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Google ChromeBooks Vs traditional mobile computing

So why am I not blown away by this?
Interesting but not entirely unexpected move by Google in announcing that a range of portables will be available, manufactured by Acer and Samsung, that will run on ChromeOS, similar to the limited edition CR48 they produced themselves.
But is this a flawed model?
it’s an interesting idea, move all the data and applications into a cloud environment and then use the most simple connection tool, the browser, to access and maintain that data.
All of what follows is a commentary based on what I have seen on the Google CR48, the pilot device of this Google product and read on the Google ChromeBooks site.
Google have been rapidly increasing the range of their online applications. Anyone who uses GAPE can tell you the array of programs vast. Google Docs, Search History and Email they are now famous for is but the beginning.
Just look at the ones available/advertised in the iPhone/iPad application:


An impressive list no doubt. I use a significant number of these myself, both at work and at home. That list also doesn’t include the Sites and other premium products that allow companies to have customised or bespoke web application (Intranets for example) all under the same roof.
So why am I sceptical?
As I said I heavily use an range of Google products and I find them, for the most part, excellent and worthy systems that aid me in my work and at home.
The principle that came out of Google IO though is that users don’t want the hassle that goes with traditional computing; OS and applications, Security, updates and Backup. But they forget that these are usually tasks are either neglected by users or setup once and configured once and forgotten. It is not the bind and drudge that they are implying. Admittedly nothing like enough people backup their data but, and I may be proved very wrong, after handling and playing with the CR48, I am struggling to comprehend the Market they are aiming at. Trying to squeeze at the MS virtual monopoly on desktop tech is a noble objective but a purely online experience?
The flaw here is that you will need 100% connectivity to use the device to use your data. If you can guarantee that then you are in a way better position than me. In the office fine, at home fine, everywhere else – at least in the UK – is pot luck. I’ll need a 3G contract with a company that can provide me excellent coverage – I have yet to find one in the UK. As always the site announcing the machines is heavily US centric, mentioning “free” 100MB per month data from Verizon. That’s maybe a days usage if you don’t watch videos or receive much mail. Not very generous and the offer runs out after two years. Even 1GB a month at $20 is poor.
So I personally will have huge swathes of my time when I will not be able to use the devices. On the trains for example, like now as I write this on my iPad – something that would be impossible on a ChromeBook as there is no 3G signal.
If you don’t mind the monthly cost leasing models from Acer and Samsung (aimed at Corps and Schools) at least keep the hardware up to date.
What do Google say?
ok, time to start the quotes.
From the Google ChromeBooks website we can pull a few quotes:

“Nothing but the web”

“ChromeBooks are built for and optimised for
the web, where you already spend most of
your computing time. So you get a faster,
simpler and more secure experience without
all the headaches of ordinary computers.”

Well I spend most of my time working in the best available products to do the job. Alas although some Web Apps do an excellent job – Google Mail for example – others like documents and Spreadsheets are much simpler and easier to produce in the MS environment. This becomes more and more obvious the more complex or large the spreadsheet / document becomes.
I don’t think the “office” style Google products are in a position to wrench away anyone but the casual or informal Docs producers.
The hidden Cost
One thing that must be emphasised to anyone moving to a full web environment is the increase in web traffic. Obviously, duh? Well, no, not really.
Really simple example is your email. Move to GMail accessed via Chrome web browser. Read an email, reply. All the same as any desktop. Re-read it however and you download it all over again. Now some data gets cached but nothing like enough to compensate. I’ll do some checks on this and post the results. If you open and close attachments several times the effect can escalate. 20MB attachment read maybe 4 times in a day? That’s your monthly allowance gone. It’s an issue I cope with at work and at home daily but on 3G it costs money.
Similarly for any document you open.
Google will respond with their HTML5 Offline mode at some point but then you have a storage device and moved away from the stated aim. Also, the attempt at this with Google Gears had caused more problems than it fixed.
Security
Don’t be fooled. This is a browser technology and is as flawed as any other. The background update is an ok idea but this is essentially Chrome Browser and there have been security alerts for this. ALS, on my desktop autoupdate in Chrome has left over 3GB of rubbish in the Windows Temp directory – ta for that BTW Google.
No OS is beyond being hacked. If you can update it – it can be hacked.
Conclusion
Simply not convinced. I would welcome comments from other Google users, especially those that have used the CR48.
ChromeBooks are available to order from June 15th 2011.
References:
Google ChromeBooks
Google Chrome Sandbox hacked

– Posted using BlogPress

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About harlekwinblog

"Thoughts of an idle mind." Information Security professional.

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