Something's stirring in the Googledome. According to web analysts Net Applications, Google employees are testing a secret operating system. Thrillingly, it's an OS that leaves no trace behind.

Says Net Applications' spectacularly named Vince Vizzaccaro: the operating system that some 6,000 Google employees are currently testing has had its user agent string data surgically removed.

By so carefully binning the user agent string from its OS, Google has ensured that other, less sensitive data is retained. Or to put it another way, it's the perfect security setup for an operating system based in the cloud.

Rumours about a Google operating system have been in the blogosphere since Adam was a lad (asking Santa for a T-Mobile G1). And the launch of Google Chrome and Google Android brought it to within touching distance.

Android is, of course, a bone fide OS already, and Google never intended it to be restricted to phone handsets. Perhaps more significantly, as we said at launch, Chrome itself may be more operating system than browser.

After all, in this post-Windows Vista, Linux-infested, netbook-enabled world there's little that Windows natively does that Google hasn't at least attempted to punt in the cloud. And there are plenty of Microsoft Office features Microsoft charges hundreds of quid for that Google offers for free. In principle, all your hardware need do is run Chrome and access the web.

No-one could claim that Google is close to offering even a mature productivity suite, never mind an operating system. But its putting the pieces in place.

And as far as the great unwashed is concerned, Google has one great advantage that Microsoft is unlikely ever to enjoy: its commercial model. Users tend to be a great deal more forgiving of software that's free, than that they're forced to shell out a mint for.

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