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

Oh, it will succeed...the real question is how long will it take the world to be ready for it?
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

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.

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