Rythie's Blog

Technology and stuff

What Google's Chrome OS Means

I've never had to do a software update on my dishwasher, remove a virus from my T.V., if I want to have a cup of tea at a friend's house I don't need to take my kettle and I'm unlikely to lose priceless memories if my microwave breaks down. The PC is by far the most complicated device in the home because it has all these problems.

Right now, if you work in a reasonably well run, large organization, I'd say your desktops are fairly well sorted out, backups are done automatically, you can roam with your login to any machine to get your desktop where you like, you can't mess much up or if you do the desktop can be reset within a day if not sooner. Data and/or desktop is available remotely. At least that's how I run the desktops I manage. Fundamentally I'd say in large organizations there is no real problem with desktop IT.

Now what about the other end of the spectrum? non-tech families, small non-tech businesses with no IT staff etc. How much backup is going on? can you roam from one machine to another in the house/organization? can machines be replaced quickly? what about remote access to documents/photos etc. - probably not.

It doesn't seem that either Microsoft or Apple have made massive inroads into this problem. Even with products like Apple's Time Capsule, your backups are in the same physical building as your Macs, so if your house burns down or your equipment is stolen, everything is lost.

I find that I already mostly have my data in the 'cloud' so to speak. I regularly switch between 3 systems my home desktop, my personal laptop and my work desktop. For any notes, lists, documents, spreadsheets I use Google docs & spreadsheets. I put photos on Facebook and Flickr. My bookmarks are in Xmarks and Delicious. My email is available via the web or IMAP. My programming code is generally stored on servers that I can SSH into from anywhere. In most cases I can get all the info I need, from anywhere in world, with a machine with a web browser and SSH terminal. There are a few exceptions, I can't easily access my music from anywhere and the photos I haven't published aren't available - though these are not unsolvable problems.

I think my experience has shown that you can store your data largely in the cloud. Google's Chrome OS, properly marketed, could popularize this type of computing. If Google provides a system on which you can't install programs, where all data is stored in the cloud, then people would start doing this. The benefits would be, the machine it's self is disposable, if the machine dies, you can buy another and no data would be lost - since it's in the cloud, being looked after by people who know what they are doing.

This is certainly not a new idea - though no-one of note has tried to push it. Microsoft and Apple were never likely to push it since it goes against the ecosystems they have created.

What do you think? is this Google's plan or are they are doing something else? What about offline? or does that matter anymore? Will people trust Google and others with their data?