Pick a Free OS

Chrome OS has a good chance of failing

Google's Chrome OS has seen the light of the day, but the question remains: will it find widespread adoption? It's just a browser, a Web, and a few widgets. Everything's on the Web, and the lifeline of computing would be a 3G network, Wi-Fi or any means to get to the Internet. The OS is essentially a watered down version of Linux, and can boot up in a matter of seconds.

It sounds familiar to Sun's network computer concept, with thin clients doing their computing over networks. The concept failed. Google is reinventing the concept and has a big challenge ahead: for the OS to succeed, the company will have to change the way people think.

Chrome OS presumes people do most of their computing on the Web. The free Cr-48 laptop they have sent our for reviews are a good example of what users could expect.

1) No local storage: It doesn't have a hard drive, which for an ordinary PC user, would be hard to swallow. A lot of the storage is on the Web. Google's laying the bet that like we got used to Gmail storing our e-mail, perhaps Google Docs will store our spreadsheets, documents and presentations.

But I need a hard drive. One, to protect the information. Also, the sheer amount of data I have -- close to 31GB worth -- requires too much bandwidth to cope with.

2) No flexibility: The GOS (not GCOS!) operating system is similar to Chrome. I've used it and like the hybrid concept where it provides the flexibility to do local computing. The desktop is scattered with widgets to do searches, display the temperature and time. But for Chrome, loading a heavy duty imaging software won't be an easy job.

3) Useless on planes: Cloud-based computing is a good idea for a smartphone, but for a laptop? The very purpose of having a laptop is for full-fledged computing on the fly in one self-contained unit. A Chrome OS laptop would be useless on a plane, for example. I'd still go with my standard Linux distributions.

4) Driver support: Linux distributions from Ubuntu and Red Hat are finally coming around to support drivers so peripherals can be easily attached and detected. There was a time when attaching a printer or a Wi-Fi card to a Linux system were a nightmare. But with a browser backend, Google's assuming peripherals, printers or external hard drives won't be attached. Or they probably think in the cloud, we need remote printing, with Kinko's as the place to pick up prints.