open and easy access to a new generation of web applications."

The eponymous company building it was started last year by Tariq Krim, who also founded Netvibes, the web start-up that offers personalized start pages à la iGoogle.

Last week, on the day that the words Chrome OS became common fodder, Jolicloud announced the $4.2 million Series A round from Atomico Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners that it's had in its pocket for months.

And it said Atomico principal, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, and serial entrepreneur Gilles Samoun, CEO of fotonauts and founder of Qualys, had joined its board.

The financing is supposed to accelerate the product's development, launch the company's developer program, and expand its global network of partners.

Sounding exactly like Google, Jolicloud claims traditional operating systems - for which read Windows - are dated and slowing down the world's rush to the web and the cloud.

Krim, now Jolicloud's CEO, called the widgetry "a project of passion" and said that to make the greatest impact "we decided to surround ourselves with people who have real experience in achieving large-scale disruption."

He picked a pip in Zennström, who also co-authored the notorious, litigation-prone Kazaa P2P media-sharing program loathed by the Recording Industry Association of America and the thin ranks of folks who hold copyrights sacred.

Anyway, according to Zennström, "Jolicloud is a classic example of a massive disruptive opportunity in a market where high risk has a potential to lead to a high return. Whoever gets it right will be very successful and this is what we love."

Jolicloud is described as having a "beautiful" interface - beautiful as in iPhone-like - an application directory and a set of social features.

Its goal is to be exceptionally easy to use and highly functional, taking users directly to terribly social web applications like Gmail, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Zoho Writer and Skype, of course, that - thanks to Mozilla's Prism project - run as if they were locally installed.

The company says, "We come from the web, so we built our user interface mostly using its core technologies (HTML, JavaScript, CSS). We have integrated our web DNA into the OS to make it modular, social and personal. Our developer platform relies on the web and will let anyone or any service join in no time. With our API, developers will have the ability to let their web site communicate with the computer directly with no need to code specific native applications."

Think a stripped-down Windows-accommodating Ubuntu and Firefox.

WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G modems reportedly work out of the box on a growing list of supported hardware such as Acer, Asus, HP, Dell, Lenovo MSI, Samsung and Intel Classmate-derived netbooks, most of them gismos that are also supposed to be friends of Chrome OS.

The widgetry is supposed to be released as a public beta later this year.

Click Here for screenshots.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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