The release of Google’s Chrome OS is fast approaching, with builds becoming more regular, offering countless bug fixes and feature updates. Whether the uptake of Google’s latest and greatest cloud-based project will meet expectations, however, is yet to be seen.
The computing world is certainly divided over the future of cloud computing (one of our Technologies of the Noughties) – even the many companies in Silicon Valley have divided opinions of the matter. Google, of course, are a predominantly cloud-based company. The vast majority of services on offer are designed for browser use, not local clients.
Google Mail has to be specifically set up in mail settings for POP and IMAP access; the official Google Talk client is only available for Windows, hasn’t been updated recently and new features such as Google Talk Video Chat is only in the Gmail web interface. Also, other cloud-based services such as Google Docs is obviously all web based too.
How about using Google Maps free sat nav application; Navigation on Android mobile phones? Without an active internet connection, the moment you have to leave the pre-planned route, you have no mapping and are effectively lost.
This strategy highlights a major problem with cloud computing: to use Google’s Apps, you need an active internet connection. Of course, most of the time, internet access isn’t a problem for most of us, but what happens when we find ourselves without a connection? If you need to work on the go, how will you access your files, or your online applications?
I personally believe that a full cloud based system is still some way away. However, that doesn’t mean that we should not take advantage of all the cloud based services on offer.
The way to do this without using a full cloud OS such as Chromium? Third party software support. Sure, you can use Google Docs in offline mode, but what if you could access all your online documents from a local client? Google wouldn’t even need to do the leg work for such a project; a collaboration with an existing project such as OpenOffice would be extremely beneficial, and add a great feature to new versions. Furthermore, such a suite offers compatibility with not only Windows, but Mac and Linux too.
As well as having all documents stored in the cloud, I could easily pull them down locally with my Google account. As long as I have an internet connection for the initial download, I can work on it thereafter with no connection until I want to re-upload it to Google’s servers, something similar to Dropbox online file syncing, but for all your cloud-usage? Having some form of cloud backup/file synchronisation is definitely a good thing when you end up a dead computer and no access to your files.
This semi-cloud approach is most definitely the more favourable option when compared to the current approach of Chromium OS, as it makes the whole ecosystem of products more accessible. This is the approach that Microsoft and Apple seem to be taking, merging cloud services with their current software suites. Apple have iWork.com, with Microsoft offering Live Workspace.
There’s no doubt that each company has their different ideas, and the success of these ideas will undoubtedly depend on more than one factor. A transitional period is certainly required in the move to cloud based computing, at least until we develop the infrastructure necessary for us to be constantly connected, whether that’s in the form of WiMAX or 3G built into more laptops and netbooks like the Nokia Booklet 3G.
Whether Chrome OS will manage to hook the world on to cloud computing is yet to be seen, but with sufficient manufacturer support, Google’s own ideas could certainly begin to take shape in the near future. Can Google beat Microsoft or Apple in the market? Quite frankly, I wouldn’t say it was beyond them to take over the world, so anything’s possible.
Image Source – Oxygen IT