Piloting the Cr-48 running Chrome OS

We received a nice surprise this morning while preparing for a conference call with a client. UPS stopped by the office and dropped off a package. We opened the box and sure enough, there they were, Cr-48's. 

The device runs Google ChromeOS, a Linux-based operating system designed to deliver the Internet as fast as possible and intended to be as pure a web experience as possible. If you've used the Chrome browser on a PC, Mac or other Linux device then you're already very, very familiar with ChromeOS. Cr-48 is a reference to the periodic table, specifically to the element Chromium. I am a particular fan of this element as it also plays a primary role in my body, serving as one of my largest joints. Chromium allows me to move around the virtual and physical world. 

There are hundreds of posts on the specifics of the device so I won't go into those details, which you can also review on Google's official site, very extensively. I'm not sure they're particularly important as this specific device likely won't hit the market in its current form. The Cr-48 is very similar in size to a 13" MacBook without the polish of the black glass, back-lit keyboard or aluminum. Google has also made some changes to the keyboard to optimize it for web-based applications which makes sense since there are no desktop applications. It has a rubberized and very sturdy feel. 

 It starts up in about 10 seconds and prompts you with a login screen. From my experience you can use your personal Google Account or a Google Apps account that has been transitioned to the new infrastructure. On start up I went with my Google Account. Logged in, set my language and that was pretty much it, 2 minutes maybe. I have been using the Chrome browser on a MacBook Pro for much of the year and I have sync enabled so ChromeOS looked almost exactly like Chrome on my Mac. I went to the Chrome Web Store and grabbed Pandora, Google Voice, Google Translate and Chrome to Phone, Picnik, and HootSuite and now ChromeOS looked exactly like Chrome on my Mac. The goal of ChromeOS is to bring you to your web applications as quickly as possible. It delivers. 

ChromeOS is basically just a web browser. What's the big deal? This morning I turned on a brand new computer and in less than 5 minutes had access to all of my personal and professional email, all of my personal and professional contacts, all of my calendars, all of my voicemail, chat and all of my chat contacts, video chat, all of my documents, our customer relationship management application, our expense tracking application, project management software, access to all of my social networks and all of my bookmarks from my other computer. Pretty sweet. I could actually pull this off from any PC or Mac - the Chrome browser's sync functionality would allow me to access my information from any computer and I "live in the cloud" 95% of the time. The point being the operating system doesn't matter, I need the web to work. I realize this is more the exception than the rule currently but this is changing faster than most people realize. What would you give up first, your desktop or the Internet? Android 1.1 was released in February 2009 - that's less than 2 years ago and it's already the #1 mobile OS in the United States. The Chrome browser itself is just over 2 years old. The rate at which technology advances continues to accelerate.  

Android adoption was driven by consumers and is now finding its way into the enterprise but I suspect the trajectory of ChromeOS might be different. 

The OS is great for the consumer because it gets rid of the whole "computer person" mentality, now you only have to know how to use a browser. Any one who has spent any time in support knows the number one enemy is user error and some people can make even the simplest of tasks complex. Ray Ozzie wrote in his Dawn of a New Day departure memo to Microsoft that complexity kills, well ChromeOS kills complexity more than any OS in history.  

Complexity kills because it is expensive. Expensive in capital and more importantly in time. I don't know the exact numbers but the Cr-48 pilot looks to be more weighted towards enterprises like InterContinental Hotels. Managing one machine running Office and Windows can be a pain in the ass, managing thousands of them is exponentially worse. The potential of ChromeOS to deliver value to the enterprise is tremendous BEFORE software product licensing costs are even taken into account.

Admittedly ChromeOS is still a work in progress and obviously not for everyone. I haven't tried to print anything but based on what I've read and our older printer I'm assuming I would be unable - this is a feature that's coming. The one application I use for work that I'm unable to use is GoToMeeting. You can't view more than one tab/window at a time although you can obvioulsy have many open. If you're a developer or hard core computer user you won't like not having the typical OS landscape at your disposal. Perhaps you're tied to a video editing software on the desktop and don't live on the web. ChromeOS isn't intended to replace all other operating systems, it's intended to defeat complexity. Sometimes a standard OS is needed, most of the time it is not.

I used the Cr-48 all day today and will utilize it as my full time machine throughout the pilot period. I wrote this post on the Cr-48 while rocking out to Pandora, watching a couple of YouTube videos, checking other sites like Wikipedia to verify information all while using WiFi from my Android-based NexusOne.