Google held an event last week that provided more detail on their efforts surrounding ChromeOS and announced a pilot program. There seems to be much confusion around two questions:
1) What is it?
2) Why should I care?
I can address #1 somewhat. ChromeOS is an operating system Google is making available to partner computer manufacturing companies that boots straight into the Chrome Web Browser and really restricts itself to using the web. The concept is that people using netbooks and even full-power laptops and desktops often spend the majority of their time in the web browser. Google has improved the Chrome Web browser, incentivized web app developers by adding a web app store, simplified the operating system to running this single application, baked in the latest security capabilities in a user-friendly fashion, and dictated inclusion of up-to-date wifi and 3G radios in the hardware so that users can be almost always connected.
So, why should you care? Google partially answers that question here:
For myself, manufacturers should be able to turn this platform into cheap, simple to use, long battery-lived, quick access computers that do nearly all the things people do on today's computers and more. Powerful applications can run on powerful servers instead of requiring you to lug around beefier hardware. Simple applications stay simple, are always up to date, and don't expose your data to loss or theft when, inevitably, the computer is damaged or lost. The frustrating days of paying thousands of dollars for a laptop, then hundreds or thousands more for applications, loading it up with private info, personally owned media, and precious memories, only to leave it in the airport security line and lose everything may soon be behind us.
Google's CR-48 pilot program demonstrates all these benefits for some, however, access to them remains in the future for the larger marketplace. Google's pilot program demonstrates what can be done but its up to other parties to carry this forward. Manufacturers need to come out with compelling hardware at a reasonable price, soon. Developers need to leverage the power of HTML5 in their web apps to make them perform like locally-installed apps. More web development of private cloud technology is necessary so that people and businesses have a secure place to keep their info that doesn't belong to a third party. Finally, wireless carriers need to get on-board. Nobody wants yet another 2 year, $60/month contract tied to a single, limited device. I really don't want to pay by the byte, either, (would you want to pay for your electricity by the electron?) but that appears to be the way things are headed. The 100MB/month free setup Verizon includes with Google's CR-48 pilot program is encouraging but it remains to be seen what will be offered with real products. Here's hoping it all comes together