Google’s latest high profile endeavour marks a step in computing that’s been a long time coming. I think many of us (internet savvy computer users) have been expecting a move towards online storage and web-centric or web-based applications for about the last decade. It’s been happening for about that long in some corners of the internet and Google has been a major proponent of this change with Google Docs and similar services. However there’s an unfortunate reality that google haven’t catered for. An internet connection is not always conveniently available, and Chromebooks barely operate without one. There is no problem with their theory, it’s a great one that we’re all beginning to embrace whether we realise it or not. The issue lies with the practicality of this for the common garden variety computer user.
Smartphones currently have the balance just about right. Your data can in most cases be dropped onto a web server and propagated across your devices (services such as DropBox are popular for exactly this) but a local copy of the data and the app is maintained for use anytime. Simply having that local native app means that you have access to features and functionality that may make use of the internet while you’re not connected. Chrome’s lack of such support limits its use to those situations where net access is guaranteed.
This isn’t a game breaker, but it’s restrictive. It rules out a lot of users and a lot of real-world application. Still, if Chromebooks can be shown to work for some, then cloud computing will hopefully become a reality for more people and more tasks in more practical applications.
This is a good move by Google, and one that should lead to greater things.