Space Ramblings

Does the Operating System Still Matter?

That’s the question being asked in the wake of the introduction of Google Chrome, a browser that’s only in Beta and that few besides the Gmail obsessed Google fans are actually using, but which serves to represent a toehold for Google’s plan to use the browser as an application launching pad. The disappointing answer, disappointing for the Lifehacker crowd, is that yes it does matter.

While connecting to the internet is one of the central uses for the computer, the question is how much of that time is really productive time. Divide up computer use into productive time rather than recreational time, and the internet is no longer as much of a challenge as it used to be. And while you can do practically everything over the internet, do you really want to? Are most people really going to want to run web based word processing or accounting programs? They might exist and they might have their own demographic, but they don’t really make a whole lot of sense, not only not in terms of privacy or security, but in terms of practicality. Running applications over the internet adds another layer of complexity and another point of failure that can take down, corrupt or crash your application.

Pile on the coming broadband bandwidth caps and suddenly the internet becomes a limited resource and one that requires prioritization, rather than an all you can eat buffet. Sure Google Apps might not eat that much bandwidth but when you’re cutting back, it only makes sense to cut back on the things that you have no real need to be doing online in the first place.

Google’s vision of an internet centered OS is impractical for security reason and because it’s just plain unnecessary. And to even get that vision out of the starting gate, Google is going to have to battle the tightening bandwidth limits of corporate providers and growing caution over Google’s privacy abuses.

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