Chrome OS PC: More About Personal, Less About Computers


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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