Navigating the Web is easy enough thanks to the latest technological advances from the major browser-makers. It gets a little confusing, however, when it comes to choosing the right browser for you and your small business. And it’s about to get even more confusing as the desktop computer and Internet become more codependent thanks to the upcoming Google Chrome operating system.
Last year, Google introduced Chrome, a browser that’s built on open source technology. Now the company known for its robust search engine technology is looking to do the same with the computer’s OS.
While Microsoft, creator of the Windows platform, has long seen the benefit of making the Internet and the desktop more seamless, the designers at Google have stressed that much of what people do with their computers today is online, and the company built its OS to take advantage of that fact. As with the Google Chrome Web browser, Chrome OS is built around Chromium technology.
The idea behind the Chrome OS is that it allows computers to boot up faster and access the Internet more quickly. However, the trade-off is that everything is accessed in the cloud — as in cloud computing, where nothing is really stored on a computer. Whether this is right for your business comes down to a few key pros and cons.
- Google Chrome OS means a faster boot-up.
- It requires less powerful computers.
- Documents can be created and saved online.
- Documents can then be accessed from any other computer with Internet access.
- Internet access is required.
- Documents and other work aren’t always available for editing when offline.
- Cloud computing puts backup responsibility in the hands of a third party.
- There are still some security issues.
The idea of a sleek computer that runs faster is certainly appealing, but it’s worth noting that this isn’t entirely a new concept. Long before there was the World Wide Web the Internet did exist. The idea of the Internet was to provide a decentralized computer network, what Google is now calling “stateless.” And before there were desktop PCs, it was common for businesses to have “dummy” workstations that were little more than black and white CRT monitors with a keyboard that needed to dial in to a mainframe computer, which hosted the programs and provided the remote storage.
But Google’s modern take on this technology certainly has its advantages. For example, those who are on the road a lot and need to work remotely can access the same documents as coworkers. The downside, of course, is that if the Internet isn’t working, or you can’t otherwise get connected, you’re left with a machine that can potentially do nothing. Many experts believe that eventually there will be a middle ground, in which documents can be accessed offline, edits made, files archived on the machine, and still shared in the cloud as well.
The bottom line is that Google Chrome OS is for those who spend most of their time looking at a browser — whether on a computer or even a handset — and not accessing the other applications a computer can run. While open source online applications, including Google Docs, can replace Word and Excel, so far the Web isn’t there for graphic designers and editors, or anyone who needs to use more powerful programs such as Illustrator, Photoshop, or Quark.
That’s not to say we won’t get there, and it’s possible that Chrome OS could take all of this to the clouds. But maybe we should step back and consider that chromium — as in the chemical element — is used mostly for plating today to add a nice finish and luster to otherwise bland-looking steel.