Douglas Rushkoff has an interesting little piece up about Google’s new Chrome Operating System:
Although Google Apps alone may not have convinced the public of the benefits of cloud computing, the introduction of $100 and $200 “netbooks” like the Asus Eee and Dell Mini 9 liberated users from the myth that owning more computer was somehow better than owning less. Miniature keyboards notwithstanding, netbooks could as easily be “net desktops,” running nimbly on bloatware-free Linux operating systems.
With Google now building a Linux-based netbook OS of its own, those last barriers to entry will be removed. People who want to spend less, work less, and get more, will have an option. Instead of figuring out how to hack their netbooks to run illegal copies of the Mac OS X, people will be clicking a button to install a free, legal, and streamlined Google OS Chrome. (Mac OS X is actually bigger than the whole hard drive on my current netbook, anyway.)
The most legitimate concern, of course, is whether a Google OS will end up centralizing control of software and data in a previously decentralized universe. I’d have to say no. Being essentially forced to use Microsoft Word by a Windows-addicted industrial complex is no better; worse, in fact, because I have to pay for the bloated program. By taking away our need to own software individually, Google is not taking away the equivalent of our right to bear arms; it is simply exposing how little agency all of our store-bought software packages afforded us in the first place.
This lack of agency has been my biggest criticism of Microsoft, that the dumb box you pull out of the carton and plug into the wall is full of software too big and bloated for you to understand completely and locked off in a way that prevents you from even taking a look at it. Imagine of you bought a car and the hood were welded shut (and under the hood was couple of hamsters on a rusty wheel). That’s the sort of car Microsoft has been peddling to us for decades. Apple is only slightly better. That their locked off engines were better tuned and higher performance was what mitigated giving up that agency but then they went with the same Intel chipset as your average PC so all we’re paying for these days is the sleek design and slightly better software. That works for some things but, speaking as someone whose Apple laptop just died and doesn’t feel like shelling out a grand for a new one, a netbook running Google’s OS is looking pretty sweet. That everything is kept online isn’t really an issue, since I do 90% of my work and extracurricular activities online anyway.
I for one am looking forward to getting ahold of Google’s OS and poking around under the hood.