Chrome-Powered Netbooks are Coming. Should You Care?

Last Updated Dec 8, 2010 10:13 AM EST

Google announced yesterday that Chrome OS netbooks will debut from Acer and Samsung in mid-2011. Does that mean you should hold off buying a Windows-powered system in anticipation of this brave new world of mobile computing?

Hell, no! Much as I'm a fan of cloud-based applications and storage, I think a cloud-based PC offers little value. It's the solution to a problem that doesn't exist -- and a poor substitute for a traditional laptop or netbook.

My primary objection is with the limited and non-local nature of the apps. If I have work-specific software I need to run, I'm outta luck. If I'm out of range of my 3G Internet connection (or it's slow or unreliable), I'm outta luck. Heck, if I want to print something (via Google's Cloud Print service) to a non-"cloud-aware" printer, I'm outta luck.

I'm all in favor of Google trying to reinvent the wheel, OS-wise, but why does Chrome have to be strictly cloud-based? Can't it work locally as well so users don't have to put all their eggs in the Internet's basket? (Admittedly, Google says many apps will work offline, but that's not the same thing as running local software.) I think netbook OS Jolicloud has the right idea.

I'm also in favor of a netbook that starts up quickly, comes with contract-free 3G service, and offers robust OS-level security. But it's going to take a lot more than that to convince me to give up the compatibility and, let's face it, comfort of my Windows-powered portable.

What are your thoughts on Chrome OS? Let's hear 'em in the comments!

  • Rick Broida On Twitter»

    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.