Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

Summary: Oh, it will succeed...the real question is how long will it take the world to be ready for it?

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A quick scan of Google News this morning revealed alternating headlines about Chrome OS. Some pundits say "Google Chrome OS Faces Serious Risk of Failure." Others say "Google's Chrome notebook will succeed." I've certainly had great impressions of the notebook in educational settings and it works well for a lot of what I do.

So which will it be? Is it just too early to predict the success of an entirely new way of interacting with our computers? As Jason Perlow puts it:

If you know how to use a web browser, you pretty much already know how to use Chrome OS.

That in and of itself, in a time when the PC vs. Mac vs. Linux flame wars can still ignite the Talkbacks on ZDNet, is powerful. If you use Chrome on your OS of choice (and particularly if you use Chrome Web Apps), then there's not really any transition to Chrome OS (and, in fact, you can sync most of Chrome OS with your Chrome browsers across platforms). It's something of a vindication for those analysts who've been talking about the death of the OS or the death of the PC. With Chrome OS, the browser (and the web as a platform) is the OS.

This, then, is a big part of your answer. Will Chrome OS succeed? Yes it will, in some form or another. Will it succeed right now? Or put another way, is the world ready for Chrome OS?

The Cr-48 has its faults, no doubt. The keyboard is awesome by netbook standards, but if I need to type for long periods, I still sit down at my MacBook Pro which has a truly awesome backlit keyboard. The touchpad is, well, incredibly touchy, as are most touchpads on Linux machines until you tweak the drivers. Of course, there's no tweak capability in a browser (just basic access to touchpad functions).

These are minor details, though, compared to working in a Microsoft Office World. I can't tell my clients that if they want Smart Art or perfect fidelity when they open a presentation I send them that it's just not going to happen because I use Google Apps. You want that document to have both single and double spacing? Sorry, no can do - I just don't have time to edit the CSS for the document in Google Docs to get different line spacing in the same document.

If you work in an organization that has embraced Google Apps or whose workflows center around wikis and content management systems, then you won't have a problem and the seamless integration of Google Apps will be a blessing. This is one reason why I'm so excited about the Chrome Notebook in schools: it's easy to standardize to Google Apps as a platform and fidelity is far less important than content and accessibility.

A whole lot of organizations just aren't there yet. For me, the Chrome Notebook is the machine that goes with me everywhere that I know I'll just want to write. Most of my writing happens in a browser anyway. If I'm at home, though, I'm on my MacBook, simply because of the keyboard and screen real estate.

If I'm with a client, though, I tote my MacBook. How often do you need to quickly crank out a PowerPoint deck? Or work with a heavily formatted document?

This approach will pass and apps like SlideRocket will increasingly make PowerPoint less important. Similarly, Docs will continue to mature in capabilities and fidelity. However, until that happens, the reach of Chrome OS in the enterprise will remain somewhat restricted. Similarly, until I can have some choice of the underlying hardware on which I superimpose Chrome OS, the laptop will often play second fiddle to more comfortable hardware.

I absolutely understand that the Cr-48 is a prototype and Chrome OS is very much in beta. Ultimately, I believe that Chrome OS will compete across verticals very successfully with Windows, Mac OS, and certainly with Linux. For now, the world still needs to catch up to Chrome OS and Google's cloud-based approach to getting work done.

Topics: Browser, Google, Operating Systems, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Great. A generation of kids who don't know how to do anything but surf

    the web. Go down that path and we'll be ripe for enslavement and domination shortly after western europe. Maybe sooner...

    Hey kids, do you spend more than 10% of your computer time in a browser? What's a browser you say? Join our Future Drones of the World club! We'll help you understand why you should really let someone else make all the descisions for you!
    Johnny Vegas
    • You can...

      @Johnny Vegas

      learn an awful lot about the world around you through the browser only. It is not the tool that matters, but the knowledge you gain.

      I have encountered a lot of IT types who may know their way around HW and SW very well, but they know almost nothing about the world around them.

      Which would be better you think?
      Economister
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @Economister

        Goofgle has made it harder to do anything. 15 years ago on IE4 I could find more data and information that was tangible and worthwhile than I can in 4 months on goofgle.

        As for your idiotic IT remark you have no idea what you are talking about. The IT tech you know must be getting their knowledge the same way you do.

        I know what is better that is why I do almost everything myself. When I haven't some joker tries to pass off garbage as some kind of job well done.
        reed@...
    • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

      @Johnny Vegas

      I think we can safely say now that Chris's columns are never about the kids, just the latest piece of fringe claptrap that appears. > 90% of the world uses Windows - this is even higher in business. However, preparing students to use Windows and Windows tools is never on Chris's agenda, which seems to be mainly about his hobbies.

      Nevermind, he's definitely training them to be good consumers, pity we need workers and creators as well ;-)
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @tonymcs@... "> 90% of the world uses Windows"

        Strange, I am seeing more and more MacBooks in the business place. It's true that what the CxO uses may not be representative of what the rest of the organization uses, but I sat in a room with 9 other business (not IT) people last week and I was the only one without an iPad.
        914four
    • ChromeOS netbook is Google's Kin

      It's shipped only b/c it needs to be out there as promised. What's in ChromeOS that is not already in Android come to think of it? None, so why would users bother with a netbook running ChromeOS while they can run an Android on it w/ more user-friendliness?
      LBiege
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @LBiege
        A decent browser. As much as I love Android and my Droid, that browser isn't even comparable.
        Californian
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @Californian
        The browser? Really? That ONE component is the deal breaker?

        Look at it this way.. The Android's browser improves with every version. Froyo added the ability of flash plug-in support. Gingerbread will surely add more HTML5 functionality. Honeycomb will undoubtedly improve it even more.

        Now.. imagine if they put the resources they're pouring into the unnecessary ChromeOS into Android instead.

        The Webkit browser on Android would find it's way to the standard of the desktop version a whole lot sooner.

        ChromeOS was conceived as an answer to the initial scope of Android (which since then has grown from the original scope of handsets to tablets and netbooks). I'm not entirely sure why they've let it continue to live. For what it is, it sure has been in development for an incredibly long time. Especially since it's based on pre-existing technology (Linux, Webkit, etc), it smells like a development effort thats short on resources, mismanaged, or simply a neat technology without a coherent implementation (like Google Wave). Makes me wonder if Google has competing teams/agendas internally similarly to the drama over at Microsoft.
        PolymorphicNinja
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @LBiege
        Good point - though I'm sure someone will come out with a dual-boot Android/Chrome tablet or netbook. Probably some small factory in China will jump on it first and get no recognition for it, kinda like with all the Android tablets they've created that Google all but refuses to acknowledge.
        AndroidGold.com - Best Android Tablets and Phones
    • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

      @Johnny Vegas, your statement makes no sense. In the OS Google is aiming for, there would be nothing you could do outside the browser that you coudn't do inside it. "Surfing" is only a small aspect of what this OS could theoretically do.

      I can see why you are confused by this concept, though. Your use of the term "Goofgle" shows that you have some kind of bias against the company. That never leads to objective thinking.
      Stoshie
  • The problem with Chrome OS is that it's a...

    <i>what am I losing?</i> instead of a <i>what am I gaining?</i> proposition.

    As Chris points out in the article, there's little or nothing user-facing that Chrome OS does that Chrome browser running on Windows doesn't. Most people are going to see Chrome OS as taking Windows away-- not as... well... whatever Google thinks the value proposition is.
    ericesque
    • Bullseye

      People aren't going to spend money on something that does LESS than what they were doing before. It's a similar meme to the "90% of users only use 10% of the features" argument folks used against MS Office. What they failed to recognize is that those 90% used a DIFFERENT 10%.
      frgough
      • Both of you ....

        @frgough

        approach this in typical geek fashion, with little awareness of the needs of a huge chunk of ordinary computer users.
        Economister
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @frgough But that isn't true. I see LOTS of people running Office in lots of situations, most of the time it's the same baseline of features. It isn't always they have no use for the features - they just don't know they exist. For example, "Styles" to watch clients you'd think it was rocket science. Pretty much everyone can benefit from using Styles, pretty much nobody actually uses them. Why? Because they are submerged in a massive UI.

        Trouble is most people aren't that interested in learning about their computer, even if it would be better for their own productivity if they did.
        jeremychappell
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @Economister and crew and argue all they want to. I'm seeing 1st hand it in a 3000 person company that has both office and Google Docs. So they can hypothesize all they want, the reality is Chris is correct: "Similarly, Docs will continue to mature in capabilities and fidelity. However, until that happens, the reach of Chrome OS in the enterprise will remain somewhat restricted." That is dead on. For those people that do not know any better than yes Google Docs will be OK.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @frgough <br>They use iPhones and they are a leap 10 years back in technology and capability.
        reed@...
      • @reed@

        Show me the capacitive multi-touch, WiFi enabled, 3G, hand held phone capable of playing games like infinity blade as well as doing real time HD video recording and editing. Available back in 2000.

        Oh wait, it did not exist. I love how Apple Haters lie at every chance they get.
        Bruizer
    • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

      @ericesque The value proposition is "taking Windows away". No AntiVirus. No updates. No (losable) local data. No complexity.

      Am I sold? Sure. What 100% of the time? Oh no, not be a long way. I still want my desktop. But do I want a laptop that if it's lost/broken it isn't a total nightmare? Yep, I'll have some of that.
      jeremychappell
      • No local data

        @jeremychappell

        You hit the nail on the head as to why it will fail.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Will Chrome OS fail or be the next big thing? Depends who you ask

        @Cylon Why does data have to be local? Everybody has pre-conceptions about what is a 'usable' device. Fortunately, there is enough market for opposing views - Wait, isn't that the definition of 'Free Enterprise?' If GoogleOS 'fails' it will be because of too little, too late. They are really just re-inventing a concept that's been around for several years in various guises. I tend to agree with an early comment that it is just a way for Google to get way from Micro$oft internally, and recoup their development costs. IMHO it is just another case of 'not invented here.'
        tcunningham4