Questions Google Will Have to Address

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-11-23

10 Things Missing from Google Chrome OS

After a relatively long wait, Google has finally shown off what it plans to achieve with Chrome OS. The operating system, which is designed specifically for netbooks, is already being heralded as one of Google's finest achievements. And although it won't be available for about a year, it's still making some folks look forward to what the future might hold.

But not everything in Chrome OS should be celebrated. Google's operating system is missing several key features. It's also unlikely to adequately satisfy all desires. Worst of all, there's no telling whether it will provide an experience that consumers, developers or the corporate world will be happy with. At this point, the operating system's value is very much an unknown quantity.

Realizing that, let's take a look at 10 things that, so far, Google's Chrome OS is missing.

1. Sorry, enterprise, this isn't for you

When Google previewed Chrome OS Nov. 19, any company waiting to see if the search giant's operating system would be able to address corporate needs was left without much hope. Chrome OS is designed specifically for the consumer. It's not the corporate device that so many users had hoped for. In fact, a recent report from an IDC analyst suggests that Chrome OS is still 10 years away from widespread enterprise adoption.

2. Local storage, anyone?

Chrome OS is designed to store any and all content in the cloud. Those looking forward to a future dominated by cloud storage may be happy to hear that. However, those who want to have ready access to content locally might not. Cloud storage is certainly compelling, but for many, it's a backup solution, not a primary storage function.

3. What about more capable computers?

For now, Chrome OS is designed for netbooks. Any user looking to run the operating system on a notebook or a desktop won't be able to do it. Google didn't make any promises about Chrome OS coming to more capable computers in the future, so it's tough to say if the company has that on its road map. If it doesn't, that could severely limit Chrome OS' appeal.

4. Several powerful apps

Chrome OS is stocked with several Web applications that might appeal to many users, like Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and Pandora. But the software lacks several key applications, such as Photoshop, Office and other prominent programs that, so far, just aren't capable of running online in full form. That's not to say that stripped-down versions of those applications won't find their way into Chrome OS, but for now, many of the apps that work with the OS are admittedly lightweight.

Questions Google Will Have to Address

5. Offline efficiency

Since Chrome OS is an online operating system, users can't simply close the window and use offline applications as they would with Windows. That could be a real problem for users who are accustomed to being able to use Web applications and desktop software simultaneously. Google will need to address that before the OS is released.

6. User comprehension

There's little debating that what Google is trying to accomplish with Chrome OS is groundbreaking. But that doesn't necessarily mean that users will get it. Since cloud computing began in earnest, users have been handling desktop software that gives them access to the Internet. They have not necessarily used Web software that provides all their computing needs online. Granted, any new technology has a "breaking in" period, but given the success Microsoft and Windows 7 continue to enjoy, it could be a hard sell.

7. Downloading? No.

Unfortunately, Chrome OS can't be added to just any computer. Instead, Google has signed partnerships with several companies that will sell Chrome OS-based computers. For now, that is the only way users will be able to use the new operating system. That could spell trouble for Google. Users may not want to invest in a new computer just to run the OS. But if they could download it onto their existing machines to give it a spin, they just might use the software.

8. A clear-cut security policy

Google said in its press conference last week that it has built Chrome OS from the ground up to safeguard users and, reduce, if not eradicate, malware. OK, great. But how, exactly, will Google achieve that? And if and when security issues do arise, how does Google plan to work with the security community to address it? Open source and sandboxing are good starting points, but a clearly outlined security policy that details Google's response to eventual security problems is a must.

9. No other browsers

Anyone hoping to use Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera or Firefox on Chrome OS might as well forget about it. According to Google, Chrome OS won't support any outside browsers. It's sad, considering that every other operating system on the market allows users to pick a browser, but for now, Chrome OS won't.

10. Offline access

During a question and answer session at the preview, Google was asked how Chrome OS would work when users aren't in Wi-Fi range. The company's representatives were relatively tight-lipped. They made it clear that Chrome OS is designed with Web users in mind. But when users can't access an Internet connection, it seems likely that a Chrome OS-based netbook will be relatively useless. It's an issue that Google will have to address if the operating system stands any chance of gaining wide acceptance.

Rocket Fuel