Google expects lightweight computers powered by its new operating system to be on sale in time for next year's holiday season.

The internet search leader set the target date yesterday during the first preview of the operating system since Google announced its plans for the product in July.

The free operating system, named after Google's Chrome Web browser, is being designed for "netbooks." Those are inexpensive, stripped-down laptop computers that are becoming increasingly popular among consumers.

Google is positioning Chrome OS as a faster, more secure alternative to rival Microsoft's Windows, the operating system that runs most of the world's computers.

Unlike Windows computers, Chrome OS machines will require Web access to run applications.