Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Google unveils Chrome OS: Like a library workstation, minus privacy protection

A few months after confirming its intention to turn its "Chrome" browser into an operating system, search giant Google has taken the wraps off its product plans, eliciting breathless coverage from tech blogs and traditional media outlets.

The basic gist is this: Google ois slapping its name, logo, and browser shell on top of a collection of free software to create Chrome OS because it wants to generate even bigger profits. Chrome OS will come installed on new netbooks (with hardware certified by Google) beginning in a year.

Oddly enough, we've already seen tech journalists and pundits describing Chrome OS as a great leap forward or a milestone in the history of computing.

They've apparently never heard of thin-client workstations, which have been around for years and - like the netbooks on which Chrome OS will be sold - are restrictive by design. Thin client workstations are common in libraries, which maintain terminals for patron Internet access and use of selected programs like Microsoft Office or Adobe Reader (the most common PDF viewer for Windows).

Chrome OS, however, won't have any desktop applications. Instead it will contain shortcuts to websites (especially Google-owned websites) where users can read/write email, watch videos, or edit documents.

The reason Google is creating Chrome OS is that the company's ambitions extend far, far beyond being the dominant search engine. Google makes money by storing information and monetizing it for profit. That is why it is seeking end-to-end control of personal computing. Chrome OS isn't intended to help users; it's being created to mine their data so Google can turn a bigger profit.

Netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be similiar to library workstations... minus the privacy protections that libraries provide to patrons.

Google is basically trying to reduce the personal computer to a datacenter portal. And no, that's not an oversimplification. The New York Times put it this way:
While Microsoft and others say they believe that cloud-based programs will coexist with traditional PC software, Google has often said that Web applications will replace all desktop software, another area that Microsoft dominates.
Google and its executives are free to think that the future of personal computing is a mass migration to their data-mining products, but they're mistaken. Desktop software is not headed for extinction. There are too many things web browsers cannot do or are not well suited for. Like gaming, multimedia editing, or publishing.

What's more, "web apps" will never be as versatile as desktop applications, because they rely on connectivity to the Internet to work. (Otherwise, they wouldn't be "web apps".) Therein lies the problem: it's not always possible to connect to to the Internet, let alone connect at a high speed. A desktop application, unlike a "web app", can be used offline as well as online, permitting a traveler to command a virtual army from twenty thousand feet up while crossing from coast to coast or allowing a worker out in the field to record raw data for later analysis.

What so many people who have fawned over Chrome OS don't seem to understand is that there's nothing revolutionary about it. Free software, like the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, is already available for today as an alternative to Windows.

Chrome, on the other hand, will be perfect for people who like the idea of a private version of the National Security Agency tracking where they go online, sifting through their data, and building profiles of them to sell advertising.


Blogger Georgie Pie said...

You should also try SSuite Office for a free office suite. They have a whole range of office suites that are free for download.

Their software also don't need to run on Java or .NET, like so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small and efficient.

You may try these links:

November 23, 2009 7:48 AM  

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