Update: I write this, go for lunch, come back and pull this out of my RSS reader: http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2010/12/nothing-but-web.html
So there has been a little written in the last week or so about Google's ChromeOS - a lot of it complete drivel in my opinion, and as this is my blog, I think I am entitled to expose my opinions.
I am not going to point to lots of articles or podcasts discussing ChromeOS - you can Google it :-)
I would however characterise a lot of the discussions I have read as being heavily US centric, and very consumer oriented. Well I live in North America and Google is a U.S. company, and the CR48 notebooks are only available in the U.S. (as far as I know), so one would expect the coverage to be U.S. centric. This leads to a few problems though. A lot of the 'critique' of ChromeOS that I have read seems to be written by really rabid Microsoft fan boys. They concentrate on how the world is not ready for an always on, cloud enabled, light weight (in all senses of the term) computing paradigm. They wail about Google taking over their lives and dashing their privacy against the rocks of its always analysing servers....... Get real people !
I bet most of these idiots have Facebook accounts, and I would be way more worried about privacy where it comes to that company. They moan about the single employee who abused his system privileges - he was caught and fired ! I could go on, but lets just remind all those numbskulls which company is actually a convicted monopolist in the U.S.........
ChromeOS for consumers
Perhaps more to the point for a European living in North America is the dichotomy of the existence of the centre of gravity for the worlds IT industry (silicon valley) in a totally backwards market for connectivity. For historical (or maybe hysterical) reasons, the U.S. and Canadian telecoms industry just gouges consumers at every chance it gets - and gets away with it. Whether thats cable TV, home internet, or cell phones, you pay a lot more for a lot crappier service over here than you do in Europe, and although I accept all the arguments about bigger land areas and less dense populations - these excuses are getting tired now.
Bringing it back to ChromeOS, it's detractors complain about the lack of ubiquitous, cheap mobile data connectivity - well my point being that is not Google's fault, and I can see the CR48 or other devices doing just fine for consumers in Europe, if not over here. In fact I know that as long as there is going to be Skype client available, and some Linux based equivalent of iTunes to manage his music, my 76 year father would be way better off with a simple ChromeOS device than his Windows Vista machine.
The corporate angle
However I, and a few others apparently, think that the real market for ChromeOS machines is the corporate world. ChromeOS is, at its base just a simplified desktop variant of Linux. It has been developed to run a browser in a highly secure sandboxed environment. How is this starting to sound to any of you who manage thousands of enterprise Windows machines ?
Yes, yes, I know, the whole concept is as old a Babage himself (well maybe not that old) but mainframe terminals evolved into 'thin clients' and then Larry Elison's "Network Computer", and perhaps now, as cloud computing becomes mature, the time is right for a "thin client" in the shape of a ChromeOS machine. There will be packaged apps for ChromeOS, i.e. those that will run off line - but (finally !) lets examine the ECM and intranets aspect of things.
Just about everything I need to do for my work, I do through a web browser. OK, yes I use local MS Office tools, including InfoPath, and Visio - but I have a semi-technical role, otherwise I live in SharePoint sites and other online tools and services available via our global intranet. How many "knowledge workers" could live with Office 365 (the fully cloud version of Office) and do just fine ? Don't want to go to a fully "outside the firewall" cloud model, how about Office 2010 "online" version served up via your SharePoint 2010 installation.
Internal or external clouds?
All the ECM products worth a dime have web interfaces. So do the ERP suites and many (if not most) other classes of major applications. I am not impressed by the arguments that users who are used to PC's want to be able to set their wallpaper and listen to their music - ever heard of Last.fm ? Also are we not constantly informed that Millennial's will not come and work for us if they can't have Facebook and Twitter access? So have we not already passed the boundary from "my desktop" to "my web access" within the workplace ??
So you don't have to buy into the full Gmail, Google Docs, Google Apps world view to make the most of your ChromeOS machine, but if your an SMB / SME why not ?
Perhaps you could go the whole hog and ditch your Intranet 1.0 efforts and go offsite / cloud with a hosted intranet solution from the likes of Sosius or Vialects Noodle (good products IMHO).
So I can see the ChromeOS having a much bigger impact on the corporate world than the consumer one. This might require the CMS companies to put effort into HTML 5 and to speed up the release cycle for the next revamp of their interfaces.
However if Google want ChromeOS thin clients to break into them into the enterprise, they need to put in a lot more effort. Their (lack) of support to Enterprise Apps customers is almost legendary. As I have noted before I would really like to see them create "computing appliances" for companies to put into their data centres to build their private cloud infrastructures - GMail boxes, Google Apps boxes and Google Voice boxes to sit in the rack next to the Google Search Appliances. What this would need though is a full support organisation, with the correct corporate mindset - mind you even if they just pushed their full cloud based services through the corporate firewall they would still need this. So perhaps they should get out their wallets and buy an enterprise consulting firm ?
In summary - Google ChromeOS - it's all about the enterprise stupid !