Three reasons the cloud does not need Google’s Chrome OS

Long promoted as the “cloud computing operating system,” Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS will provide a browser-centric OS that wholly depends on wireless connectivity and the cloud for its core services. The first Chrome OS notebooks won’t be available until mid-2011 — unless you can get into the pilot program for Google’s own Cr-48 netbook. Every feature of Chrome OS is synced to the cloud, so users can pick up where they left off regardless of what computer they are leveraging.

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If you’re old enough to remember “network computing,” this is it. In short, never leave anything on your client, and use the network to access core application services and data storage. Fast-forward 15 years, and it’s now the cloud and outside of the firewall, but the same rules still apply.

[ See Galen Gruman’s first look for a deeper view of Google’s Chrome OS, the prototype laptop, and the current state of Google Apps. | Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors’ 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. ]

Don’t get me wrong: I think Google’s Chrome OS is innovative, but it’s not needed now. Here are three reasons why:

1. Most mobile operating systems, including iOS and Android, already do a fine job leveraging the cloud. They are designed from the ground up to work in a connected world, and as most of you know who lose service from time to time, the operating systems and the applications aren’t worth much when not connected to the cloud — well, perhaps not Angry Birds.
2. With the momentum behind the iPad and the coming iPad wannabes, there won’t be much call for netbooks, which is the target platform for Chrome OS. Because Google makes both the successful Android OS for smartphones and slates and the Chrome OS for laptops, I suspect you won’t see it make Chrome OS available for slates and smartphones.
3. Chrome OS assumes good connectivity to the cloud, and while that may happen in a perfect world, it’s typically problematic these days. Having to find a Starbucks to connect to a cloud to launch an application or retrieve your data on the road will be annoying, though Chrome OS will have some local storage.

What happens to Chrome OS? It’s one of those good ideas, like Google Wave, that just did not find its niche. Perhaps it’s too late or too early, but it won’t have the uptake that everyone is expecting in the cloud.

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January 2011
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