Cloud Communications

Cloud Communications Feature

November 29, 2010

Google to Test Demand for Cloud Computing By End of Year

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Google (News - Alert) says it will introduce a Google-branded netbook running the Chrome operating system by the end of the year. "So what?" some will say, pointing to the emergence of tablet form factors, at the expense of netbooks. But it isn't the "netbook" angle, of the use of a new operating system, that is key. Chrome netbooks are about a complete reliance on cloud computing.  

Basically, the browser will become the portal to all applications, essentially reducing the OS to its original function: managing peripherals. The computing experience then becomes a matter of browser sessions, with user data stored and applications executed "in the cloud." 

It might be confusing that the Chrome browser has the same name as the Chrome operating system. That's intentional. In Google's vision of cloud computing, the OS should not matter; the specific configuration of a machine should not matter; nor the local presence or absence of a particular application.

All that should matter is broadband access and the ability to use a browser. So the point is not that Google will be selling a netbook. The point is not "netbooks" or even "operating systems," as such. The Google netbook will be an attempt to move the needle on cloud communications. 

That's a move with lots of implications for software developers, content providers, device manufacturers and mobile and fixed networks as well. 

Some point out that Google will be sponsoring two different operating systems, both Android (News - Alert) and Chrome, even though Google executives say they will use Chrome first for netbooks and then work back in one direction to tablets and forward in another to devices such as TVs. Most of the issues are likely to come as Chrome is deployed in smaller devices such as tablets or e-readers to smartphones. 

So far, Google has said that Android is optimized for touchscreen interfaces, while Chrome is optimized for keyboards. It might be just as accurage to say that Android is optimized for consumption first, content creation second, while Chrome will be optimized for both consumption and content creation. For some of us, the crucial difference is "play" and "work." 

Most of us can imagine using a tablet or smartphone quite well for tweets and instant messaging or short email messages, taking and sending photos. Not many of us would think to create a Powerpoint presentation, create a white paper or edit a movie on a tablet or smartphone. 

Oddly enough, Chrome marks a break from decades of computing practice, where machines become "personal." The whole idea behind the Chrome OS is that machines are interchangeable and data and profiles are personal. But that is part of the meaning of cloud computing. More and more of the value of computing gets moved into the network, and less and less is reliant on the capabilities of the end user machines. 

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erin Monda
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