Google Chrome OS

December 6, 2009

This is going to be an article about the preview of Google Chrome OS, but I feel the need to do a little bit of history (how far we have come!) on recent operating systems:

Windows 95 – introduced a vastly improved user interface (UI), with a Start button that encompassed the majority of the operating system’s functionality. Just by clicking Start, the user could access settings, programs, and their documents. Versus Windows 3.1, where the File Manager and DOS stood hand-in-hand, this introduced a much slimmer, more reliable interface.

Windows 98/Me – This was a polishing of Windows 95, but added some new features – the Quick Launch toolbar and integrated Internet Explorer. The integration of IE not only sounded the death knoll for Netscape’s Navigator browser, but allowed web information to be displayed more easily on the user’s desktop.

Windows 2000 – Introduced with Windows Me, this was the ‘business’ version of Windows. Leaving the home user alone, this was a release that focused on security and reliability, especially since it was based on Windows NT.

Windows XP – the dinosaur of operating systems. Starting with a new (to me, almost a toy) interface, it kept the familiarity of Windows Me, with the reliability of Windows 2000. In fact, it was almost exactly the same underneath as Windows 2000. Three Service Packs later, and this OS still refuses to die. People have become so used to XP, any change frightens them. Couple XP being out at a time when computer use took off, and tons of peripherals released during its time, and you can see why people may have not wanted to move on.

OS X – not  a Microsoft OS, of course, but one that needs mentioning. OS X introduced (for its Mac users) a brand new interface, with a forward-looking Dock, and new features that made it a must have upgrade. Multiple versions (really Service Packs that cost money) later, OS X has become very mature, but still has some problems (cough, Snow Leopard, cough).

Windows Vista – The OS that never really had a chance. (But without it, we would never had the right environment for Windows 7) Bad drivers, annoying notifications, and slow except on top-of-the-line machines, it earned a reputation that I think hit Microsoft pretty hard. It didn’t help that Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ads hit all the right (wrong?) notes, and helped Apple’s market share tremendously.

Windows 7 – The OS that will finally kill XP. Faster, smaller, and more user-friendly than its predecessor (a first for Microsoft), this OS is awesome. Taking a cue from OS X, we have a dock-like taskbar, which is immediately familiar to users. This OS will carry Microsoft far, and in my opinion, is superior to OS X.

So, having done a very short history of regular operating systems, I get to move onto an opinion piece on Google’s preview of their Chrome OS.

So, an OS that can interface with your devices, but doesn’t actually store anything on the computer. An OS that doesn’t store hardly anything on the computer. At all. Everything goes up “in the cloud.” All your documents, pictures, videos, everything goes up in this space that you can access with a user name and a password. So, anyone, anywhere who is able to crack your password will have access to your entire online life.

Now, you say, “But they could do this anyway, if they got your laptop.” Sure they could, but they would have to have physical access to my laptop. As long as I can help it, that won’t happen. But there’s not anything I can do about someone who cracks my password, and gets my documents, now is there? I can’t see the person, I don’t know anything about them.

Besides the inherent security issues, which I am sure Google has already thought about and hopefully is ready to deal with, I don’t see the need for everything to be “in the cloud.” I go to a few places (and getting fewer every day) that don’t have Internet access, or have slow Internet access, and what do I do then? What if I am needing to work on a document, or show off my pictures, or something that I can do with my current PC when it’s not connected to the Internet.

I just don’t see the need for this…yet. I know all of us are going to have everything in the cloud someday, and that will be standard. I also see that Google will have a head start with this. They are very, very smart. So is Microsoft, and I don’t know if they are just going to roll over and take it. I hope they don’t. I know they have their Azure platform, which developers can use, and will probably be invisible to consumers. Microsoft: don’t become IBM. Don’t get too jaded by your success with Windows 7, and remember to always, always, always keep an eye on Google.


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