Taking a Reality Check


The other problem which looks to be getting in the way of Chrome OS is reality. In theory the operating system sounds fantastic: a Cloud-based platform clearly is the future. Being able to keep all our content secure, have the heavy lifting done by legions of servers and log into any device and immediately be presented with our personalised environment is wonderful. The problem is our broadband connections are nowhere near reliable enough or fast enough to do so.

This time last year I wrote a scathing piece discussing The Truth About Mobile Broadband and in all honesty very little has changed. All networks have too many black spots and too much congestion. This isn't likely to improve until the launch of LTE, the next generation of mobile broadband, which despite being touted for a 2010 launch also keeps getting pushed further and further back.

In addition there are far too many times when we are without a broadband connection – airplanes, the Underground – and it is hardly reliable on trains. Offline web technologies like Google Gears and HTML5 offer hope, but the former is being phased out and the latter has still to be fully finalised and as such displace Flash as quickly as had been hoped.

Ultimately Chrome OS may be taking longer to get to market than we would like, but it is moving considerably faster than the technologies upon which it is so heavily reliant.

Reasons to be Hopeful

Despite all this doom and gloom there are many reasons to be hopeful about the future of Chrome OS. For a start it is the future – albeit arguably ahead of its time – and in Google it has a parent who is a) the Cloud's number one fan, and b) staggeringly rich.

Moreover tablets are teaching the public they don't actually need a full computing experience all the time. The iPad may have iWork, but it is primarily a device for consuming content. Chrome OS can do this and then some. Combine this with cheap hardware (Chrome OS needs in the way of little storage or computational power) and it has the potential to displace netbooks as the new low price point. As for app support, you don't need apps when you have full scale websites.

Lastly Google seems to have had a much needed reality check. As IDC analyst Al Hilwa explained: "Android has taught Google that maybe the cloud is not everything and there are ways to change the OS market dynamics without a pure cloud approach."

Evidence of this can be seen just this week with the announcement of Cloud Connect, software which seamlessly syncs documents between Microsoft Office programmes and Google Docs – even allowing for real time collaboration. The software is a perfect example that Google now realises most people need to take baby steps if they are to transition to the Cloud full time.

Android aside, Google has also had its fair share of knocks in 2010. Google Wave was an embarrassing failure and the disastrous launch of Google Buzz led to high court legal action. Google now realises kid gloves are required if Chrome OS isn't to go the same way…

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