Google OS Presentation Raises More Questions than Answers

Last Updated Nov 20, 2009 6:26 AM EST

Google provided some details about its upcoming Chrome OS. Although the information was interesting, the session raised some questions about the operating system:
  • Will regulators give Google a pass? Other browsers don't run on Chrome, though people are free to take the source code and modify it to run around another browser. However, given the way governments in general, and the European Union in particular, work, I wonder whether not given consumers a choice in browsers is going to come back to sharply nip. Look at the hassles Microsoft has gone through over ensuring browser choice in the EU. Are the regulators really going to give Google a pass if Chrome OS is shipping on machines, especially given the amount of attention that they have been paying to the company in its other activities?
  • Why does Google avoid the business model question? To say there are no plans for advertising and that it will simply be free, hoping for some eventual intangible "gain," seems disingenuous. Sure, releasing an OS is a big undertaking. But why pretend that no thought has gone into the issue of money? Unless, perhaps, there is either no answer (as has often been the case with the company's activities, which raises questions about management) or the answer is something that many will not like.
  • Is the approach to security enough? The concept of assuming that all apps are a threat is novel, but many attacks these days come through web sites and applications. And if the source code is open and available, surely a sufficiently talented malware miscreant could find an attack vector that can leave a little "something" and fool the operating system as well.
  • Is Google assuming that everyone will be storing massive data on a cloud and, if so, is that practical? Google says that web apps will need to work off-line. However, the operating system only supports solid-state drives, not electro-mechanical traditional hard drives. Solid state storage is far more expensive at this point. A case in point: I just checked my favorite online discount parts source and saw that 256GB SSDs were $600 to $750, whereas 250GB hard drives ran about $45 to $55. That's more than an order of magnitude difference. Granted, you may not get the big installations of resident applications, so don't need as much storage space. And yet, unless prices come down really, really fast over the next year (as that's when Google expects to release the software), there's going to be a significant limitation on the amount of local storage in the devices running Chrome OS. All that data has to go somewhere. Will most people have the bandwidth in their Internet connections to make this work smoothly?
  • Will people be willing to go native cloud? The issue is a practical one. Many people have invested heavily in desktop applications. Not just Microsoft Office, but plenty of other apps, some of which may not won't work that well over the web. How - and why - would people move to a new OS if they couldn't get the software that they're looking for? Perhaps Google expects this to lead people away from Office and into Google Apps, but that would be a big leap, because it would mean that they'd have to switch not just on an uber-netbook, but likely on their desktops as well. Consider it the real payback to Google, weaning people from Microsoft. But that's only if it works.
Image courtesy of Google.
  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.