Dirk Knemeyer

Google’s Chromebook

Google’s Chromebook, December 9, 2010

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Yesterday Google announced that netbooks with the Chrome operating system will be shipping soon. We anticipated this trend and are only modestly surprised that Google is moving on this so quickly. More than providing computers that use a web browser as an operating system, Google also announced the Chrome web store, which looks suspiciously like the iTunes store in a seemingly direct ripoff design, as well as a corporate strategy targeting businesses for their new machines. They’re claiming superior security, which is probable, and superior performance, which is more dubious, rolling out a vision where everything can and should live in the cloud. They even showed hardcore desktop apps like Solidworks and Excel—albeit running on a datacenter inside the company as opposed to natively functioning as web apps—running on the platform. Among the features announced include cloud printing: print things from your computer to any printer you are networked with around the world, as well as auto syncing between machines, similar to Dropbox but without the cloud backup.

Here’s my take: Google is making the right bet at the right time, but is the wrong company. It is too early for them to make this play and it likely that their competition will catch up before they are able to make meaningful inroads into business, which will prove to be the holy grail of this succeeding or not. There are still too many loose ends. For example, Google Docs still cannot run offline, a critical feature for a productivity app. They should have figured that out years ago. Google is like an awkward adolescent: too big in some ways, too big in others, and not enough just right. This is a bold move that shows a real understanding of parts of the future, but I don’t think that Google has matured enough in a holistic way to really pay it off properly. I kind of hope they do, but I suspect they are instead firing the first shot in a much more complicated next step in the evolution of personal computing, one where the cloud increasingly becomes the driver of personal computing but within which people’ context of use far favor alternate computing platforms and environments. Google firing this salvo in the context of netbooks, a rapidly declining class of hardware, as opposed to a tablet or a more futuristic large viewing environment reflects the unevenness of their understanding of the future landscape. In any event, Google luck Larry Sergey.