Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

Summary: I have a very good idea who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS.

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Google isn't telling me any secrets about its plans for Chrome OS. Indeed, I'm not even one of the 60,000 or so people that Google has given a Cr-48 Chromebook prototype to play with. Even so, unlike my good friend Mary Jo Foley, I think I know exactly who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS Linux desktop system.

I see Google as targeting two different, very different, audiences with Chrome OS. The first group are office workers. The other is those hundreds of millions, perhaps a billion plus, users who really don't know the first thing about to use a computer safely even as they use them every day.

In this set-up, a company would pay Google a fee, just as some do now for Google Apps for Business. In return, the company gets the 21st century version of a thin-client desktop.

This is an idea that goes all the way back to terminals to mainframe computers. While PCs put this idea into a niche market for decades now, some CIOs and administrators still yearn for it. The reasons for this are quite simple: It puts IT back in charge of the office desktop.

The security is set-up from a central control, the management decides what applications users will run and so on. This idea comes back over and over and... well you get the idea. If you've been in IT for a while, you've seen this notion from Oracle as network computers; and from who knows how many vendors as the diskless workstation or as thin-clients.

In the past, it's never taken off for several reasons. From an IT standpoint, one of the big problems has always been that the server proved to be a single point-of-failure. Google will try to get around this by using its cloud services in place of a server.

Users, of course, given a choice between a PC, where they get to set up the wall-paper just so, add their favorite application and a smart-terminal where they have no control over the system always went for PCs. Chrome OS will give users more control over their environment than some earlier thin-client approaches. Whether that will be enough to make users happy is another matter.

The other audience is Jason Perlow's grandpa. There are hundreds of millions of users just like him and not all of them are old. They have no more clue about to use a computer safely than I know how to land a 747.

If you read ZDNet regularly, you may not realize just how many people there are like that who think that their computer is a magic box. Forget about knowing the difference between Windows and Linux, they can't tell the difference between the Web browser and the operating system. That's where Google Chrome OS comes in.

With Chrome OS the operating system and the browser really are one. If they can use a Web browser, and almost anyone can do that these days, they'll be able to use Chrome OS.

More to the point, as Perlow pointed out, Chrome OS is "totally maintenance free, all the apps and the data are cloud driven, and you can't break the OS even if you try." Well actually you can but it's beyond the ability of most tech illiterates. Chrome OS also uses a sandbox security system that goes a long way towards making sure that no matter what an idiot user clicks on he or she can't install malware or otherwise get into trouble.

Put it all together and you have a Linux-based operating system that's ideal for either office-workers or people who need a computer but don't know the first thing about how to use one safely. Is that you? Probably not. It's certainly not me. But, it does describe hundreds-of-millions of users. For them, Chrome may be all the operating system they'll ever need.

Topics: Google, CXO, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software

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129 comments
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  • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

    Chrome has the same problem as Apple, and Linux for that matter. What it does, it does well.

    If it doesn't do even one thing you *NEED* it to do? The platform is worthless to you, since you'd still have to carry around Yet Another Device.

    Additionally, North America is not The Rest Of The World. We have a crap broadband infrastructure, and an even WORSE wireless infrastructure. Our bandwidth costs are insane, and Google wants everyone to store and access everything while using their limited bandwidth?

    Is ChromeOS going to support every 3G/LTE/WiMax/4G device available? Are companies going to be willing to pay for overages on company-provided accounts?

    If your OS absolutely requires an internet connection to deliver basic functionality, it will inevitably fail in countries with terrible network access.

    I'm not holding my breath for the US to ever catch up with the rest of the world.
    RvLeshrac
    • Yes, but, you are forgetting that ChromeOS has local storage for offline

      operation, and to smooth out slow and flaky connections. Also, there is native client, so many C/C++ applications can be re-compiled for Chrome OS, and run offline. So, people can keep one Windows box somewhere in the house for legacy Win32/64 applications that some might still use, and give everybody else a Chrome OS box.
      DonnieBoy
      • Had I emotions I imagine I would find that

        humorous.
        DonnieBoy, why give up an operating system that does everything very well, including running the "top notch" software, for the scaled down, and much less capable "Google version"? That would be a step backward.

        The most likely scenerio that you will see this operating system in will be a home or business would run a single ChromeOS machine in a corner somewhere for children or employees can use it for nothing beyond loging onto Facebook at lunch.
        Tim Cook
      • Well, Windows DOES run last century's Win32/64 applications as well as

        could be expected. That much is true. So, for now, most will keep a Windows computer in the corner.

        But, the rest can be a modern platform about what we do in the 21st century. Remember, Chrome OS has native client for running C/C++ applications. You really should read more about native client.
        DonnieBoy
      • Is "running everything" a feature or a bug?

        <blockquote><i>DonnieBoy, why give up an operating system that does everything very well, including running the "top notch" software</i></blockquote>

        Not to mention worms, trojans, etc. Please see the reference to Jason Perlow's grandfather. Or, for that matter, my ex-wife: no matter how often our sons clean up her computer, it's always infected again within days and totally useless within weeks.
        anonymous
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @DonnieBoy But why spend the same amount for a Google netbook when I could get a Win7 laptop that will run just about anything I could load on it?
        athynz
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @DonnieBoy
        Of course you don't actually need any MS Windows code to run a Windows App. On a Linux box the WINE 'windows emulator' runs about 99% of Windows apps. I'm sure Chrome could be given a similar facility.
        AndyPagin
      • Not Interested

        @DonnieBoy

        I can't agree about ChromeOS.

        What a colossal mistake Google has made here. The CR-48 doesn't have the horsepower to run any meaningful local apps...and a 16 GB SSD? The device is limited right out of the box. The Internet (cloud) is great for many things. I do not want to be completely dependent upon it for all of my computing needs. I would hate to be one of the IT workers stuck with this Chrome device. Some workers may see it as cruel and unusual punishment.

        I also have a huge problem with my sensitive data in some third party's "cloud".

        Why Google didn't just tie their services to a full-blown Linux distro on real hardware is beyond me.

        I'll stick with my Debian-based systems thank you.
        Tim Patterson
      • Tim Patterson: Yes, and I will stay with Ubuntu for my notebook. ChromeOS

        is for the masses that are not computer nerds. If I can get a terminal and run vi, make, in a sanbox, I might use chrome on the road, but, probably not.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @DonnieBoy - I'm sorry that doesn't make a lot of sense when what you have works.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @AndyPagin WINe != 'WINdows Emulator'. WINe == 'WINe Is Not an emulator'. Refer to GNU.
        prof.ebral
    • Also, the comment that it is worthless if it does not do ONE thing that you

      need. There may be a number of people that have one Win32/64 applications they need to run, but, most do not need that on the run, and many do not use Win32/64 applications at all. There are tons out there that just use email, facebook, general browsing, search, simple documents, etc. The masses are not computer nerds.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @DonnieBoy

        The masses are not computer nerds but the masses use Microsoft Office, native media player , etc. It's hard to actually convince ordinary people to use cloud service like Google Docs (believe me, I tried) because it is not as good as MS Office and that's a fact.
        cruggeld
      • You can bet that Google will have media players for all of the media types,

        so, that is a non-issue. Also, there are many with MS Office on their hard drive, this much is true, but, most only write very simple documents, and could get by just fine with Google Docs (or one of many great online tools) to view MS Office attachments, and create/share documents.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @DonnieBoy

        Still google docs is not a good as full blown office. Just a quick question for you Donnie; In the corporate environment what is the most used email server/service??? Big hint . . . its a Win32/Win64 application. Its provided by what you see as the root of all evil companies. Give up??? It is Microsoft Exchange Server and Outlook (part of the office suite). Granted there are web based email with exchange, however unless your running IE the features are crap. Furthermore, if you try to have a 3rd party app to integrate in to exchange the abilities go down to simple text format, and companies like HTML emails for corporate image. If you try to get a company to switch to web based email most likely you will get laughed at. One of the most common thing is for a user to delete an seemingly unimportant email, and then magically needs it. Here's where the onsite backups (and IT admins) come in to play. Within minutes you can have that restored, in stead for spending hours on line for someone in the web email tech support Que.
        mgaul
    • Wrong Melon Head!

      @RvLeshrac I take that as an insult!
      I use Mac and Windows and I prefer Mac.

      I'll put may technical skill up against yours any day to do anything on a Mac.

      Youre probably scared of what Chrome might mean for IT workers.
      I'm not frightened. I welcome the future,

      Put that in you pipe and smoke it.
      yobtaf
      • Ahh yes another Mac user that thinks he knows everything.

        @yobtaf <br><br>Notice you said on a MAC!!! MAC is gui land. Mac can be ran by an ID10T with the technical skills compared to a rock . . . this is what Mac was designed for, and it is the base target market. Nothing really present in corporate and enterprise world.<br><br>It is apparent that you don't really know what Systems, and/or network administrators do. With your statement you act like a little kid with their fingers in there ears not wanting to listen to the cold hard truth, and believe what you want to believe.
        mgaul
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @yobtaf - Reading comprehension skills are critical when posting responses on the internet. Followed closely by courtesy and respect.

        There was nothing wrong with RvLeshrac's post, it did say quite succinctly that if the platform (whatever platform, there were no fingers pointed) doesn't do the one thing a user NEEDS then the platform is useless to that user.

        You must really be feeling defensive and inferior to have such a heated and antagonistic response to a valid and acceptable statement.
        PollyProteus
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @yobtaf Ok, program an ISO Card with a card reader that has a serial port. Good luck with that!
        soupcan35
      • RE: Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

        @PollyProteus<br>"doesn't do the one thing a user NEEDS then the platform is useless to that user." is EXACTLY correct. We are living that now. We have Office and Google Doc as well as Google Sites available to anyone that wants them in the company. And we are beta testing GMail. Google Docs has only about 5% of what Office and OO offer. Gmail cannot group filter or sort. Because of this acceptance has been very well luke warm at best. But they do use the tools when they need to collaborate. And They do that very very well. While I know Donnieboy Fantasizes to Google, his reality is a huge distortion field. But from what I have see he and his likes have come to accept that.
        ItsTheBottomLine