Chromebook, Chrome OS & The Future of the Web

Categories Articles, Web Design
chromebook

This is a guest post by Zach Katkin – entrepreneur, web developer, designer and writer – co-founder of Florida Web Design Company Atilus. Additionally Zach also owns a number of web properties including Promana.net, a resource for Small Business Software News including Basecamp Project Management.

I rarely make predictions, but after over a decade in the professional world of web design, I’ve recently seen a convergence of a number of different technologies and companies that are about to drastically (sort of) change the web, and how we operate computers. Before I get to where I believe the future is heading let’s review something:

XHTML & CSS

XHTML8 years ago XHTML & CSS were revolutionary. I won’t go into TOO much detail about my past (not that I want to be mysterious, it’s just mostly irrelevant), but I was lucky enough to get into web design with the addition of XHTML & CSS. You see, back then everyone used TABLES to build websites (some still do). The problem with tables was that you had to adjust EVERY page on a website in order to make a change, this took a lot of time, money, and just didn’t make sense.

Those problems all disappeared with the adoption of XHTML & CSS. No longer did a developer have to update every page in order to adjust the design or style of a site. Instead, CSS (cascading style sheets) told the browser what various XHTML elements needed to look like. In one tiny spot, you could define the background of a site, of a column, the color of text, etc. The seperation of HTML (markup/content) & CSS (the design), let to an explosion in web design. There were a few drawbacks (developers had to learn a new way to develop websites and a new way of thinking), but overall it has been a phenomenal change for devs, and site owners alike.

HTML 5 & CSS3

HTML 5 is the latest version of HTML (hypertext markup language) – the language for structuring and presenting content on the web. Most important within the context of this article is understanding the HTML 5 adds a number of new properties, namely APIs that allow your browser and websites to do things that were previously very difficult (requiring a myriad of other technologies to implement):

  • 2D drawing
  • Timed media playback
  • Offline storage database (offline web applications)
  • Document editing
  • Drag-and-drop
  • Cross-document messaging
  • Browser history management
  • MIME type and protocol handler registration
  • Microdata

Where are we heading with all this? There’s a point here… I promise!

The Modern Computer

The modern day computer is [mostly] a means to access the Internet. A majority of users, even power users, use their computer to access online services and applications. And, even in the cases where some users continue to setup and install desktop software, many times that software already has an online counter part that competes with – if not exceeds – the capability of its desktop counter part. From email, through managing an organizations contacts and daily business all the way to managing bookkeeping and finances, there are MANY online tools for individuals and businesses alike.

Enter the Chromebook & Chrome OS

With all of the above in mind Google announced the development of Chrome OS back in 2009 – an operating system (an extension of Google’s Chrome browser) that continued this idea through to it’s final conclusion – THE OS IS ONLY A WEB BROWSER.  There is little to no local storage (no downloading and storing files/music/videos) you simply open it up, turn it on, and visit websites.

Watch This Quick Presentation by Google:

Acer ChromebookGoogle’s understood the blurring lines between web applications and their stodgy desktop counterparts for sometime… they pioneered the space with their Google Docs/Apps solution for small businesses (an online document creation/editing/storage tool). The idea of centralizing applications is nothing new. In the early 90’s IBM spearheaded (successfully) the adoption of “thin clients” by many corporate customers whereby an organization would install a giant central server and then computers would connect through cheap terminals.

This is that idea on a grander, more decentralized scale. Now you can open up a Chromebook (the nickname for a computer with Chrome OS installed on it) and, once logging in via their Google Account, instantly be shown a customized experience based on the data in your Google Account – including bookmarks, web apps, etc.

99% of users today need their computer for little more than surfing the web (and using the powerful applications that have sprung up on it) and the Chrome OS is the best solution for these individuals and businesses. While building the Chrome OS Google kept the following in mind:

  • Instant-On Technology – Just pop open the lid and it turns on, no more waiting for your computer to start (typically 1.5 minutes)
  • Super Small/Fast – Using the latest mobile technology Chromebooks are super fast for web browsing and general multimedia activities
  • Inexpensive – This is probably where things will need to change for successful adoption. Chromebook’s which were very recently released, must come down in price. They are currently inline with similar tablet based solutions, but will need to drop in order to become a viable alternative.
  • Security – Built from the ground up to be secure, Chromebooks are useless without a Google Account, and can instantly be replaced without ANY fear of your data being compromised.

With all of the above in mind, it’s clear that the future of the modern computer is almost complete cloud adoption, with decentralized software and user data. Instead the computers of the future will connect to the websites users feel best accomplish their tasks and the idea of installing software will be a thing of the past.

Zach Katkin - Entrepreneur, Web Developer, Designer and Writer - is the co-founder of Florida Web Design Company Atilus. In business for nearly a decade, Atilus has more than 600 clients worldwide.
  • I love this post :)

    But i tryed to click the I Like button and it isnt working.

    • Zach Katkin

      Hi Craig, You’re referring to the facebook like button correct? I’ll check on that.

      • Yeah Zack I was referring to the Facebook like button.
        Sorry that was ages ago and me just replying.
        Did you get it sorted in the end?
        Whatever your answer is to the question above, you should ditch the facebook like plugin and start including the Google +1

  • Oscar

    quiero uno
    Saludos

    • Zach Katkin

      Agreed! I went to my local Best Buy the other day – they have them on sale on Best Buy’s site, but not the local stores yet. Soon!

  • Yet, we have to be sceptical mainly for 2 reasons:
    1. security – none can tell where his files are on a cloud. Would you store each and every sensitive data of yours in it? I don’t -yet.
    2. reliability – while the cloud is undeniably a thing of the future, the chromebook approach supposes you have a good internet connection at all times available. In case this ceases to be true, you cannot do any work with it. You cannot type, you don’t have access to your files.
    Do you realise how a simple DDoS attack that today would keep you away from your emails and search engine of choice, in a cloud-run future could cripple you and your company maybe for days?
    Vulnerabilities and human errors in the recent cases of PSN and Dropbox are easily overlooked and getting forgotten, but if we have to take this approach as the one and only true path, a lot of thing will have to change.
    Let’s see…..

    • Zach Katkin

      Tragon, You’re correct I do still keep many files on a secured drive – and my article did fail to highlight a counter argument, namely the potential pitfalls of such an environment. Comcast (cable Internet where I am) was recently down for 3 weeks. In a completely Chrome OS world, I would be screwed. Perhaps your DDOS attack situation is even more important however (with Internet Connectivity becoming more and more available – at least a dozen businesses within a 1/4 mile offer some kind of free connection to attract customers). Yes attacks, like that on PSN are particularly discouraging – as more and more “apps” aggregate user data those sites and services will become larger and larger targets. I think a tightening of security measures will help prevent loss of user data, but complete service failure may never be avoidable.

  • moriarty

    the weak link is Google’s webs apps – OK for high school projects but not much else. Tried doing a graph in Spreadsheet ? – its just a joke. Do your CV in Document and watch it change format every time its opened – try printing it out – even the fonts change.
    Nice idea – bad implementation – maybe Office 365 is the good oil

    • Zach Katkin

      Moriarty thanks for stopping by and your insight on Google’s web apps. Although I’ll slightly agree that Google’s own apps are somewhat limiting (that doesn’t go for ALL of them) I do need to point out that every web app will be accessible. If it can be accessed on a browser, it’s perfect for Chrome OS. Chrome already has a robust app store for which there are a number of alternatives to software you may use daily (or even alternatives to Google’s own apps). For example Slide Rocket is an awesome presentation app that rivals powerpoint or Apple’s offerings.

  • Support for downloading files in Chrome OS is limited, but improving. Most people (in my experience) are less likely to run in to lost data if it’s on Dropbox, Google Docs, Sky Drive or the like.

  • Jonesin42

    All this is good and well until bandwith caps become a real factor. We are already seeing this in cell phones and tablets. Costly data plans that limit cloud computing, streaming video or music. Why should Internet providers supply unlimited bandwidth when they can’t make a profit off of anything else? Especially when companies like google offer all their products for free. I am a huge supporter of cloud computing I only hope that bandwidth caps don’t become the death of great applications like Dropbox and pandora or even netflix.

    and systems just need to open the market for internet providers.

  • I like the idea of Google chrome but is not quite there yet. It needs more time. If I only want to do to surfing is alright but since I am pc user. I need some more so is hard to get use to the idea of surfing only. I remember the days of Flash. I love that program and still trying to understand how html 5 got it. But things have to move on. Now adays with word press I think is easier to build great websites with no need of XHTML and CSS. I love the interenet and to learn more about me visit my site. http://dataentryinternetjobs.com/