Yesterday Google unveiled their browser-as-operating-system concept, ChromeOS, in greater detail. I’m still processing the information and I may, or may not, write up my thoughts on the announcements later. For the moment though I’m finding myself, as is often the case, more interested in the reaction of the greater techno-sphere to the announcement.
I’m somewhat bemused, although I really shouldn’t be, at the credulity of some of my fellow travelers. I don’t doubt that Google is capable of marketing ChromeOS. Google certainly has the money on hand to force themselves into whatever market they so choose, and the adoption of Android shows that they certainly have the capability to produce a serviceable operating system (even if it does largely leverage Linux).
I also don’t hold with the segment that dismisses ChromeOS solely on grounds that it only runs web applications. I personally think that, at the moment, web apps are inherently inferior to a well-built desktop application, and I don’t see that situation changing in the near future. But if decades of Windows dominance has shown, your average consumer is perfectly willing to use an inferior product as long as it is cheap and convenient enough.
What I do find objectionable about ChromeOS is something that very few people care commenting on. It’s related to the whole concept built into ChromeOS that all data lives in the cloud. I think that it is best put into words by an exchange that I had with my Angry Mac Bastards co-host John Welch during the announcement yesterday. John observed that “…google is trying to become the single point of failure for the internet.” To which I replied that, in the form of ChromeOS, Google is trying to become the single point of failure for the entire computing experience.
I’m sure that the above observation will elicit howls of rage about how wonderfully open Google is, and how they can “do no evil,” as if a cute motto can overcome the necessities of corporate governance. Instead of repeating arguments that I’ve made before I’ll simply link to an article that I wrote over a year ago. And at that, I’ll conclude with one new observation. It’s relatively uncontroversial to contend that Apple’s choke-point on iPhone app development (via the App Store approvals process) is a problem. Why then, would it be a good thing to introduce an operating system where the entire computing experience depends on a choke-point at Google. Single points of failure are never a good idea.