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

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.

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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 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.

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31 comments
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  • It's a failure of HTML5

    So many tech writers bought into the HTML5 hype w/o taking a deeper technical look into if the "platform" really is as robust as advertised. Notice Android devices on the other hand score far better simply b/c they are based on a more solid Java platform.
    LBiege
    • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

      @LBiege - HTML5 is as robust as it is unfragmented between providers. :D

      Silverlight and Flash aren't dead yet, and given how one side says "Flash is bloated", one can easily say "Smartphones and tablets are underpowered" (which won't help Apple, given they are not known for "power without the price" to begin with...)
      HypnoToad72
  • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

    Jason-

    I gotta be honest, I'm not even quite sure what you're advocating here. Doesn't logging into Google already give you a unified login for Docs, Gmail, YouTube, etc? I'm not sure what adding a Chrome Browser with unified Google login does that IE pointed to www.google.com doesn't already do? Maybe I'm just missing the point.
    swmace
    • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

      @swmace I'm not talking about integration at the browser level. I'm talking about using it as an authentication mechanism at the OS level.
      jperlow
      • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

        @jperlow

        What would be the purpose? How would your OS change? I can use my gmail account as my live id and login the same (For Windows 8). I don't get what you are trying to accomplish on the OS side. If you are saying that because you can authenticate with google, your OS does something different and you just use Chrome? I'm with swmace on this one.

        If you are just talking about logging in with your google authentication, I don't see how that makes it any better than just regularly logging in (for Windows 8 at least) and using Chrome...Windows 8 saves all of your passwords and all of that stuff so once you login with your Live ID (which can use your google email) all the stuff that you use will be logged in.

        Now if you're talking about changing the OS around because you used a google authentication, then, no, it's not going to happen.
        Zedox
      • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

        @jperlow <br><br>It's there.<br><br>Control Panel\User Accounts and Family Safety\Credential Manager

        Problem isn't that it doesn't exist. Problem is that nobody uses it. Only Microsoft and Xmarks use it on my system.
        CobraA1
    • Agree with zwmace and zedox

      I agree with @swmace @zedox.<br><br>I don't really understand what you are trying to advocate here.
      Arun (sreearun)
  • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

    Nice linkbait headline you got there. Ugh.
    A Hylian Human
  • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

    No thanks, I'll just stick with my Chromebook. It's an awesome product as is, but I want Google to continue making it better with hardware and software improvements. After using it for a week, I put my Windows laptop away, probably for good. I haven't touched it in months and don't miss it at all. I can do everything I need and want to do with a computer much faster and with less maintenance using a Chromebook, and I'm a power user.
    garylai
    • Our experience with 2 Chomebooks

      @garylai
      had our testers pulling their Windows (and MacBooks) out of their closets every other day as the Chromebooks were quite lacking in too many features and capabilities.
      :|
      Tim Cook
      • Agree as a pc device...

        @Mister Spock

        Does work well as an instant-on internet connection for central household use.
        rhonin
  • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

    Your article is so contrived, I can't help thinking that the thing you really want in a PC is already available in a Chromebook. Authentication mechanism? Um, ok. The OS level IS ChromeOS in this case. Do you think you'll see this with iOS, Windows, and the like? Certainly not anytime soon. What else are you looking for besides what's offered in a Chromebook? It's OK if it's not your cup of tea but don't relinquish this OS device as something that's only suitable for the baby-boomer generation. Stick with your full-fledged, do-it-all OS (which you probably use for surfing, email, etc. 90% of the time) and leave the Chromebook for those who simply want to cut to the chase.

    I am planning on purchasing a Chromebook next month at a price that is more "soup" than "nuts". Next time, speak for yourself and avoid using the word "We". I think I - and others - can speak for ourselves.
    housepianist
    • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

      @omahapianist The sales numbers do not reflect an acceptance by the masses of the Chromebook platform. Plain and simple. It's not a business that Google can really justify itself being in and its partners manufacturing the devices can't justify sustaining either.
      jperlow
      • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

        @jperlow Amazon is consistently sold out since the price drop and actual sales numbers have not been released so this proves you very wrong.
        codecrackx15
  • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

    "Eventually, I see us getting there"

    I don't. There's a reason we're not using dumb terminals anymore. They're dunb.

    Not to mention all it is is a browser - which every computer and device already has. Why buy something that does less than everything else out there?

    There are zero advantages to such a device. They couldn't even sell it at a low price, which would be its only selling point.

    "The technology behind Chrome OS is sound"

    There is no technology in Chrome OS. Not anything you can't get with everything else.

    "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."

    Except they're already doing that - when you log into any of Google's services, you log into all of them. And oh, yeah, Microsoft does the same. Don't need to buy a whole ChromeOS machine to get that benefit.

    And if you're talking about OS level integration, Microsoft has had that long before Google did. They have APIs to attach the OS login to an app login.

    In Windows 7:
    Control Panel\User Accounts and Family Safety\Credential Manager

    Interestingly enough, I have a Windows Live token hanging around in there. Probably to maintain the logins for the Windows Live products I use, like Windows Live Photo Gallery.

    So yeah, Google really is late to the game here. Even the OS level authentication is late to the game. There is no technology in Chrome OS that nobody else has.

    What I think is REALLY interesting is things like Mozilla's Browser ID, which identifies not just across a single website, but across the entire internet (or at least everybody who is accepting Browser ID logins).

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

    Except that it's not. It's specific to Google. Who else used it?
    CobraA1
  • Unified authentication would be a nice thing.

    A unified authentication for Chromebooks, in house Windows virtual desktops, and Windows/Unix/Linux server based services would be a nice thing. Google should work on this as a priority. Microsoft will fight this with every dirty trick in the book in order to maintain its monopoly lock-in, so the onus is on Google to push and litigate this.
    Mah
    • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

      @Mah Eh, if you want all that, just grab a Windows system.
      CobraA1
      • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

        @CobraA1
        That's useless because it won't log you into Google or other cloud services. What is required is a server box in the office that will accept Google's two stage authentication to get you into your Windows systems as well.
        Mah
      • RE: Google: We don't need Chrome OS, we want cloud login for PCs

        "That's useless because it won't log you into Google or other cloud services."

        Works fine here. Enable browser cookies.

        "What is required is a server box . . ."

        . . . which is not what ChromeOS was really designed for.

        ". . . to get you into your Windows systems as well."

        . . . why? Why should the Google login get you into Windows, rather than the Windows login getting you into Google? Does it really matter what the first login is?
        CobraA1
    • As we have seen, Google is quite adept at dirty tricks themselves

      @Mah
      and are inventing new dirty tricks everyday. Why would Google be pushing this if not for their own benefit, as what they are asking to do has been availiable from others for quite some time.

      And on what grounds does Google have to where they can litigate something into a competing product?
      Tim Cook