Chromium OS is not the OS for You and Me

Wednesday morning I was looking over my twitter feed and saw a tweet from Scott Hanselman, seeming to complain that Chromium OS was little more than a bootable web browser. Which more than suggested to me that Scott, simply didn’t “get it”.

Chromium OS is being sold to us as nothing more than a bootable browser, because from Google’s perspective, that’s all that most users need. And there is definitely something to that.

I know a lot of users that use their computers as nothing but a gateway to the Internet. They do all their gaming in the browser (usually via something like Facebook), their e-mail is web-based, and they quite literally, have little or no need for anything but a Browser.

Chromium OS is not a geek OS, though. I live in vim, at the command line, and through ssh sessions. For me, Chromium OS is a non-starter, and while I might try it on my Eee PC, possibly contribute, and definitely suggest it for other people, it will never replace Ubuntu for me. And I suspect that Hanselman will never be happy with it either. And that’s fine, Chromium OS wasn’t designed for us.

What Chromium OS does represent is sort of a full-circle attitude toward computing. In the early days, it was all about mainframe computers and dumb terminals. It wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s, when prices on hardware started to drop, and the PC began to enter the home, that people started to question the need for the monolithic computing environments that had persisted until then.

Now, we have the same thing, people want to take their data with them wherever they go, so computing is starting to migrate toward the “cloud”, so that data can always be available. Google does this with any number of services, from GMail to Google Contacts to Picasa and the like. Microsoft is also going down this path of offering monolithic services for users to take advantage of while Microsoft holds their data for them.

More and more, the role of the computer, for many users, is becoming little more than a gateway to the Cloud, and all that sort of user needs is a web browser.

Myself, I don’t believe we’ll ever be completely cloud based, I think it’s more likely that as data density and interfaces get better, we’ll be able to carry all of our data with us, and have it be accessible across everything. But, for this moment, where people are entrusting more and more data to the cloud, Chromium OS is all the OS that a lot of users will need, especially on netbook class devices.