11 Comments

Summary:

Google’s future computing vision appears focused on Chrome OS devices, but is it really about the hardware? The physical device actually matters less as Google divests our personal data, preferences and even apps from the hardware, placing the “soul” of our computing experience in the cloud.

chrome-web-store

Although Chrome OS devices won’t be sold for another six months, much of Google’s vision for the platform can be tasted today. The Chrome browser, essentially the interface for Chrome OS netbooks, has been around for more than two years. Joining it today is the Chrome Web Store, which doesn’t require a Chrome OS device, nor even the use of Google’s browser. But if you do use Chrome for the web, you can begin to see that Google is slowly weaning us off particular hardware; the soul of our future computing experiences will be device-independent.

The embrace of web apps in combination with a browser that can sync more and more of our personal data starts to eliminate the need to use a specific computer. Think of this way: Those that already use Google services already keep email data, personal contacts, documents, calendar events and more on Google’s servers. Some supplement that by using the Chrome browser, which, with a simple sign-on, provides access to all that personal data on any machine. With its news today, Google is taking another step forward with the web app store.

Here’s an example: I installed the New York Times’ web app on my MacBook Air earlier today. It’s very much like a native piece of software with slick animations, easy-to-use navigation and even breaking news notifications outside the browser.

Later in the day, I fired up the Chrome browser on my iMac, which I had already configured for application syncing in Chrome. With one tap, I was in the New York Times app on my second machine; there was no need for another installation or changing of settings. The experience was seamlessly personalized and totally divested from the machines I was using. I could have been using a Chrome OS netbook, a Mac laptop or a Windows PC at my local library.

To be sure, netbooks running the Chrome OS platform will maximize this experience when they arrive next year, thanks to nearly instant on and free connectivity from Verizon Wireless. But Google’s Chrome initiatives have far less to do with hardware. Instead, the company is attempting to forward the age-old idea of network computing on the largest network in the world: the very one, incidentally, that Google floods with personalized advertising, which make up the bulk of its revenues.

Putting the concept another way: If you’re tired of backing up local data, reinstalling software with each new change of device and configuring hardware to your personal tastes, Google’s Chrome OS is a contender as your personalized computer experience for the future. The device you use it on is beginning to matter less and less because to some degree, your soul — that is, your personal data — is already living in the cloud.

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  1. I agree; and when you combine a cloud-based web app with mobile apps that also sync in the cloud – you have a multi-modal personalized experience that’s truly device independent

  2. I still don’t see Chrome OS taking off though. It might be device independent, but is that really what the customers want? It still strikes me as a 90’s kind of idea with an interface only an engineer could love.

    It’s also an OS moving in the exact opposite direction everyone else is going in terms of current trends and consumer desires. People don’t seem to desire ugly ubiquity, but instead prefer focussed, personalised experiences in the so-called “walled gardens” of apps.

    People give their iPhones names and hug them at night. No one is going to do that to a Chrome netbook. If it gains market share at all, it will be as an alternative to Windows among a small techie crowd.

    1. Gazoobee,
      I think in many ways Google’s mobile business plan is the polar-opposite of Apple: Android Market(s) vs. iOS App Store, Many Handsets and Carriers vs. One/Few, Free (with Ads) vs. Paid (and Freemeium), Wild Growth vs. Regular Updates…

      There can only be one Apple, and Apple will be the best Apple. So Google is doing the best to target the remainder of the market.

      I don’t think for a second that Google wants it’s Chrome-tops to rival the iPad or MB Air. I think they want to supplant the netbook (and it’s Windows base), and play a disruptive attack against Microsoft (and keep Apple in check). The Free 3G model may have merits in driving even more folks online (and into the arms of advertisers).

      Ultimately, this drives folks to App-driven, Ad-laden locations where Google rules the roost.

      1. I’m inclined to agree: this is more about Microsoft than Apple IMO. Different visions of computing for the future to provide a better experience. Will it appeal to the mass market? I think so, but not sure when.

  3. So can you use these Chrome web apps from Safari if you log into your google account? Or do you have to use google’s browser?

    1. At the moment you need to have your google account. But they are considering to make alternative due to Chrome OS.

  4. IF they can provide a better experience than a netbook at the same price or cheaper it will have its market.

    Anyone that doesn’t want to spend money on a computer will be the target.

    That could mean a person you can’t even afford one pc or a family who doesn’t need 3 or 4 full fledged pcs in the house.

    Even better imo if these Chrome devices can tap into the processing power and quality apps found in your powerful family desktop.

    I see Google’s achilles heel as only wanting to do web stuff even if the local experience is better.

    Part of me likes Apple’s best of both worlds vision better. I don’t like alot of these crappy web interfaces. RAther have them local where they are faster and more elegant. But also have them connected to the web.

    On the other hand I like using Amazon’s site rather than iTunes because Amazon is in the browser. I don’t like opening another app just to find a song quick for purchase. And itunes is kind of a hog to use just for that.

    But for reading a newspaper I like using apps on the iPad more because they are more focused. I get a bit dizzy looking at the 300 links on the NYT page. So much so I spend too much time figuring out what I should read. And local apps can pre-cache content and let you quickly flip through the pages of your newspaper. Also like the fact you can use keys to flip forward through pages quickly instead of clicking a link for the next page and waiting for it to load.

  5. The chrome OS first target is enterprise. Enterprises can save lot, look at my simple view on this issue.

    Think about enterprise. For Every 100 employee today we need 1 administrator ( for network , email , security etc.. ).

    – chrome OS can reduce that by ten fold , that is once enterprise deploy these “Chrome OS ” machines , 1 administor for every 1000 users will do fine. Say cost of administor for company is $150,000/year ( total cost: salary + office space + all other over heads ) that is a savings of
    $1500/year per employee.

    – anti-virus cost around $100/year is eliminated
    – gains from minimizing down time ( from switch to PC to ‘chrome OS’)

    In total we can easily say direct tangible cost savings of $2000/year per employee.

    By the way you can still run all your legacy apps ( Microsoft Excell etc..) on ‘chrome OS’ machine via Citrix ( hosted server ). so you do not miss PC based apps if you still needs to run.

  6. This needs a radical change in user behaviour. I wonder if the user will be willing to make this switch. Would you rather create a document on Google docs or have it as a file on your computer. I know there are advantages of having a doc in the cloud but will the user be willing to make the switch ?
    What about offices/businesses ? Will they be willing to have all their information tightly linked to google ? No cloud, no business ?
    The PC(or Mac) provides a certain independence. With hardware cost falling its cheaper than ever to own a Laptop. I know its a hassle to install software but is it so difficult that people are driven to the cloud ?
    I like the idea of chrome. But I seriously doubt that it will catch on.

  7. i tried this syncing app in the google chrome browser awhile ago when i first learned of it, because it’s something i’ve wished for a long time. and while it’s nice to be able to log in and sync your data the problem or issue i had with it was after i logged out. all the links in the browser were still there, which meant that anyone who used the browser on the computer after me could come up see what i’ve been doing. this isn’t a problem if it’s my personal computer(s)as in the example given above, but if it’s a public computer or a computer i use at work syncing to data created from my home personal computer or netbook, then it can be an issue. i think if or when google finally figures out a way to erase all user data once the user has logged out that i will begin using this sync ability that the chrome browser allows for. for now though it’s a good start.

  8. Thanks to google, the new web 3.0 and 4.0 will become a reality sooner than we thought.

    while traditional OSs just want to fragment all over the user experience, google, html5 and web3.0 will do the opposite and unite it.

    google chrome web app store is the first and most important step in that direction. even firefox wants to join the trend.

    The bigger winners here will be ChromeOS/linux , mac and the user.

    I expect 3.0 to become mainstream in as low as 2 years. Not 10 years like others had thought in the beginning.

    Even msft will try not to stop it as before.

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