Chrome OS Faces Its Ultimate Test: Users Evaluate Google's "Cloud Is King" Decree

by Sam Dean - May. 16, 2011Comments (0)

With the official launch of Google's Chrome OS, and as everyone digests the news of $20 and $28 monthly subscription plans that Google wants businesses and consumers to pay for laptops running it, one issue is rising straight to the top: Will users accept the cloud-centric model for storing data and applications that Chrome OS imposes on them? We've been asking this question for quite some time, and it has everything to do with whether this new operating system will succeed or not.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin was quoted as saying that Microsoft's Windows OS is "torturing users" during the rollout of Chrome OS. But big questions loom about Google's long delayed OS. Will users and businesses want to pay $20 to $28 a month for subscriptions to cloud-based applications? Does $20 a month make sense for cash-strapped students who just need reasonable laptops and reasonable application choices?

More importantly, Chrome OS completely switches out the local options that Windows, Linux and Mac OS users have become used to over the years, requiring that data and applications reside in the cloud. The team at Canonical helped create Chrome OS, and Google's two-fisted approach to forcing users to store everything in the cloud begs the question: Why don't I just run Linux and enjoy being able to mix and match local and cloud applications?

Tim Smith at PCMag compares Chrome OS to Skynet, the computer network from the Terminator movies that controlled all military computers:

"Google wants us to entrust it with all of our data? I don't think so. I don't want my lawyer's office to store my legal documents in Google's cloud. Security flaws are found all the time and hackers manage to break into sites with alarming regularity; look at the mess Sony is dealing with since the PlayStation Network was hacked...Not only is data vulnerable but what about access to our data. Sony shut down its network to address its security breach."

We were asking these same kinds of questions about Chrome OS all the way back in 2010:

"A huge part of Google's bet with Chrome OS is that users will transition heavily toward cloud-based applications. These apps are already on the rise, but many observers question whether people are confident enough to rely entirely on cloud-based applications, and cloud storage. Make no mistake, Chrome OS is structured to force you to use data and apps that reside in the cloud. But part of the reason desktop apps are still dominant is because people are familiar with them and how to keep their data secure with them. Application usage doesn't shift entirely overnight. People have favorite utilities that they don't want to give up, and that reside locally."

Of course, it's in Google's best interests to steer as many users as possible toward the cloud, and eventually into its lucrative search/ad ecosystem. But that doesn't mean that users familiar with an entirely different computing model will just accept that decree, and we're already seeing the fallout from these issues.

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