Friday, June 17, 2011

Could You Live Your (Computing) Life Only In The Cloud?

So the first batch of Chrome OS computers started shipping this week - one by Samsung and one by Acer. They're basically like a standard laptop, albeit an under-powered one - think netbook specs. They both have about a 12 inch screen, weigh under 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg), have a couple of gigs of RAM, a solid state 15-20GB hard drive, a SD card reader, couple of USB ports (no ethernet), built-in WiFi (no ethernet - but Samsung has a 3G radio option) and a built-in webcam/microphone. They both retail for about $350 (WiFi only) to $500 (WiFi + 3G).

Now, it sounds to me like they had an absolute TON of netbook inventory and they needed a new way to hock them to the public - and this sounds like a great way to do it - just change out the OS to Chrome OS, and BAM! - your old inventory has a new lease on life.

But the real story (to me) is much less about the hardware - and much more about the software... specifically the fact that there are ZERO "native" applications - other than the Chrome web browser.

This means that you have to DO everything with browser-based applications. There's no Word, no Excel, no Skype, no Netflix streaming... just their web-based quasi-replacements: Google Docs & Spreadsheets (or Zoho Office - or other), Google Voice, Hulu, etc.

I don't know about you - but I use the browser a lot every single day. I also use "native" desktop (and iOS) based applications every day as well. I'm just not convinced that I could use Chrome OS as my "everyday", main computer. I know a lot of people can "get by" with online productivity tools (word processing and spreadsheet, etc) - but if they had the choice of a "native" application like Word or Pages or Excel or Numbers - wouldn't you gravitate toward those applications that are more full-featured and (generally) faster?

How about the issue of storing ALL your stuff in the cloud via Google Docs or Dropbox? To me, it's not that big a deal. After all, I have tons of photos, blog posts, forum comments, and loads of other digital debris already in the publicly accessible cloud. I also use an online service to provide off-site backups for all my stuff (granted, it's compress and encrypted - but still - it's technically "in the cloud."). I guess I'm less paranoid about getting "hacked" in the cloud than others.

Truth is - if you're going to get hacked, you're going to get hacked. Just ask Sony. Or the US Senate.

For me the bigger issue is lack of connectivity. What do you do then? As of now, there is no offline version of Google Docs. There's no offline version of most browser-based applications. Now, I'm confident that will change as time goes on - and I'm sure has HTML5 kicks into high gear that we'll see some really amazing, "native-like", offline-capable browser applications.

Maybe, someday, all applications will migrate to that model (I hope so - I would prefer the vendor does the patching, not me!).

I think the operative word here is "someday." What do you think?

No comments:

Web Analytics