Google announced the first commercially available computers with their Chrome OS on them. Just to refresh your memory, the idea behind Chrome OS is that the computer would have little more than an internet browser on it. Everything would be done “in the cloud.” That means all of your information would be up on a server on the internet. Many people already do this for their email and pictures. Almost every blog is done that way. More and more are also doing it for their documents and collaborative work as well. Of course, up till now, the cloud was pretty much only used for storage, now you can actually use programs through the internet to do all your stuff.
And that’s the whole idea behind Chrome OS. The computer is just a terminal, all the programs you want to use and all the data is up in the cloud. That means that you don’t really need much of a computer, all of the heavy lifting will be done by the host computers. It also means that the security will be done by the host computers, the storage, and the backups as well. What this means is that with a rather inexpensive machine, you can do quite a bit. I think this could be huge for businesses and schools. Google has announced monthly plans for computers that include both software and hardware upgrades. It isn’t clear to me if this is a lease or just a rental, but in any case, it could revolutionize how people buy and use computers.
So what’s the downside? The biggie is that this OS will require a constant connection to the internet. On top of that, the performance of your machine will be determined by the quality of that connection. If real high speed wireless internet was widely available, this could work real well. As it is now, I wonder how many connectivity issues there will be.
The other possible issue is that right now you can’t really do much high power computing this way. That’s a bit of an unfair criticism since this isn’t aimed at the web design, video editing, application development crowd. On the other hand, it would be a shame for people to feel limited by their computer. It’s nice to have more power and capability than you think you need immediately. Who knows, maybe we will get to a point where there are really powerful programs available on the web, but right now there really isn’t.
I do think that these computers will fill the requirements of most people these days. You can check your email, get on facebook, create documents, surf the web, do your taxes, etc. If done well, and we need to see the reviews, this could be a great general purpose portable computer. It could even be something that I could recommend. Hell, if I decided I wanted another laptop this could be really tempting. There are two things that would make me hesitate though. I’ve already mentioned the connectivity issue, the other is the iPad. I think there’s going to be a lot of overlap between these two devices. True, the iPad does need a computer right now, but that could change. Things are changing quickly, it’s an exciting time to be into tech!