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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chrome OS – Nothing but the web.

Google has announced the new Chromebooks running the new Chrome OS recently at Google I/O 2011. What? A “Chromebook”?
What is Chrome OS?
You probably know Google’s Chrome web browser. It’s quite good as a web browser. Has a webstore that offers extensions & web apps. So, what is Chrome OS? Google has made this Chrome web browser the complete operating system.
How does it work?
When you turn on a Chromebook, it boots up in 8 seconds and you’re on the web using Chrome. The UI is exactly like the Chrome browser, there is no desktop background, nothing. This is an extremely light weight OS designed for people who live on the web. It’s very easy to use. You just need to log in to your account and you can access your virtual desktop from any computer in the world. So, your computer follows you wherever you go. There is no need of antivirus software, all web apps update automatically and all future upgrades are completely free. This might be really good for elder folks who don’t like nagging updates & dealing with basic computer issues since this is extremely simple & easy to use. Chromebooks by Samsung and Acer are available now if you are interested.
Everything CLOUD
But, the thing is – everything is ON THE CLOUD. There is nothing on the PC. Everything is on the web. For instance, for writing documents; you’ll need Google Docs; for photos you’ll need something like Picasa; your videos have to be uploaded to YouTube. So, all your stuff will be owned by Google. This leads to privacy issues. When you upload a photo on Facebook, you accept the terms and conditions that Facebook has the copyright on all your content. Similarly, all your apps, docs & media content will be on the cloud and Google will own all of it. So, knowingly or unknowingly you are giving up your privacy. That’s a major issue. I don’t want Google to own my data and I’m not willing to give up my privacy.
Another major issue – as these Chromebooks are completely dependent on the internet, what happens when you move out of 3G or Wi-Fi coverage? Apparently, you can download some files and apps to your computer’s small internal storage drive but actually you have to “specify” that you want to download that file in the first place! Imagine you spent all night preparing your assignment on the web & you forget to save a copy of it on your local drive. You wake up the next morning getting ready to hand in your assignment that afternoon, you boot up your chrome book in the 8 advertised seconds and ready to print it out only to find out that your internet connection has died due to a fault in your local area or you simply moved out of Wi-Fi or 3G coverage. What happens then?
You might be thinking tablets are equally dependent on the internet as these new Chromebooks. That’s true to a certain extent. The primary purpose of a tablet is to be a web surfing device to be honest. But, the apps still live on the iPad for example. You can still watch movies, listen to music, view and edit photos & videos and play games in offline mode. All in, the major point of concern is privacy. Who is seriously willing to give up their privacy just so that they can boot up their computers a bit faster? Boot up times on conventional computers are going to increase anyway. Machines like the Samsung Series 9 and the MacBook Air boot up in around 12 seconds. What’s wrong with a 10 to 15 second boot up or even a 20 second boot up?
One more question. Why are these Chromebooks around the same price as every other notebook of the same specs? Considering the OS is free, shouldn’t these machines be a little bit cheaper?
Cloud computing services are necessary. True. But, cloud based operating systems? No, thank you.
So, what do you think? Are Chromebooks the future?

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