ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

Summary: It seems ChromeOS is the latest in a long line of network clients designed for use by all those workers that don't need full computer functionality. Unfortunately, those imaginary swathes simply don't exist.

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It seems the network computer is an idea that, like a zombie army, resolutely refuses to lie down and die. A discussion thread within the Enterprise Irregulars group this week started off with an observation about where Google expects to find market demand for its ChromeOS:

"Businesses are accelerating in their adoption of cloud-based applications like SFDC and Google Apps. As the center of gravity of enterprise computing moves here, the need for large swathes of workers at enterprises (especially more 'task' oriented workers) to have full blown local computing systems that can run executables not originating from the web itself diminishes significantly."

For the past fifteen years I have been listening to people talking about foisting restricted-function web terminals on 'large swathes' of the workforce (beginning with Larry Ellison's NC and Scott McNealy's Javastation). The thing I've always noticed is that no one ever says, 'I want one of those.' The proposition is always promoted as an ideal solution for someone else's computing needs — and almost without exception it's a use case the speaker has no direct familiarity with. Thus the Gen-Y software engineers that Google employs straight out of college apparently imagine that ChromeOS is a perfect platform for workers in call centers and manufacturing plants.

It's another of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I use Mac OS X, you run Windows, they'll be fine with ChromeOS.

In reality, call center workers are more likely to remain on full-function desktop platforms than the rest of us. Speed of response is paramount for these workers who are often interacting with multiple applications. A powerful desktop machine that turbocharges their productivity — even with a SaaS application — makes a big difference to their ability to resolve questions fast and deliver customer satisfaction.

Of course if ChromeOS taps the underlying power of the hardware platform, it may give a better performance than traditional network computer designs. Microsoft is pursuing a similar path, though from a different direction, with its use of native client capabilities in its forthcoming Windows-based browser. But Google's designers shouldn't imagine they can get away with palming off substandard performance on powerless workers across its enterprise customers. As Google well knows, speed matters. Any browser-only computer has to be able to deliver performance and user experience that's at least as good as, and preferably better than, the PCs it seeks to replace. Designing it with any lesser target in mind will condemn it to market failure.

Topics: Browser, CXO, Google, Hardware, IT Employment

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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23 comments
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  • If you like paying your employees to surf the web all day chromeos is the

    perfect choice for your ill-fated business. Replace all your productivity machines and get in line for your bailout...
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @Johnny Vegas
      That doesn't make any sense at all. Why would chrome OS and employees surfing the web all day, be synonymous? You're implying that if my office runs only windows my employees won't surf the net.
      rengek
    • The thin client scam

      @Johnny Vegas

      Every few years, it comes around again like yoyos and pyramid schemes.

      If you want limited and slow computer applications dependent on proprietary software from an advertising company and a stable web connection, then this is the solution for you. In fact, it's probably only an easy step to run those call centre scripts automatically with a little AI and a speech synthesizer and eliminate all those troublesome employees.

      We were liberated from mainframes and terminals some time ago, yet they keep trying to drag us back to the Dark Side.
      tonymcs@...
  • Possibly more of an accessory or novelty.

    Internet-based stuff might be an element in the dozens of ways of using computers, but it doesn't replace computers! And I seriously question these words from the article: "Businesses are accelerating in their adoption of cloud-based applications". Really?
    peter_erskine@...
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @peter_erskine@...
      I agree that web based applications won't replace computers....at least not right now but I fear it will and will happen sooner rather than later. From a developer's perspective, we are being inundated with cloud developments. There is more to like than dislike. In house development projects are by large web based. Nobody seriously does client server development anymore. That was the first phase of cloud based applications. You move everyone off client/server into web app. Then the natural progression would be to cloud base. Businesses will save a lot of money doing so. Whether its better for you might not even come to play if the company is saving enough. Thats why out sourcing works. Even though we hate it and customer service drops, companies are still going to do it because it saves them a bundle.
      rengek
  • I've got a good name for Google to use

    Let's call it a 3270 terminal.
    ron.cleaver@...
    • And...

      @ron.cleaver@

      ... Most people under the age of 35-40 have no idea what that is...

      (The vocal minority who will challenge this notwithstanding)
      Mihi Nomen Est
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @ron.cleaver@... Yes I was thinking as I read it - we used to call this a 'mainframe'. How quaint! Plus ca change and all that....
      grahamemmett
  • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

    I may be completely wrong but I honestly can't see the use for it in a business environment. When I first heard about ChromeOS my immediate question was "Who is it aimed at?" and I'm still struggling with that question.
    Big_Belly_Bob
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @Big_Belly_Bob
      I'm seeing it already. The first big push imo will be office suites online. I've been evaluating office live for the past couple of months and its very very robust. Much more than I thought an online version of word/excel could be. Its probably the first moment I realized online applications will probably win out. Considering the cost savings and level of control that business can have, they are going to make it happen.
      rengek
  • Makes zombie sound

    1. I would consider the following to be network computers (sorta):
    - smartphone
    - iPad
    - any old machine running (say) RDP
    - netbook
    Mary Jo Foley has all four! Does she qualify for zombiedom ;-)

    2. Perhaps the biggest problem with 'the design' is that it depends on a high-speed, low-latency network ... which we don't have yet. Suppose though we had Infiniband at home and Gb broadband ... then perhaps we would see The Sean of The Dead?
    [OK, there's still privacy and reliability to handle ...]

    3. "Any browser-only computer has to be able to deliver performance and user experience that?s at least as good as, and preferably better than, the PCs it seeks to replace."
    False: technology has passed the point of sub-second response in some areas so that users cannot distinguish between 0.05 and 0.1 seconds. It will become increasingly so ... particularly when parallel processing is finally harnessed.
    False: what you want to do your job ... what you need ... and what your company can afford may all be different!

    "Designing it with any lesser target in mind will condemn it to market failure."
    See 1 for examples of market failures.

    The faster the network, the cleverer the virtualisation ... the nearer the zombie army. [via RDP to my server to ZDNET cloud.]
    jacksonjohn
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @johnfenjackson@...

      Quite right. The iPad is the network computer that people are definitely asking for
      interstar
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @johnfenjackson@... And pull the plug and you have a fancy brick.
      ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

        @ItsTheBottomLine
        And THAT, right there, is the Main reason why my company has no plans whatsoever with going with such systems.
        One of the others is that, despite the widespread availability of High Speed internet to the large metro areas, High-Speed internet is most definitely NOT available to us here in smalltown USA (yes, we have "broadband" but what we have out here as being all shiny & new is what cities like LA, NY, and Houston threw away 7 years ago)
        gavin142
      • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

        @ItsTheBottomLine

        In the early days they probably said that about electricity - stick with the oil lamp, you know it makes sense ;-)
        INGOTIAN
  • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

    "For the past fifteen years I have been listening to people talking about foisting restricted-function web terminals on large swathes of the workforce..."<br><br>It has been much more than fifteen years. This was IBM's business model in the seventies and eighties. It was because they believed in distributed dumb terminals that they thought the PC would not succeed. The result was, they put little effort into the first IBM PC, let Microsoft license them a pathetic OS, and lost the momentum in the computer industry.<br><br>The concept is attractive to big companies and big box makers, because it limits the freedom for their employees to waste time. But, of course, the employees don't like it one bit.

    As for Chrome OS, just more Google spyware.
    jorjitop
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @jorjitop
      Seems like the cell phone industry is succeeding where IBM failed.
      INGOTIAN
  • ChromeOS = WAVE v2

    It's soooooo cool but shucks no one used it and we don't understand why?
    hubivedder
  • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

    I'm pretty sure something like Chrome has a place in the enterprise and consumer markets.

    The set top boxes connected to TV, tablets, smart phones and public computers would be my first targets.

    As far as your call center example, I have to question whether local storage, processing power, and off-line capabilities are the key to timely access and sharing of critical information.

    I don't think we'll go back to the mainframe/dumb terminal model but the anywhere-access features are becoming more important to more and more of what I do.
    areeda
    • RE: ChromeOS, the web platform for them, not me

      @areeda "anywhere-access features are becoming more important to more and more of what I do." That is exactly right. The problem I see is that infrastructure to support that model is a hodgepodge - especially if you travel, heck just around cities it is a mix bag. When it's as fast as a laptop and I can get it anywhere, and it's reliable - then you have something. We try to get more web based apps for our sales people and it just doesn't work for them.
      ItsTheBottomLine