Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

Summary:The concept behind a unified login and cloud integration is sound, but not with a limited desktop OS.

For about six months, Google's Chromebooks have been available in the retail channel. And compared to sales of tablets, they've been essentially a dud in the marketplace.

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Personally, I've had mixed results with Chrome OS. On one hand, I've found the software pretty resilient and maintenance free. After I was done beta testing the CR-48 myself, I gave it to my mother-in-law. She LOVES the thing.

As in, I haven't had a single major technical support issue with her using it as her primary laptop. And believe me, she uses it a lot, for access to her Real Estate MLS to word processing with Google Docs and of course regular web browsing and email.

On the other hand, what Chrome OS is actually able to provide the user today is limited compared to a general purpose desktop OS.

In earlier pieces I have advocated the use of thin computing devices that were primarily cloud terminals.

Eventually, I see us getting there, but not until high-speed bandwidth is pretty ubiquitous and we've made a transition off the x86 platform for most end-users and onto ARM and other embedded SoCs. That's a sea change event that is going to take probably ten years.

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The problem is, Chrome OS doesn't have ten years to take off. And Android is already pretty much the only embedded platform other than the Chrome browser itself that Google can effectively concentrate on for the time being and keep developer attention with.

My suggestion is that Google takes a lemon with Chrome OS and makes lemonade. The technology behind Chrome OS is sound, but nobody wants to buy an overpriced netbook now when they can buy an iPad or an Android Tablet instead. If they had cost $100-$150 nobody would be complaining.

The problem is that even that with the holiday price cut, they are still $299. That's nuts.

So what do you with Chrome OS? Well, I think we have to think of it more generically in terms of a cloud authentication framework that is coupled with a high-security, "jailed" or virtualized tamper-free web browser that would replicate the core functionality of Chrome OS.

To me, the real value play of Chrome OS is not so much the operating system itself, but the unified Google login and how it integrates with the browser and Google's services. But really, Google could make this work with any operating system -- Windows, Mac, or any version of Linux.

Heck, they could even put this in WebOS via an open source contribution.

Unified cloud logins are coming to Windows anyway. If you've played with the Windows 8 developer preview, you know that you have the option of logging in via local authentication, Active Directory, or Microsoft Live.

I don't see Microsoft Live being able to effectively monopolize cloud logins on Windows.

If we know anything about the EU and how Microsoft tried to force Internet Explorer down their throats and what a headache that caused for them, then I think that Microsoft would be amenable to users installing a "Google Browser and Authentication Pack" for Windows, which could be marketed as "Chrome OS for Windows".

Essentially, Chrome OS would be deconstructed as an OS-agnostic pluggable authentication mechanism plus a hardened browser/app platform.

Similarly, I could see a "Chrome OS for Mac" being offered for download as well. Apple could certainly try to require Mac users use iCloud as the sole cloud authentication mechanism at some time in the future, but I don't see that flying very well with Europe either.

Would you like to be able to sign on to your PC or Mac using your Google credentials and integrate it with Google's services and the Chrome Browser? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apps, Google, Hardware, Mobility

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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