Is Chrome OS Ready for Primetime? (March 2012)

Question: “If we take Chrome apps to its logical conclusion: Do you like Samsung 5 Chromebook? Do you see any there at SXSW?”

Browser As An Operating Systems

Rumors circulated for years that Google was creating an operating system environment within a web browser. It’s a natural leap for Google because it benefits greatly from Internet expansion. Due to ubiquitous broadband (at least in the States), and relatively fast, and inexpensive processors have given this idea legs: an inexpensive machine that only accesses the Internet and other software that runs in-browser.


Google has a fun habit of releasing mostly-baked products into the market. They do so with everything: Gmail, Google Music, Android, G+, Chrome (browser). Now, they are doing it with Chrome OS.

When you buy a Chromebook, you are essentially paying to enter an open beta. That’s all well and good if you’ve got the cash, and don’t mind tinkering with partially completed software & hardware, but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m happy to beta test a free product from time-to-time, but I won’t pay for the privilege.

What is Chrome OS Good at?

  • Browsing the web
  • Basic to intermediate word-processing & spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Editing content from within a CMS

Where Does Chrome OS Fall Short?

  • Designing
  • Developing
  • Gaming
  • Privacy

The Law & The Cloud

Technology moves fast. Regulations and laws creep when they move at all. Steven Levy put it best:

“…the legal and regulatory framework for cloud computing is still evolving, as we are reminded by the government subpoenas for digital information on people tied to Wikileaks. If we’re going to make the leap to the cloud, we’ll need renewed assurances that personal data on the servers of Google or other companies will enjoy the same protections as the information stored on our personal hard drives and in our desk drawers” (Wired).

This is a big deal because with every passing month, the US government has become more aggressive in expanding online search and seizure.

Are People Using Chromebooks at SXSW?

While I’m hesitant to use SXSW attendees’ behavior as a measure of good tech decisions, I have not noticed a single Chromebook. Mostly I’ve seen a ton of Macbook Airs & Pros, Lenovo Thinkpads, and iPads.

Where is This Headed?

For better or worse, our computers are going to become increasingly more dependent on the cloud. That being said, I do not believe that Chrome OS is the answer. Over the next few years we will witness an operating system convergence.

Apple: iOS & OSX will merge

Microsoft: Windows 8 is all about convergence of the desktop, television, phone & tablet

Google: Android & Chrome will become one

The Bottom-line

Chrome OS is kind of a neat idea if you can already do all of your work in-browser, and can mentally get past the privacy/ legal issues.

Personally, I can’t do all of my work in-browser. I can’t ignore the privacy issues, and completely surrender all of my data to Google. I am deeply troubled by the imbalance between meatspace and cyberspace civil liberties (which is not Google’s fault).

All that being said, this really is an individual decision based on personal values, and use-cases. If Chromebook is all you want and need, enjoy. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a Macbook Air.

Image / More information of Chrome OS

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