This week, Google showed off both its Chrome ‘App’ Store and the Chrome OS, it’s flavor of Linux with the Chrome browser bolted onto it. Along with the OS, they demoed it on a ‘spec’ laptop that ONLY runs Chrome OS.
I’m not going to talk about the store, you can read it about that here. No, I am going to talk a bit about the Chrome OS itself.
Chrome OS is a fully baked cloud experience. The “OS”, which is just a stripped down Linux with the browser as the interface, stays out of the way. The user only sees the browser. The desktop is your homepage with all of your book marks in one easy to get to location. The whole notion of a file system, like you have in Windows or on the Macintosh, is history. Your stuff is saved in the cloud with the application you were using, so if you used Google Docs, then your documents are stored somewhere on a Google server. Same for your photos, be it on Facebook or Picasa Web. While this makes it simple and backups should be a no brainer, the downside is that you MUST be connected at all times to get your data. And forget working offline, just does not work here.
The laptop is barebones but does include a 3G cell radio with Verizon service. You will get 100mb a month for free and then the price sky rockets after that. You can use that in one ten minute browsing session. Sixty thousand lucky people will get to experience the laptop, Chrome OS and Verizon since that is the number of laptops that were produced. These will not be sold and are not intended, yet, for the general population.
The notion of a cloud based operating system is intriguing, downside notwithstanding. Management should be simple and setup was a snap with Google demonstrating initial setup in just a few minutes.
The real downside, and one that will be difficult for Google, at least with the older crowd, is lack of local storage and off line use. The always connected idea is great in theory, but lose that connection, even for a few minutes, and you will see just how much of a headache it could be.
I am still undecided about Chrome. I need more seat time with the OS. Perhaps I’ll be one of the sixty thousand but I doubt it. I would really like to put my concerns to bed or prove them out. Either way, I think it would exciting to find out.