The Future of Computing?

Google announced the Google Chrome “Operating System” a few days ago, and the world I used to live in is abuzz with people talking about the earthquake this represents for the computing industry. TechCrunch says, “Google Drops a Nuclear Bomb on Microsoft.” Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has a more thoughtful response, but also subscribes to the “future of computing” theme: “Google is moving everything online, and I really believe this is the future of computing. The desktop model of computing — the Microsoft era — is coming to an end. It’ll take a few years, but it will happen.”

The basic idea is that the future is all about connectivity. All your data and apps will be in the sky (on servers that you can access from anywhere). And, according to Babauta, the way we use computers is also changing:

While the business world has long used Microsoft Word to create rich documents full of formatting and charts, the increasingly mobile world doesn’t care about any of that. We send emails and text messages and tweets and messages on Facebook and forums and other social media — with no formatting at all. We do blog posts that have bold and italics and links and photos and videos and not much more in terms of formatting text.

We don’t need feature-bloated Microsoft Word anymore. Nor Excel, with its 2 million features, nor PowerPoint (who likes to watch slides?). Sure, there are still some great desktop apps that people use, for photo and video editing and much more … but the majority of us don’t need those. We need to communicate simply and quickly, without hassle.

I’m sympathetic to this picture, in part because I work on several different computers at different times. I already store a lot of my information on the Internet (including all my law school notes, which are accessible to all my classmates); I use web apps where feasible, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs (for lightweight work), Google Reader, Google Sites, Flickr, this blog, and so on. But I think there are a couple of holes in this story.

The small hole is that Google Chrome OS just doesn’t add up for me (even though Google Chrome is my favorite browser). In the old parlance, it isn’t even an operating system; it’s what used to be called an “operating environment.” The OS is Linux; Google Chrome OS is just the layer on top that you can see and touch.

More importantly, Google Chrome OS looks to me like a crippled version of Ubuntu (a popular desktop flavor of Linux), which is also free and open source. I recently installed Ubuntu on an old laptop, and I mainly just use the browser (Firefox). But if I need or want to use other applications on the laptop itself, I can; for example, if I’m doing some blogging and I want to download some data into a spreadsheet, I can. (Don’t try telling me that Google Docs has a spreadsheet program that’s usable for anything other than adding and subtracting, at least not yet.) Or I can play MP3s via the MP3 player, instead of having to stream them from some web site. With Google Chrome OS, all I’ve got is the browser. The only compensating advantage I can think of is that it should start up faster than Ubuntu, but since Ubuntu rarely needs to be rebooted, that doesn’t matter much.

The big and more interesting hole is that all this “future of computing” talk should come with an asterisk, with a note saying: “Applies only to personal computing by consumers with limited needs.” The technology media tend to think that the state of computing is reflected in the tools that they use: netbooks, built-in 3G wireless, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, etc. But I would submit that the computing that really matters is the kind that goes on inside companies.

Brad Delong recently cited Robert Allen on the central role of “productivity-raising machinery” in the transformation of the first industrial revolution into the second industrial revolution and a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement. Recently, people have talked about computer technology playing a similar role in boosting productivity across the economy, although on a smaller scale. But if computers are going to increase productivity and thereby our standards of living, it is not (or not primarily) because they make it easy to create and view pictures of cats with misspelled captions, entertaining though that is.

And there, where it really matters, at least from a macro-economic perspective, the future of computing is a long, long way off. If you hypothesize a uniform unit of “work” done by computers used in businesses – and I mean useful work accomplished, not calculations performed – all of my own observations indicate that the vast majority of this work is still being done by old-fashioned mainframe computers, and most of the rest is being done by those much-hated “client/server” systems.

I’m willing to allow the possibility that in some areas like manufacturing it’s possible that computers have made possible huge amounts of productivity-increasing automation. But in the mass services industries that I’m more familiar, like insurance, the efficiency gains provided by computers have been limited. Think about every time you have tried to do something simple at an airport – like change your frequent flyer number – and watched as the agent typed code after code after code. Or all the times your customer service representative couldn’t answer the simplest question on the phone. My company, which does something so boring no technology writer would ever dream of writing about it, has been pretty successful because we picked an industry that was vastly underutilizing or misusing technology, and we built systems that, while far better than anything our customers had before, are not at the bleeding edge of software.

The big problem in the way most large companies use computer technology is not the software per se; it’s the complexity of conceptualizing, designing, building, and testing huge applications involving millions of lines of code to manage business processes in new and better ways, when those new and better ways can only be dimly glimpsed from the perspective of the current situation. Planning and running these projects is something that most companies are admittedly bad at. The example closest to the usual themes of this blog would be the failure of the mortgage servicing companies to get their modification programs off the ground, in part because they can’t get the systems and processes in place quickly enough. But this happens over and over again in virtually all large companies.

And for me, this is actually a reason to be hopeful. The potential for information technology to improve productivity is still enormous, and we don’t need netbooks or cloud computing or new operating systems or quantum computers to get there. The hardware and software tools of today – or of five years ago – would work just fine, if companies could figure out how to apply and implement them successfully and repeatably. From the point of view of the economy, whether college students are using Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, or Google Chrome OS in five years really doesn’t matter.

I don’t think the people talking about Google Chrome OS would actually disagree with this; they’re just more interested in knowing what tools they will be using in the future. But given that our economy has to figure out some way to increase productivity growth for the long term, the important question is whether companies will figure out how to use existing technology more effectively. The information technology industry is very, very immature. It can improve a lot.

By James Kwak

50 responses to “The Future of Computing?

  1. “… on servers that you can access from anywhere…”

    Sounds great, until they start charging you rent to get at your own data (No! They would never do that!)

    No thanks. But then, the kind of cloud I want is p2p anyhow…

  2. The “cloud” is almost as old as computing. Though, we used to just call them “mainframes”.

  3. Google scans and stores everything it touches and keeps it forever. Their model is to deliver personalized info, and this means constant profiling. Every search term, every email can be and is tied to you, personally, by IP address and cookie.

    It is possible that their business apps are different, but I would be skeptical unless I saw proof positive.

    Of course you have nothing to hide. But you may consider your thoughts, creations and identity your own, and not the property of Google, to be used as they see fit. In that case you could check scroogle.org for more info, or countless other resources.

    FJ

  4. Chrome OS strikes me as something more useful for businesses, especially with thin client computing (except the business would run their own internal Google App server). I really don’t get the consumer market angle, unless they want to tie the netbooks to cell phone tethering, but even then there will be times where you don’t have network access.

  5. Anyone read the press release?
    It is designed for netbooks. So their goal is mainly to give a watered down version of an OS that will browse the net and run a few apps on some lightweight hardware.

    To be a real threat in OS world it would have to supplant some more functions of Microsoft or Linux. Basically it would need to take over MS Office as industry standard and be able to run full out applications (e.g. edit videos, run video games).

    At the least I hope they can replace MS Office so I don’t have to deal with text-editor conversion problems. However the need for a real OS on a home system solidifies MS and Linux as the only alternatives.

  6. future browser based OS will include local webservers.

    so you will stream mp3 from a local web server. that is the new paradigma. the browser, with local webservers attached, will substitute the desktop program suites.

    for the rest it is more a matter of GUI. I guess browser will become more complex and definitely will loose the “Mosaic” look and feel.

    expect a Google Spreadsheet ready to take over Excel, at the end.

    in the meantime the user will have to choose between completeness/power/sophistication and collaboration/mobility/lightness.

  7. I can put my 2 cents in on some finance and economics things, but James Kwak knows 5 zillion more about computers than me, so I figure 99% of what James Kwak says is right. All I hope is that in the future every individual can have privacy, and that not too much power is concentrated in a monopoly or oligopoly.

    I still think it’s sad that the Windows Explorer killed off the Netscape browser. Very sad, and no one will ever convince me otherwise. Netscape was 20 times the browser that Explorer was. And why did Netscape die? Because Gates and Ballmer were greedy jerks. Someone can tell me “Hey what does it matter? That’s the marketplace.” But I think when people have a superior product they should be rewarded for that, not squashed like a bug. Netscape’s browser was a great product.

  8. Lavrenti Beria

    This one’s for children with the sense of personal moral responsibility found only in today’s sociopathological youth. Make sure that you’re at the mall, that you’ve got your hat on backwards, and that you’re talking of things sufficiently vacuous on your cell phone when you fire up this OS. Maybe they’ll mercifully find a way some day of parking you and the human detritus you call “dude” in some massive, razor wire enclosed server in the sky. Can we hope?

  9. Lavrenti Beria

    Sincerest apologies. The sentence above, “This one’s for children with the sense of personal moral responsibility found only in today’s sociopathological youth” should read, “This one’s for libertarians and for children with the sense of personal moral responsibility found only in today’s sociopathological youth.”

  10. I was thinking of mainframes just the other day. Although what I was thinking was that personal computers (that is, desktop units) are now the mainframes, and cell phones and iPods are the new personal computers.

  11. The migration of software to the web has been widely predicted and a long time coming. Bill Gates has known for nearly a decade that the future of software would be online, and that’s why Microsoft has tried so hard for so long to force its way onto the internet (Buying Hotmail, starting MSN, then Windows Live, now Bing). Thus far, they’ve been unnsuccessful but the battle isn’t over yet.

    Frankly a lot of people have been surprised by how long it has taken software to move to the internet. Consider word processing and tax software. Even though Google launched “Google Docs” a couple years back, they have never taken off. The moral of the story is that even in technology people resist change. Sure there are a few Linux techies that are on the new thing within a week, but it takes a long time for the rest of the world to adopt. We’ll still be using MS Office for a decade. We’ll still be stuck to Windows. If you want to estimate how successful this current venture will be look at the Google Chrome web browser. It’s market share is less than one percent.

  12. Is it just a coincidence that this story came out at the same time as XP-Dev was shut down for 45 hours so investigators could go rummaging around as Goldman searched for its missing front-running code?

    The problem with distributed/network computing for serious work is fairly simple: you don’t control access to your data. Any number of peculiar events beyond your control can separate you from your intellectual property. I know it seems unlikely that the government would treat a Google server farm with the same contempt they showed a little UK service, but think of it this way: if someone had told me in 2006 that my data could be backed up on servers owned by the AAA-rated American International Group, I would have felt pretty good that I would retain good access to it. I wouldn’t feel that way today.

    On the software/productivity front, I tent to agree with you but air travel is a terrible example. Bleeding-edge databases have been the biggest change in air travel since the invention of the jet engine.

    Twenty years ago, if you wanted to fly from New York to San Diego you called a travel agent – hopefully during business hours – and she used the clunky database system provided to her by an airline (SABRE by American, Galileo by United, Worldspan by Delta) to cobble together a flight. The routing was dictated by her limited ability to use the system, the simple planning software at the host, and the amount of kickback her agency got. Your needs and certainly your price sensitivity were low down the list, you couldn’t effectively compare various options, and you had to do everything with enough time to be handed a physical piece of card stock that you took with you to the airport. If there was snow in Chicago and you missed your connection you got in line at O’Hare and the process repeated itself – the veteran carried a dog-eared physical timetable with him for just this eventuality – hopefully with a new piece of card stock when all was said and done.

    You didn’t reenter your frequent flyer number because it only worked on the carrier’s own metal and was sure to be lost in any event of change. Easier to save the stubs and submit them later.

    Today prices are lower than ever and you can react to change with your iPhone. I’d call that a huge improvement, and it’s entirely due to IT infrastructure. God knows the physical product has only gotten worse.

  13. Actually, in the press release Google specifically stated that chrome would also be developed as a desktop OS. And since google is planning to open source chrome os it will be trivial to run it within ubuntu (or whatever flavor of linux one prefers). For example, I have google android running on one of my laptops.

    Its also interesting how so few people are aware of the depths to which cloud computing has already permeated our experience: google search (one of the first to use a linux cloud infrastructure), facebook, flickr, youtube, hulu, amazon, itunes etc. The promise of the cloud is that you can efficiently borrow massive amounts of horsepower (thousands perhaps eventually millions of processor equivalents) and have that raw horsepower blended seamlessly with a robust local client.

  14. Wayne Martin

    Last week I bought a 1.5TB (Terrabyte) drive for about $112 (plus tax). The device is not very large, and doesn’t weigh very much. Why would I want to keep my data on a stranger’s computer, when I can keep it with me for such a small price?

    I fully expect to see these drives in the future having wireless interfaces, so that the drive will actually be a server also, with Bluetooth, and/or Wifi access.

    And then there is the issue of privacy, as well as integrity. What happens when a disc goes bad, and the backup device also goes bad (things like this happen in the real world). Or what happens when the gird power goes out for a long period of time? (It’s not uncommon for ice storms, and hurricanes to take out the regional grid for up to 40 days in some sections of the country.)

    “Cloud storage” may work for some, but anyone who really understands his/her data, is not likely to give it up to someone a “cloud”.

  15. Actually, the promise of cloud computing is that huge, rent-seeking corporations will sell my own content back to me. Yeah, “Don’t be evil.” And?

  16. And then there’s that whole Echelon thing.

  17. Most home users get very antsy when their internet connection goes down. Also, many are doing business out of a home office where they might not have a redundant connection. Until we have cities flooded with fast open wi-fi I, for one, certainly won’t rely on the cloud to preserve my data.

  18. Yep. I missed it earlier, it does say that Chrome will run on desktops too.

    I’m still a little sceptical and want to see the innovative parts. We already have major web apps that are really useful like google maps.

    However, what more are they going to do to differentiate Chrome OS from my linux box and firefox?

    To keep it really functional, they’ll need some type of real OS base. So maybe there will be a linux variant base to Chrome OS with some special google apps?

    I don’t believe the hype on Chrome OS. The power of cloud computing is a little more exciting.

  19. I’d agree with JK’s focus for this: large organizations, not personal users. I think there are a lot of organizations which, faced with MS’s per seat costs (OS license, MS Office, high-end hardware requirements, anti-virus protection), would be very tempted by the Chrome OS alternative. This happens today when, eg, 3rd world governments or universities decree that their offices shall all use . But even Ubuntu (the friendliest linux distro) has useability issues (picture your mother, not you, as the user), and if Google provides a friendlier face to Linux, with markedly lower IT admin costs, then they ought to see wide adoption in those settings.

  20. “…old-fashioned mainframe computers…”

    These are what we now call servers.

    But see also.

  21. The idea that cloud computing can be viable “for all your computing needs” when our current infrastructure is incapable of addressing basic integrity, security, identity and recovery requirements is laughable.

    The Internet Protocol Suite was never designed to function with hostile participants and until that fundamental oversight has been adequately re-examined we’ll all be working with a prototype.

    It’s a pretty cool prototype, but it’s still a prototype.

  22. Absolutely right about the huge productivity gains in using computers in manufacturing.

    A common setup now in our more advanced factories are 3 CNC (computer numeric control) machines being fed by a single robot. The productivity of this capital is absolutely enormous – these cells can run all night long, make virtually no errors, and can do the work that would have required large amounts of labor only 15 years ago.

    It is this type of real, measurable, productivity gain that the computing world should focus on.

  23. Carson Gross

    The 3D printers I see at TechShop seem pretty damned revolutionary too. I wonder what we’ll do with all the surplus labor…

    OTOH, maybe we’ll realize one of my wilder localist fantasies.

    Cheers,
    Carson

  24. What I consider most fascinating is seeing the end of the Microsoft generation coming to a close, maybe. You see, I am not a geek or a nerd, or even a dweeb. I am not a techie, but I have two brothers who are employed within the tech revolution. It is their view and mine that microsoft acted as a retardant to progress, and now that we have forces that are arriving on the scene with basically equivalent power (money and expertise), they are going to leave the Gatesians in the dust. Google is using the best open code OS (Linux) as a basis, and so that means that all kinds of innovation may be built in a cooperative environment, now that things are opening up.

    It seems to me that “proprietary” has run out of gas, and that the world is now opened in ways that it never has been. Much to the betterment of the future of computing.

  25. Alan McConnell

    Can not a lot be learned about economics/business/
    psychology from the successes and “failures” of
    Linux? here are a few, given in perhaps provocative
    language:
    1. Linux, using Richard Stallmans GPL, proves that
    “socialism works”. A bunch of “hackers”(not “crackers”)
    got together — actually they got together only
    partially — to produce a grown-up OS that is used
    everywhere. And, while you’re at it, look at the
    IETF culture, which is behind everything Internetish.

    2. Next time someone tells you about the capitalist
    system full of entrepreneurs pouncing, tigerlike, on
    each competitive advantage, give them a horse-laugh.
    The world is still enmired in M$, with the standard
    disadvantages of monoculture, and the horrible
    insecurities of viruse, worms, Trojan horses, and
    all the other difficulties which cause people’s
    computers, and their web sites, to get taken over
    by Bad Hats.

    3. Admire the power of advertising! M$, patently
    inferior to Linux and the other Unices(BSD spinoffs,
    mostly), still maintains its marketshare, at least
    in the US. And now, when a big company comes
    out with a new Linux variant, in a blaze of
    publicity, the whole world sits up, goes “Wow!”
    and blogs away like crazy.

    There are doubtless other lessons

    Best wishes,

    Alan McConnell, in Silver Spring MD

  26. Competition is good.

  27. Old Lady in Red

    Forget the OS. The brilliance of JK’s observation lies in his craving of, and seeing a return to, usefulness.

    In 1979, it took me a long time to realize how much more useful word processing was than a typewriter. I was a better writer, I learned. And supercalc allowed me to through away my large sheets of planning paper and erasers and fantazie “what if” scenarios. It was wonderful.

    My first computer was an Intertec Superbrain and my husband was forced to forge the cable to link it to our NEC Spinwriter printer (built like a Checker cab). But, stuff worked – and it was consistent!

    Then, Microsoft came along, finally, and I have tolerated, but hated, computers since. I don’t “do” powerpoint, or…. I write; I figure.

    In the early days of email, I helped build a computer communications network for an intl scientific community looking at large scale, global problems. It was powerful, heaven for them.

    Today, it takes a half hour just to trash the junk, and that’s after your spam filter has done its job.

    Less is always more (although a little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika). I hunger for a return to simplicity and usefulness, as well. Damn the feature creatures.

  28. Alan McConnell

    A follow-up/complaint from a Linuxian. I
    clicked the “Wish to be notified about comments”,
    and I get an E-mail from WordPress.com, where this
    blog is hosted, and in the body I get “To confirm
    all future notifications for this post, click
    this link” and then follows a long http line.

    Well! I use mutt as my mail-reader, and mutt, wisely,
    doesn’t implement “clicking” on stuff that comes
    into one’s machine. But I can transport this
    http line into my favorite text-based brower, lynx,
    and get back: “You cannot view this page without a valid key”. Evidently the key is embedded in the
    http line, in some kind of bogus html “enhancement”.

    Lynx is punctilious about following genuine
    html code, and often reports “Bad html”. I suspect
    strongly that WordPress.com is M$-centric, for
    M$ is notorious for implementing html “enhancements”.
    Maybe I’m wrong.

    But I hope that Messrs Johnson and Kwak — may
    their shadows grow ever longer! — have the clout
    to wrestle successfully with WordPress.

    Best wishes,

    Alan McConnell in Silver Spring, MD

  29. Old Lady in Red

    Fixing the typos with word processing….. Zap!

    Forget the OS. The brilliance of JK’s observation lies in his craving of, and seeing a return to, usefulness.

    In 1979, it took me a long time to realize how much more useful word processing was than a typewriter. I was a better writer, I learned. And supercalc allowed me to throw away my large sheets of planning paper and erasers and fantasize “what if” scenarios. It was wonderful.

    My first computer was an Intertec Superbrain and my husband was forced to forge the cable to link it to our NEC Spinwriter printer (built like a Checker cab). But, stuff worked – and it was consistent!

    Then, Microsoft came along, finally, and I have tolerated, but hated, computers since. I don’t “do” powerpoint, or…. I write; I figure.

    In the early days of email, I helped build a computer communications network for an intl scientific community looking at large scale, global problems. It was powerful, heaven for them.

    Today, it takes a half hour just to trash the junk, and that’s after your spam filter has done its job.

    Less is always more (although a little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika). I hunger for a return to simplicity and usefulness, as well. Damn the feature creatures.

  30. My guess is that most businesses with client confidentiality issues, intellectual property, trade secrets and employee trade secrets will not use an online service.

    As for the individual, it would be fool hardy to place her personal data online.

  31. The difficulty with recognizing the productivity improvements from computerization is that they are gradual. They will not cause large short term swings like the economic cycles, and are easy to miss. To continue the airline example, the BLS statistics on output per employee between 1995 and 2005 show an increase from 95 to 135. (1997=100) This does not include the elimination of about 90% of the travel agent jobs, but it does reflect airline staff that supported them.

    40% is not a world changing result, especially when spread over ten years. You see similar numbers in other non-manufacturing environments. Other forms of transportation show similar slow steady improvements. Some service industries are changing substantially.

    I do not expect any single large event to occur. This will be like the impact of the small electric motor. There will be steady changes with a huge eventual effect, rather than one sudden shift.

  32. The subtext of Google’s announcement should read “Chrome OS: the future of advertisement neural network training.”

  33. learn java… then you can get even better at umbuto… imho Linux needs a serious drive to utilize open GL… Between graphics and Google aps thats a great start… dont know how hard 64 bit addressable memory will be but soon that will become a bottleneck as well ‘multimedia and connectivity aint near finished on the processor’… microsofts got a few years on linux unless google completely reworks chrome into a robust efficient machine language of its own right, the licensing should take care of itself if the platform is A. not microsoft and B. not sux a little and C. google rox

  34. Praedor Atrebates

    Indeed. I will NOT put my personal data and files on a server that isn’t MY server. No company is going to charge me to access MY info. No company is going to have access to MY files, data, info. It is private, regardless of how innocuous or mundane.

  35. I was a mainframe programmer. Over a decade ago I was predicting that eventually things would come full circle, and the servers of the client-server model would essentially be mainframes, and the clients would be thin (i.e. not doing a lot of processing on them.)

    I also think that eventually there will be public intranets that people will subscribe to – that will provide a safer environment, with managed security.

  36. The productivity gains from computers are limited because of the limitations of corporate structures. IT is a bureaucracy multiplier – historically, IBM extended the lease of life on unsustainable organization patterns. The consequences are much like 1914 – musket warfare pitted against barbed wire and machine guns.

  37. Middle-aged lady in Red

    I just hope that Chrome-OS is a little more secure than Chrome the browser, which stores passwords in an unencrypted file. Firefox still beats Chrome because its add-ons let you turn off Java to fend off malicious websites, and block ads (AdBlock Plus). Both of these are of course NOT available on Chrome, because of Google’s ad-driven business model.

  38. Bingo.
    Computing has to change the way business takes place. All we have done so far is to overlay expensive technology onto old organizational structures.
    Then again we have to change academia, the law, all the other professions etc. They are all bogged down in ancient ways of life.
    The much sought after productivity is very far off.
    Until the ‘organization’ is re-invented computing will disappoint.

    As an aside: I always smile when the tech guys announce the next great thing. Maybe they should focus on getting that last great thing to be reliable first?

  39. So when will anyone port a serious business app to Chrome? I will not hold my breath on that one…

  40. Is the Unix community going to build business class applications, or Google? Until someone figures that out this is all a joke as it pertains to adaption by business users.

  41. Very relevant comment for this topic…the best technology or product rarely wins….its all about marketing and installed base.

  42. If you review Google’s financials you’ll note they generate about 95% of their massive revenues from advertising. Until that ad revenue vanishes (which is likely…) we don’t need to worry about being charged rent for our data. At least as far as Google is concerned…

    The freemium model, however, seems to be working successfully. Take business web service provider Zoho.com as an example. They offer basic services for free until you reach a set threshold then you must upgrade to a paying account. It is the perfect tool to use when starting a business because of the low barrier for entry (e.g. free). However if your business grows, you either start paying Zoho or spend a fortune building your own infrastructure.

    I think the future is in the Cloud. The Cloud Paradigm is a fact. As handheld computers (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) improve, more people will move to the Cloud.

  43. It’s coming sooner than you think. Within another few years we will have a national wireless cloud.

    http://r2computing.blogspot.com/2009/03/bandwidth-hurdle.html

  44. I completely concur! The largest failure of the IT worker has been the inability to deliver on promises.

  45. Amen. Old Lady in Red, you are my hero!

  46. I can think of lots of reasons pc/macs/Linux workstations won’t go away. Here is just one.

    Google Chrome, regardless of application functionality, will never meet my security requirements of data privacy. Even if the data is stored locally on my computer, running a net app to process it exposes the data to theft.

    Even if Google Chrome winds up letting me download the app and keep it locally, then all I am doing is moving application storage onto the net and that is wastefully slow since bandwidth on network connections is a fraction of internal pc bus speeds.

    Since that is the case for millions of people, you can forget the idea that the Internet will replace offline, personal computing devices.

  47. Well, being a bit of a geek, I took a quick look for you; baselinescenario.com is running on an nginx server, which functions, according to the web site, as both an HTTP server/proxy and mail server. The response header has a few amusing lines in it:

    X-hacker: If you’re reading this, you should visit (web site)(*) and apply to join the fun, mention this header.
    X-nananana: Batcache

    Based on looking at the company, I suspect they’d be receptive to your feedback… At least changing the message so that there’s a method to validate by copying the secret code.

  48. I think JK outlined the numerous environments of the computing world, of which Chrome OS is but one.
    Most businesses will still need networked, desktop based systems to do heavy lifting and provide shared data in a secure environment. This won’t change anytime soon. Whether that network mimics the Web, or any other model, is immaterial. It’s closed and secure.
    While home users can still opt to save sensitive data locally, there is a growing (merging?) market of ever-more-powerful PDA’s and smaller laptops (netbooks) which are used almost exclusively for online functions. I see Chrome OS going after this market, not business desktops.
    It took a long time for “the cloud” to start working because it took that long for people to have regular access to high-speed data transfer. Wireless is a bit farther behind still. But it is probably the fastest growing area of consumer computing, and Google is smart to go there.
    As a wise man once said, there’s an ass for every seat.

  49. Dave Everson

    Transactions (accounting, purchase/production/sales orders, etc…) will probably always run on large managed systems. PCs get used for two things: communications (email, powerpoint, IM, etc…) and the M$ killer app: analytics in the form of Excel. Excel will keep M$ on top until the competition comes up with two key capabilities: decent scripting ala VBA and the real need: PIVOT TABLES. That’s the sine qua non and until Google can provide that level of capability, M$ will rule the business desktop.

    Regarding the ‘cloud': it’s a colossal vendor lock-in scheme. While it will be useful for some aspects of business computing, smart people will keep their critical data close. Trusting the big vendors with your crown jewels is foolish. Try migrating off of Vendor A’s cloud to Vendor B and see how hard that will be. Rent’s going up…