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12/16/2010
08:08 PM
Kurt Marko
Kurt Marko
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FUD Strikes Chrome OS

Chrome OS is one of those rare Google products that's accompanied by almost universal skepticism. In fact, their Cr-48 laptop proof-of-concept was on the received a fair amount of opprobrium. Admittedly the hardware isn't close to the elegance of a MacBook Air, but the objections primarily focus on Chrome's operating model, not the device. The complaints fall into four categories:

Chrome OS is one of those rare Google products that's accompanied by almost universal skepticism. In fact, their Cr-48 laptop proof-of-concept was on the received a fair amount of opprobrium. Admittedly the hardware isn't close to the elegance of a MacBook Air, but the objections primarily focus on Chrome's operating model, not the device.

The complaints fall into four categories:

  1. FUD about the cloud in general: This is exemplified by free software guru and emacs inventor Richard Stallman where he calls cloud computing "worse than stupidity", "careless computing" that targets suckers. His arguments represent the 'Live Free or Die', paranoid style of user who doesn't trust any software unless they can read the source code, nor anyone to manage their data. This crowd stores everything on several doubly-encrypted TrueCrypt volumes (one of which is regularly rotated into a fireproof safe), and the cloud will never win them over.
  2. FUD about network dependency: This group is less concerned with the FBI copying their online grocery list, but deathly afraid that their PC turns into an expensive nightlight without a network connection. Curmudgeonly columnist John Dvorak offers a good example of their objections. He makes some great points, if this were 2001, but last I checked Wi-Fi is almost everywhere and 3G fills in the gaps (BTW John, the Cr-48 already has a 3G radio...no need to wait for Samsung). Strangely, I didn't see nearly this level of angst over the Wi-Fi-only iPad when it was released, but I guess you could always use it as super-sized MP3 player when out of network range. Just what kind of work can these people do with their PC that's remotely effective without a network connection? How much of what people actually do with a computer for these days requires a network connection. Ever try and read news, RSS feeds, Twitter or Facebook without one? Of course, I don't build elaborate spreadsheet models or create complex computer graphics, but frankly, if I need to write something offline, I'll pick up a pen and legal pad.
  3. Whining about cloud apps: Again, Dvorak sums this up nicely, noting that there's no cloud equivalent of high-end applications like Excel or Illustrator. This is hardly a show-stopper for 99% of the computing population. Besides, aren't these the same people who complain about feature bloat in Microsoft Office? I thought the cloud apps were doing us all a favor by eliminating all the confusing stuff nobody uses.
  4. Chrome OS is Inferior to Android: This is the one critique, initially made by one of Gmail's creators, that I find the most compelling. There does appear to be quite a bit of overlap between Google's two platforms, but one could make the same argument about OS X and iOS. In both cases, one is designed for larger screens and keyboards, the other for small touch screens. I agree with Farhad Manjoo and hope that Google comes to their senses and creates a hybrid of the two, what he calls Chromedroid. Maybe then Google could deliver what Apple seems unwilling to, the best of the Air and iPad in one device.
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Google in the Enterprise Survey
Google in the Enterprise Survey
There's no doubt Google has made headway into businesses: Just 28 percent discourage or ban use of its productivity ­products, and 69 percent cite Google Apps' good or excellent ­mobility. But progress could still stall: 59 percent of nonusers ­distrust the security of Google's cloud. Its data privacy is an open question, and 37 percent worry about integration.
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