Why Chrome OS will fail – big time. That’s the title of Randall Kennedy’s article over at Infoworld (which made it to the top of Techmeme no doubt based partially on the controversial title). Now his first couple points aren’t bad and Google very well might pay for building their new device on a Linux foundation. But his third point, the gist of which is quoted below, is incorrect…
And that's where I believe the Chrome OS ultimately fails. In its effort to pare the traditional OS model down to the bone, Google has thrown out the one characteristic that made Windows and, to a lesser extent, Mac OS X and full-blown Linux successful: flexibility.
Simply put, the Chrome OS is too narrow. It assumes that the world is ready to give up the traditional personal computing paradigm and live full time in the cloud. In reality, most users prefer a hybrid existence, with some of their data and applications stored locally, and others -- typically the freebies, like Gmail -- hosted online.
Perhaps the easiest way to put the Chrome OS into context is by comparing it to the OS it's designed to supplant: Microsoft Windows. Like the Chrome OS, Windows lets you boot your system, surf the Web, and manage your data. Unlike the Chrome OS, Windows also lets you run rich, local applications and services -- and do so on the hardware of your choosing.
I don’t disagree but this is just short sighted.
It assumes everything in the future will have to fit one model which is where the world has gone wrong. Personal Computers have their place in the world and I don’t believe that will ever go away. These kind of “do anything” devices are what people are used to and I don’t think the public is willing to give that up (at least not for some time).
But not everything is a PC.
That logic has to end because the world can not go on like this for much longer. The PC’s ability to do anything has opened it up to loads of instability and because people are building other systems (Corporate PCs, Phones, Cars, etc…) like PCs they are embedding that instability into our very society. I mean, throw away conventional wisdom and ask yourself this: Why do Corporate PCs work like Home PCs? Or Why did Microsoft build Windows CE on a PC model?
Why can every function of a computing device bring the whole device down in a way that keeps its owner from using it for days?
Google’s ChromeOS Security Model gets us away from this. It says “If we can just work on making the Chrome browser stable then you don’t have to worry about the rest”. Your computer will keep going no matter what hits it and, at worst, fixing it will require a reboot. That’s what the world needs.
That’s really my point. Chrome is a long term play to take the non-PC device by storm. So if you’re seeing this through the lenses of “Personal Computer” you’re really missing the point. This is really about the devices that people want to "just work" not the ones they want to personalize.
That said, in order to really get that point, I think some historical context is in order. I think it shines an important light on what’s going on here. But if you agree with the above you can feel free to skip the rest of this post (or at least skip to the last paragraph)
Years and years ago a nation of Finance guys decided computers from IBM were too expensive. IBM’s almost never crashed but they cost a bundle and new software took close to a decade to come out. Then one day these little things called Personal Computers came out. They were no where near as reliable as the IBM devices but they got the job done and they were cheap.
Understand, these guys couldn’t conceive of a world wide network connecting all computers or the various malware, trojans, et al. that would use that network as a carrier. These are the days when Bill Gates allegedly said no one would ever need more than 640k of memory (Gates swears he never said this but if he had very few would have thought twice about it)
All these guys wanted was to deploy their Lotus 1-2-3 to as many people as possible.
But these are the guys who handed Microsoft its current monopoly. They chose to put up with a few crashes a day in order to get computing power to the masses and set the world on a path where a little instability was acceptable to get the job done. The field of computing has spent decades cleaning up that mess and, to date, the mess is still there. My computer does lock up from time to time (as does my cell. phone, TV, etc…). It does get attacked by viruses as well. And so on.
Which brings me back to where I started. This has to come to an end. People can’t live like this. As technology moves into more and more places something simpler and more stable has to take over and the only way to do that is to trust the cloud (because there’s no way to wipe the thing clean unless your data is safe somewhere else).
Chrome isn’t about next year or even the year after that. No one in their right mind would bet on netbooks as the future of humanity. But it is about Google showing the world a new way of computing and earning the world’s trust. If Google can make Chrome work perfectly on a netbook you can look for other device makers to start incorporating it into their systems before you know it.