In about a month, on 15 June, Google will push its Internet-based kingdom into a new realm. The big question is: Will users follow?
The product is called Chromebook, and it will be the first device to run Chrome OS, the operating system based largely on Google’s Chrome browser.
Notice that we’ve not used the word “computer” in describing the Chromebook. And that’s because it’s something… different. It will run no software. Everything you see and do on a Chromebook will be pulled down from the cloud. Everything.
Google says there’s a next-generation elegance to this. Chromebooks reportedly boot up in eight seconds. They update the OS and the cloud apps quietly, in the background (no annoying windows reminding you that version 3.2.11 is available). It uses a multilayered defense against malware that Google says is far superior to a notebook’s protections.
And it will retail for about $350 to $500.
The price is the starting point for critics, who say that amount of cash can buy you can get a usable netbook that could do everything a Chromebook can do and more. Google counters that netbooks and notebooks are more susceptible to software conflicts and malware attacks. Critics say that people will balk at storing all their data in a cloud and that, when you can’t get a network connection, the Chromebook is a glorified doorstop.
We’ve learned never to underestimate Google in terms of innovation, and many of us have become comfortable with online tools such as Google Docs. But only time will tell whether the time has come for a device that lives only in the cloud and restricts users to one browser.