Chrome OS – Lost in the cloud?

Not everyone wants to upload data to Google servers. The question might be how willing or able Google to compromise its initial concept to accomodate local applications, offline processing and local storage.

As soon as this compromise is made, Chrome OS becomes nothing more than just another desktop operating system, albeit with an ultra sophisticated multi-threaded browser, although it becomes infinitely more useful to the "ordinary" user who likes to to keep his or her data close at hand, and private, and may not always have access to the web.

Despite the huff and puff, a device that comes with Chrome OS installed is likely to be seen by home users as little more than a remote device for browsing the web and reading email, a useful ancilliary rather than a replacement for the desktop in the office or the home.

More useful may be the option for business users of instant access to applications, processes and data on the office LAN from a remote access point. In this case the fact that the data is stored on the LAN rather than the remote device becomes a virtue.

It will be interesting to see how much Chrome OS is customised as it is adapted for specialised devices and mobile access by the telecom companies, and whether it is adopted as a thin client for office workers, giving access to a central hub for office computing.

Down the rabbit hole

Users are possessive of their data, and often with good reason. There are issues of licensing and the current availability of applications, and there are questions of privacy and control. We live in a world where data is being collected in greater and greater volumes, and is increasingly being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.

Google might not want to share your data but government agencies can go beyond the law to access what they will, and both governments and corporations are increasingly obsessed with gathering information about our lives. The web is a big hole in which to lose your privacy and forget your passwords.

Such reservations are likely to be ignored and may be overcome, but web computing is not for everone. Chrome OS and its future clones will not replace the functionality, versatility, privacy and integrity of the desktop computer but may influence the way that people work and play on the web.

In doing so, Chrome OS will almost certainly put another dent in Microsoft's hegemony, but is unlikely to usurp the desktop computer. Power users, developers and specialists will always require the on board power of the computer close at hand.

Similarly, Chrome OS is not a "make or break" move for Linux on the desktop and offers no direct challenge to Ubuntu or the Mac, except in the most generic sense, but may influence browser technology and future developments in the Linux kernel to the advantage of other Linux distributions, and this may be its most positive outcome for Linux users and for web users as a whole.