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Impact - A Blog by INM

Are We Ready for a Cloud Based OS?

December 23, 2010 by Frank Boissonneault
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I have the feeling that people have said a lot about it already – maybe because over the past few weeks, Google has been taking up a lot of space in my (customized) news feed. The Google Chrome OS is now being used by real users and it delivers, as promised, a free, cloud based OS that is simple to use and that boots very quickly. It is a very interesting OS, and at the same time, I'm wondering how I would use it.

I must admit that my web browser has become the software that I use the most, especially in my personal life. This has happened mostly because in the past few years I have actively used more and more online services to fill the needs that were previously completed by software installed on my computer. All of this is also possible due to the advancements in rich internet applications (RIAs). There are obviously a lot of advantages in moving things online: setting things up is faster, things are available everywhere and are always in sync, things are often sharable with others, and it limits the need for backups (or at least, the part under my control) – and this is only to name a few.

However, are we ready to get rid of every locally installed app? Personally, I am not, and there is still some needs that can't be easily covered by web based applications. Gamers and geeks might also feel claustrophobic since they are stuck in the browser.  What are people going to do with all their photos, videos, or other old souvenirs housed on their computers? Will they have to put everything online? On the other hand, mainstream users might think it's complicated (ironically) if their files are not stored on their local hard drives. A cloud based OS could be good on a very lightweight computer, but in that case, would it not defeat the purpose if couldn't be used when no internet or 3G access was available?

As you can see, there are still a lot of reasons to doubt moving to a completely online OS. I believe that as long as people will have doubt, even just a bit, they won't be willing to leave their local files. This doesn't mean Chrome OS will not be used, but it will for sure be used differently than a desktop PC, typical laptop, tablet or Smartphone. To me, it is yet another family of devices that will need to be supported, sometimes differently, by websites and application makers.