All your internet are belong to us

Google just announced that their new Chrome OS based laptops (built by hardware companies like Acer and Samsung), will run only a web browser and all your apps will be on the web. It’s not a new idea. In the 90s, Sun Microsystems declared that the “network is the computer”.  They turned out to be right in some ways, such as enterprise, back-office applications, and the rise of web-based email. They were a little ahead of their time, and it took a while until Internet broadband and mobile devices made a “cloud” based data strategy viable.  We’re getting there.  I just don’t think we are quite there yet.

Googles’ is an interesting strategy, and their slick promotional video sells the idea by pointing out that the device is not really a computer – it’s basically a portal to the web, where all your stuff is stored.  If you toss it into a river, you don’t lose your data.  They also claim you don’t need to ever update it, since it updates itself automatically over the web (which most modern OSes do anyway).  These are all true, but unless *any* app that a user accesses works perfectly online, Chrome OS users are in a frustrating experience.  Ever filled in a big web form, only to hit the submit button and realize you went offline in the process, and then when you hit the back button in your browser, all your work is gone?

I do like the idea of cloud-based apps and use many myself, but I’m still not sold on the “everything can run in a browser” attitude, at least not today.  In fact, as the task specific iOS and Android apps have proven, web-based apps are often limited in various ways and a “native” experience is better.  Web browser’s need a lot more work, and while I haven’t seen Chrome OS in action, until I do, I won’t be convinced it’s ready to stand in for a competent full OS.

Finally, I’m also not sure most users are ready for the idea that all of their personal data is out there on the web, in a sort “trust me” type relationship.  A lot of tech companies (Google included) have some PR work to do to convince people that their personal data is safe.

So getting back to Sun Microsystems – whatever happened to them?  Don’t know?  That might be a cautionary note for Google.

2 thoughts on “All your internet are belong to us”

  1. Somehow, I don’t see Google being bought out and taken over by Oracle any time soon. 😉
    I am progressively running my personal personal on-line digital life more and more as a Google shop, but always looking to have a local cache of the data, and some local app to run it. It is working well, but I am a bit uneasy with being dependent on a private corporation an a bunch of suits who can and do change the rules at any time.
    I am working to the ‘Dropbox’ model – use the cloud for sync and backup where you can, but keep a local (or alternative site) copy of everything and a ‘plan B’ (and C) to get at it.
    Also, while there are perfectly adequate FOSS solutions out there, I won’t be subscribing to an operating environment, even if it does mean making a few concessions and compromises.

  2. @jrcroft:disqus Stranger stuff has happened. Apple almost went bankrupt in the mid-90s.

    I have a similar strategy – use cloud storage and apps, but try to keep offline backups just in case. It’s great having your data whenever you need it, but Internet connections cannot be relied up. Dropbox has the right idea in this regard.

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