Google puts a solid back on cloud computing with the Chromebook

Google’s motto for its new line of “Chromebooks” is “you can do everything on the Web”. Chromebooks are laptops designed to be constantly connected to the Net and run all applications from the “cloud”. The cloud refers to a service hosted by Google that will deliver applications for use on these Chromebooks via the Net. This means that Chromebooks will not have applications stored and run locally. You need to be online — connected to the Internet — to use your applications and access your data.

The idea of cloud computing is not new. Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail (both pioneers of Web-delivered email) are email services that you can access through any browser running on any computer. Your mail and data are all stored in their remote servers and accessed through an account you maintain with them. Google extends this idea to other applications that are conventionally stored and run in individual computers — word processing, spreadsheets, etc. — and the data files that run on them. All of these will be run through the Chrome browser, presumably the only end-user application that will run on a Chromebook.

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The advantages of cloud computing include data and application services you can access anywhere and on any machine, more affordable applications, and better security and support (because these are now provided as utility services like your electricity and water are).

Downside of course is that you need to be constantly online to access your applications and data. That can be a bit of a show stopper considering that access to WiFi in even the most wired places in the world can still be a sketchy experience. Without an offline capability to fill the gaps in between Net access points, using a Chromebook may prove to be frustrating.

Like most paradigm shifts — and Google touts all this as one such — the challenge of getting Chromebooks traction in the market aims straight into most people’s comfort zones. Getting out of our personal zones is never painless.

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