As I waded through my computer migration today (a new Dell Latitude E 6510, replacing my Dell Latitude E 6500 after about 18 months of heavy use), couldn’t help but notice that Google is positioning Chrome very aggressively. Almost every program that I downloaded and installed on my comp (Skype, Winzip, Earth, PasswordSafe, SlickRun), came with the pre-checked “option” to “Include Chrome and make it my default browser”. Seems to be a bit of a desperate measure by Google, but looking at the recent performance by Chrome, it appears that strategy is working for Google. After all, how many people are going to carefully look at all program installation options. But that argument only gets Chrome on peoples’ machines. To actually get people to use it, Google is playing a slightly different game, promoting Chrome within specific uses, translation between one of them.
Ever since the release of Chrome OS and from even before then, the question has been how much are people ready to be entirely on the cloud? Is the Internet really everywhere?
Home – check
Work – check
On the road (or on the bus)?
Via inbuilt 3G modem (iPad?) – check
Data card – check
Anything else? – Thumbs downs
On the plane?
Delta and Virgin America? – check
Anything else? – Thumbs down for now, but getting there
On the train? – Not yet, but getting there
So, in one aspect Google’s move seems to be right on – making something on the platform that is bound to exist in 2 years time (and this, even before Google’s plan to make high speed internet of its own).
The convergence of technologies that we will see by 2012 (revisit all the provisional checks in the checklist above), throw in HSPA/WiMAX/LTE and add in the time for everyone to test drive this browser OS, and this could really be a 2012 success story – that I have not as much doubt on. The question that I do have is really this – where in lies the motivation to take away the desktop capabilities? In this really nice video, Google presenters make a very nice case about the pains of traditional operating systems.
But I believe these pains are exaggerated. The user cares very less about how the user’s problem (say of creating a business plan document) is solved – whether it be in Google Docs on the web, or via Microsoft Word as a desktop tool. The user does care about the fact that (i) the document be available perhaps on a different computer, and (ii) in case of buying a new computer, user should be able to easily migrate the files and settings to the new computer. Google Docs, as well as Microsoft Office online storage both solve these problems. Plenty of other synchronization tools do the same, and that is a happening software domain itself. So, where in lies the user’s motivation for getting rid of desktop tools entirely? The video also mentions the start up time as important. Now, that is a real deal. But my personal experience with Windows 7 is that it starts up in about 10 seconds (From hibernate or Sleep mode – don’t know which one is the default, have little interest in finding out).
So, I leave you with no firm prediction of what will happen, but with a fuzzy sense that while Google’s premise that internet access will be ubiquitous and 24×7 is well founded, the premise that desktop tools are inherently bad – not so much. A hybrid scenario – something like Chrome OS, but some file system capabilities – even if they are for local short term storage (a few hours/days) and synchronization only (which Google has denied so far) is far more likely.
I just spent about 40 minutes looking at the comic book describing Google’s shiny new browser. Really loved the comic book (and the ideas that Chrome has been built on). Then, I downloaded Chrome, and noticed that my default way of using Firefox isn’t so compatible with Chrome. In Firefox, I go to my bookmarks using my magic codes, starting with Alt-B to open the bookmarks. For example, my magic code to come to this blog is: Alt B -> G -> S (for Bookmarks -> bloGs -> Software Journal).
Perhaps Chrome’s way of typing into the universal bar will take some getting used to, but as you know, the problem with browsers is that we are not so tolerant.