Chrome is an OS, not a “Premature Googasm”!

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I usually steer clear of a point by point repudiation of another writer's work, but reader Handsomematt asked me to, and there is little I won't do to satisfy the desires of our readers ( are you reading this, Scarlet? ... Chrome on top of a File management system like MS-DOS (or more exactly, a highly scaled down, ultra secure Linux) IS an OS for cloud computing that could run on $200 hardware, and satisfy the needs of most consumers.


I usually steer clear of a point by point repudiation of another writer’s work, but reader Handsomematt asked me to, and there is little I won’t do to satisfy the desires of our readers (are you reading this, Scarlet?)

It all started with my piece about how Chrome is an operating system for cloud computing, and why Apple isn’t scared at all. Handsomematt (hereafter: ‘Mat’), forwarded me an article indicating that apparently I was completely full of it. What’s more, what I thought was a piece of insightful analysis disappointedly turns out to be conventional wisdom.

Nevertheless Matt, here you go, Writing on the Wall, or Premature “Googasm“, follow us after the break, and you decide.

Ted Dzluba of The Register, writes:

Every time the media fires off its gravy so violently, it highlights how little some of the supposed “experts” actually know about computers. Case in point: People saying that Google Chrome is an operating system designed to compete head-to-head with Microsoft Windows.”


Now that’s just funny right there. I’m a big fan of funny. Ted Dzluba is going on my RSS feed. ‘fires off its gravy‘… priceless –but I digress.

The assertion that because two things don’t perform exactly the same functions they can’t compete is totally wrong, and illustrates how little Ted knows about technology. It would be like saying in October 2001: “The iPod and the Walkman don’t compete head to head because iPod can’t play compact discs.”

Ted continues with: “Users aren’t going to decide which computer to buy based on which browser comes pre-installed“. Which to give Ted credit, is absolutely true, and well reasoned.

–Except–

Consumers aren’t going to be buying “computers” anymore. I mean some people will of course: developers, enthusiasts, me. Your average consumer, however, is going to be buying a whole host of products that have “computers” integrated into them, but aren’t general purpose computing platforms. These are, I assert, the last days of the “Personal Computer”.

This is not that far off or difficult to imagine. We’re already a lot of the way there. From my Ford F150, to my XBox, to my Blackberry, all of these are connected to the Internet, all of them participate in a computing ecosystem that tries like the dickens to make my life better. In the very near future, there will be a refrigerator, where you scan products before you put them into specially placed positions inside. This fridge will then email you (only when you’re already at the store) when you’re low on Milk or Eggs. I have seen this, it’s for real.

But what of the computer, and more apropos, the Operating System?

Well we need to dissect the question into 2 parts:

1) What is an Operating System, Actually.

OS’s historically have provided 3 basic Services: Process / Thread Management, Memory Management, Disc / IO Management.

Chrome does 2 of the 3 of those. This is NOT to suggest that Chrome won’t need some underlying OS to run on. OF COURSE it will. That said, I argue that Operating System will be more like an advanced BIOS or EFI than it will be MS Windows or OS X.

2) What is an OS from a Consumer’s Perspective:

Users see the OS as being the windowing system, and the applications running on it, and Chrome does all of that. Chrome on top of a File management system like MS-DOS (or more exactly, a highly scaled down, ultra secure Linux) IS an OS for cloud computing that could run on $200 hardware, and satisfy the needs of most consumers.

The “Enterprise Perspective”

You could argue that CoM is an Apple site, and ours is a very “Consumer” centric point of view. It is, and Ted does, alluding to the necessity of a “proper operating system” to run Chrome and other business applications. The allusion he makes is to all the zillions of applications out there that IT Administrators must continue to support to run their businesses.

These will not forestal the death of the PC. Just because IT’s been writing garbage for the past quarter century doesn’t mean CIO’s are going to let them continue.

Case in point: Most of the the core business processes of the Global 1000 are automated by SAP or ORACLE / PeopleSoft. These are the applications that actually Drive the business, they cost millions of dollars to own, configure and operate, and none of them require more than a Web Browser to access.

Sure, Cheryl from Marketing’s Access Database she uses for campaign management will still need a traditional PC to access, but seriously, how long before her CIO introduces her to Salesforce.com?

I could be wrong, but I don’ think so

Now I’ve been wrong before, spectacularly wrong. I once opined in print that the Internet was little more than CB-Radio for geeks. In all fairness though, the Net at that time was little more than Usenet and IRC, and I had been watching a rerun of “Convoy”. That said, we’re on the side of the Angels here with this Chrome thing. No less a writer than Nick Carr, former Harvard Business Review Editor, and author of “The Big Switch“, opined something similar in a recent article.

I guess what I’m saying is that dudes with you know… uh… actual credentials… agree.

But how about you? Chrome: Overhyped “Googasm” (I’m keeping that word, thanks Ted), or portent for the future?


18 responses to “Chrome is an OS, not a “Premature Googasm”!”

  1. leigh says:

    I do want to add that I really enjoyed Ted’s article. It was really funny and had that sharp wit I really appreciate. So just because I disagree one shouldn’t infer that I’m “Anti-Ted”, just “Anti-Ted’s Opinion” in this instance.

    Ted, you really are going on my RSS feed.

  2. maceroneous says:

    yeah. I totally agree, which means Google is a huge threat to Microsoft, as well as Apple! The new Borg!

  3. minimalist says:

    Overhyped indeed. In fact the chorus of geeks who endlessly gush about the magical new world of cloud computing that will make the PC obsolete are like evangelicals getting all amped up in some revival… charming in their passion but a little bit unhinged. And the echo chamber that is the tech blogoshpere make its seem like the all seeing all knowing cloud it some inevitability that has already begun.

    Chrome has some nice things going for it but its still just a browser (and a buggy one at that – I run into 5 or 6 pages a day that simply won;t render on it at all so don;t throw out your Firefox or Safari just yet)). And while I enjoy many web apps (like Zenbe lists, Google Calendar, G-mail, and Google Reader), they are generally things that require little or no computing power. But even then these simple web apps are still frustratingly laggy compared to real desktop apps, and in all honestly they kind of ugly (Google PLEASE hire a decent designer). But I still use them because the advantage of having that kind of data online far outweighs the disadvantages of the apps themselves. Not once have I seen a web app and thought, “wow, this make every competing native app I’ve seen look obsolete in comparison.”

    But there are tons of files I would never want to try to manage in the cloud (music, video, photos) and there are tons of apps that I run for recreation and work that would simply never work in the cloud. Many of these apps are always pushing the limits of the latest computing power. Having COPIES in the cloud is useful but I’m not going to be using it to move 120GB of music around anytime soon (nor do I trust it to protect my data).

    Besides, has anyone ever asked the fundamental question if consumers are going to actually WANT their whole lives in the cloud, on someone company’s private servers, making them slaves to the terms and conditions and whims of whomever they have contracted to store their data? Cloud computing means relinquishing control. I think the most likely scenario is a little bit of both. Desktop computing for processor intensive tasks and things people want to maintain own and control and cloud computing for less critical tasks that require greater flexibility and access from multiple locations.

  4. Shane Harris says:

    A Ford F150? Ew.

  5. open0source says:

    Minimalist wins. I think “cloud computing” is only going to get as far as the cheap, low-spec netbook. Some things just NEED an OS to happen. Any kind of physical-to-digital conversion requires an OS and a program, you can’t use a web-app to rip a copyrighted DVD or to configure your all-in-one printer. Not only that, but you won’t have an internet connection everywhere. I live less than 20 minutes from the city and I have the option of Satellite internet (omfg, sucks) or dial-up, so without a connection, you have a large paperweight. A netbook will always be a better choice than a browser-only laptop, even if you’re REALLY strapped for cash (install Linux and then put the browser on top of that)

  6. leigh says:

    @Minimalist:
    Sorry to parse your argument, because it is pretty well thought out, but I wanted to build on a couple of points. First, you assertion that the Cloud is over Hyped. Couldn’t agree more. I made similar arguments about the internet. Turns out I was wrong.

    On Webapps. You’re spot on. They all are garbage. The best ones use Flex or Silverlight, and are still garbage. not a one of them holds up to a true desktop application. That said, we USED to have this standard for running applications in a distributed network environment, complete with Rich UI and everything. It was called X11, and it’s already on your Mac. I would expect future instances of Chrome to have an X11-like UI rendering engine, so we can get back to true desktop like applications operated over the net.

    On the “tons of file [you’d] never want to manage in the cloud”. I think you’re dead wrong. Sorry. but the notion of having my music available, anywhere I am, on any device I might be near (say my hotel clock radio) WITHOUT having to carry anything with me is HUGE.

    All of that said, THANK YOU! for your insightful perspective. So many commentors these days are of the “A Ford F150? Ew” variety.

    @Shane Harris: I’m a Texan, you insult my Dog, my Truck, or my Kids (in that order) at your peril. ;)

    @Open0Source: we’ll always have an OS of sorts. This prognostication is several years off. That said. Aside from gaming, or true multimedia work (which is one reason why Apple aint concerned), you really don’t use your PC’s Horsepower for much.

    Look around you. now take away the hard-core gamers, take away the developers, take away the media creators.

    All those folks who are left, Mom, Dad, Paris Hilton. Ask yourself, could these folks get by still using a G3 Mac? Assuming Office and Firefox still ran?

    If they could (which they can), they could also get by with a “Cloud Computer”. And the “they” in question is pretty much EVERYBODY, other than… uh… “Us”.

    Cheers everybody, have a great morning! I’m off to Chicago!

  7. minimalist says:

    @Leigh

    “On Webapps. You’re spot on. They all are garbage.”

    I’m not sure I’d go as far as “garbage” but you are correct in that they not all that satisfying either. Yahoo mail looks OK but the latency is just horrible (this is my most common gripe with with web apps). It’s so pokey and clumsy its now been relegated to my junk email account. The Google Apps seem to be the speediest but they are less than elegant (Calendar is not OK, but Reader and Mail are horrendous). And I don’t want to be waiting for days to access those over EDGE with my iPhone. So I use Mobile Me and while it synchs between my two macs, my iPhone and a web interface at work pretty well it’s got all sorts of frustratingly weird issues (why can I not set an alarm when entering a new appointment via the web interface? Is this not a basic things people would want to do with a Calendar app? Holiday calendars don’t synch?) Despite its faults, it’s still the least painful way I can keep my calendar, contacts and mail in perfect synch across multiple platforms. I always prefer to use my local version of my calendar, contacts. And of course Time Machine is always running just in case we have any more Mobile Me meltdowns. Which brings me to the reliability issue.

    “On the “tons of file [you’d] never want to manage in the cloud”. I think you’re dead wrong. Sorry. but the notion of having my music available, anywhere I am, on any device I might be near (say my hotel clock radio) WITHOUT having to carry anything with me is HUGE.”

    I’d definitely like the flexibility and I understand your point. But streaming is just not as reliable as having the files themselves because there are too many things that can go wrong between the files and your device. And I honestly don’t trust any of these storage services to keep my files safe. Mobile Me goes down again and poof, all your music is gone. No service is foolproof and I want to be in control of files I have purchased. So the copies on the web would be duplicates of my master files. I think other people will want the security of being in control of their master files as well. This is why I think a future in which the cloud and the physical world co-exist seems the most likely scenario.

  8. leigh says:

    @minimalist:

    Totally understand your point of view, mate. And I agree. Are we there yet? Hardly. Nick Carr uses the Power Plant analogy to the Cloud, in that metaphor, we’re still a ways off from reliable, fool proof, fault tolerant generation and distribution of computing power. That said, we’re within a decade of it.

    And I really think the “tone” out of google, is that Chrome is their next new platform. Expect them to put all order of extensions in there without waiting for W3C approval. Like Microsoft, they’ll just stick them in there, and unlike microsoft, they’ll release the code to the open source world and everyone will be okay with it.

    I mean, does everyone here realize that the most compelling new Web Technology right now (AJAX) was invented by ACCIDENT?

    Imagine what will happen when a company of Google’s vision takes the browser to the next level on purpose.

    Cheers!

  9. handsomematt says:

    Thanks, Leigh! It’s good to read a balanced article on this, one that actually looks at points from all perspectives. Yes the Register article was amusing, but the bile Ted spewed across the page doesn’t really help him in his argument, it just gets peoples backs up.

    I think I agree with what you’ve said but I don’t really see it happening for a while yet. Hell, the UK is having problems making broadband available to all homes, and we’re only a very small country. The infrastructure for anything beyond that just isn’t there, so folks will have to wait a while and keep their files stored locally for the time being, even if the technology is available.