Don’t dismiss the potential of Chrome OS just yet

By | December 20, 2010

The Cr-48 is Google’s first notebook sporting their Chrome OS. While the hardware is nice, it’s really the operating system and the concept that’s raising eyebrows and generating interest. The operating system is designed to make optimal use of “the web”. The features of Chrome OS include instant on, fast load times, cloud storage and recover, etc. A full list of features can be found at the Google Chrome OS website.

I’ve read several reviews of the Cr-48 and for the most part users haven’t been all that impressed. The reviews interest me because I don’t believe the people using these machines get it. First and foremost, the Cr-48 is clearly a work in progress as is Chrome OS. Second, the idea of an internet based, fully cloud enabled system is ideal for creating a hardware agnostic future. It appears to me that Google is testing the waters and collecting data for a future run at something bigger. Do you really doubt Google will continue to develop a better cloud concept for an operating system? It would be a mistake to do so.

I remember similar thoughts from the so called experts when the Android OS rolled out, and now it’s slowly becoming the most prominent operating system for mobile devices. I don’t see that changing anytime in the near future.

I’ve embraced the cloud and actively pursued it in my personal computing. It’s clearly not perfect and still feels immature as a “desktop” platform for all to use. My attempts to rid myself of traditional legacy applications have been met with failure at times. You must be connected to the internet to make use of the cloud-only space for example. And until wireless access is truly ubiquitous it will continue to be the bane of the cloud. For now the use of hybrid applications seems to be the most logical. I consider applications like Dropbox to be a model example of what more developers need to do if they want to drive the cloud forward. Dropbox is cloud based, but resides locally on the device. It’s also available for most computing platforms, i.e. iOS, Windows, Android, etc. It’s nearly perfect.

Another barrier to personal cloud computing is the lack of a hybrid office suite. The problem remains the same; you need access to the cloud to use cloud based applications. I attempted to convert exclusively to Google Docs late last year and quickly returned to using Microsoft Office on the desktop. Lack of access killed me. A solid hybrid office suite has yet to be developed. Microsoft has made valiant attempts, but hasn’t quite pulled it off yet. Office Live is conceptually perfect, but in practice falls woefully short. Office 365 may be the right answer, but I haven’t had the opportunity to play with it or see it in action up close and personal.

Consider the potential of Chrome OS in combination with the Android OS; a mobile platform and a desktop platform that share a common architecture similar to the combination of Apple OS and the iOS. Now add to that the functionality, benefits and potential of the cloud; something that Apple has failed to take advantage of. I’ve utilized Google Sync functionality several times to set up new laptops. It’s awesome. Simply install Google Chrome, type in your password and in just a few minutes you’re in business. I’ve had the same experience with Evernote and Dropbox; my web clipping and file synching applications of choice.

Taking the concept one step further, imagine doing this with an entire desktop. It would make the hardware irrelevant. Get a new machine, type in your Google credentials and watch your entire desktop get restored on the computer right in front of you. All applications, documents and files continue to be stored locally while being synced to the cloud. When the machine reaches the end of its life simply nuke it, buy a new machine, type in your Google credentials and you’re off and running. Include the same features on mobile systems and you’ve created a very flexible platform for a mobile workforce.

So don’t dismiss Chrome OS or Google’s first attempt at a notebook just yet. Google may not have invented the cloud, but they’ve certainly done more than anyone else to bring the concept of utilizing the cloud to the forefront of everyone’s mind. The Cr-48 is a rare bird indeed, and I’ll unfortunately never get my hands on one, but it’s an important development nonetheless. Consider it a concept car.

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