Google Says Chrome OS, Cloud Aren't Careless Computing

Google defends Chrome OS and the cloud from Richard Stallman, who characterized the effort as designed to push people into "careless computing." Analysts weigh in.

When it comes to cloud computing and the idea that Google's new Chrome Operating System can be a reliable portal for that movement, people either like the idea or hate it.

Chrome OS is Google's operating system to the cloud, running Web applications in the Chrome Web browser. Google stores these Web apps on its servers and provisions them. Users access applications and data generated in Google's cloud through Chrome running on a notebook, tablet or smartphone.

Chrome OS is currently being tested by thousands of people on Google's special Cr-48 notebook, which lacks local storage capabilities. Users are encouraged to give Google feedback as the company prepares the platform for a prime time launch on machines from Samsung and Acer in mid-2011.

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the GNU open source operating system, blasted Chrome OS and the cloud at large.

Stallman told The Guardian Chrome OS looks like a plan "to push people into careless computing" by forcing them to store their data in the cloud rather than locally on machines, where they can control the data.

He added that "extensive use of cloud computing was "worse than stupidity" because it meant a loss of control of data."

"In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company's machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company's server, the police can get it without showing you anything. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant."

For its part, Google realizes going to the cloud means placing a tremendous amount of trust in the companies that hew to the cloud model. Rajen Sheth, group product manager for Google Enterprise, said Google isn't taking that lightly and disagrees that Chrome OS and the cloud are careless computing.

"We fully believe in the concept of cloud computing," Sheth said. "I think the number businesses [Google has more than 3 million businesses using Google Apps] that have adopted cloud computing is evidence of the security, reliability, and the return on investment for moving to the cloud."

Chrome OS for example has several new measures of security to safeguard user data, which is encrypted by default. There is also a verified boot process and sandboxing technology with which to expose plug-ins.