Google Chrome OS has gotten a ton of coverage in the “tech” media (not so much in the “mainstream” media) and I’ve been following it with some interest.
It seems that Google is proposing that all your data live on the web (and that’s fine, since many people do live on the web already) and you can have access to it via any machine, with a Google account. This is very similar to the “old way” of doing things in the computer world; ie, the individual user has a terminal and hooks up to the mainframe to do their work.
This is great for everyone with a Google account and access to always-on internet connections. I don’t always have an internet connection, so I wonder if the computer would even boot? Anyway, as this idea comes closer to reality, people who use computers will have to think about what they’re doing with the computer. They will have to look at what they’re storing on other servers and what they have control over. I can see this as a new era in computing, but, it should be approached with some skepticism and caution. Google will have all of your private documents, email contacts, IM contacts, financial information (if you store it in a spreadsheet in Google Docs), location information, interests, hobbies, and more.
I’m not really one to talk, because I do store a lot of stuff on the web (Dropbox, Google Docs, Picasa, WordPress.com, Posterous, etc), but I do believe that people should have the CHOICE of putting their stuff on the web. I chose to upload my documents to Dropbox, my pictures to Picasa and my ideas to WordPress.com and Posterous. With a Chrome laptop, you won’t.
I’m afraid that people will see these “cheap” Chrome computers and buy them, expecting that they will do everything that a “normal” computer does (popular games, programs, etc) and then be disappointed, much like people were disappointed with the netbook they bought to replace their desktop. They will find that they can’t access any of their documents when the internet goes out or they go to a location with no internet. They will find that they can’t install programs they want to use. They will find it’s not what they want.
I think it’s a neat idea, don’t get me wrong, but if the user doesn’t know what it is, they won’t be able to use it effectively.