So the Google Chrome OS has peeked it’s slimline visage over the parapet, at last. It’s very early days yet, and can only be described as an Alpha build given Google’s propensity for running mainline services in Beta form for, in some cases – Gmail anyone, years. However, it’s real and it’s quite different to pretty much any other OS that’s in widespread use at the moment.

The PC Pro article above will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect when Chrome netbooks hits the market. I think it’s interesting that it’s not yet being positioned as a primary or only computer in a household, rather it is aimed as being a portal into your computing environment, not storing very much locally but accessing your pictures, documents, emails, calendar, etc. via the web.

It’s easy to see why this is the case, as virtually nobody, even in this relatively well-connected, first-world country, stores all their information in ‘the cloud’. But this will change. For a start, more and more people are using smartphones (or their slightly less intelligent brothers, let’s call them quitebrightphones) to keep up with their social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and so on. Of course, unless you enjoy giving a large chunk of your paypacket to one of the mobile operators, you will enter into a data contract. And once you’ve done that, it’s a small step to using your phone to keep tabs on your email, or even view an important document that you forgot to print out and bring to a meeting.

Of course there is some concern over data security, but if you go to your typical home user and ask what would happen to all their precious digital photos if their house caught fire, they are likely to shrug and say that one day they’ll burn them all to DVD and give them to a relative for safe-keeping. Assuming, of course, that they want said relative to be able to see every single picture they’ve taken.

Using cloud storage suddenly becomes a very attractive when you look at it that way, certainly enough to allay the typical home user’s fears. That’s even without the value-add that using cloud-based services can offer. Continuing with the picture example, once all your photos are online, sharing them with friends and family becomes a cinch. Tweaking photos can be quick and easy. If Grandparents want a physical print of the grandkids, they can choose the photos online and press a button to have them proferssionally printed and delivered. All good stuff.

So it seems likely that cloud computing will arrive, and no-one is better placed than Google to benefit from that. If you embrace the cloud completely, Google will soon offer a pretty comprehensive suite of, by and large, free applications and services:

  • Google ChromeOS on your netbook
  • Google Apps hosting your email, calendar, and office documents
  • Google Chrome browser (built in to ChromeOS) for web application access
  • Picasa Web Albums for your pictures
  • Google Search (of course)
  • Google Video (aka YouTube)
  • Blogger
  • Google Android on your mobile
  • etc

It will be interesting to see if Google does manage to completely take over our online life, or if other companies will manage to provide some competition. The likes of Microsoft and Yahoo are too big to just roll over and let this happen, and will no doubt try to convince us of their alternative visions of the future. Personally, though, I’m more comfortable with Google than any of the alternatives right now.

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