Last week, in a fit of split personality, I simultaneously attended two events side-by-side in San Francisco. Netsuite’s customer and partner conference SuiteWorld was very much a suit and collar event, while just next door, but with a very different vibe, Google IO was full of the stereotypical tee shirt clad developer. Despite being very over dressed for IO, I took the opportunity to attend sessions as, and when, I could.

For me the truly exciting news to come out of IO was the announcement of the Google ChromeBook – for anyone who hasn’t heard the ChromeBook is essentially a “dumb terminal” that connects to the internet and, through Google’s own, as well as other vendor’s applications, opens up an entire world of functionality. The video below explains what the ChromeBook is about better than I can.


The ChromeBook is going to leverage a few things that, according to Google insiders, will be converging this (Northern) summer – namely Google’s Chrome operating system, the full versions of Google apps, the plethora of applications on the Google Marketplace and full offline functionality for all of those apps. It answers, in one fell swoop, most of the issues naysayers about SaaS raise – offline access, breadth of functionality and speed.

The ChromeBook is especially exciting for me because it answers a call I raised years ago – that of the almost total lack of neccessity for an operating system – by abstracting applications, storage and peripherals away from the machine and into the cloud, Google has realized that vision. As I said back in 2007, my concept saw me;

…open the screen and there ain’t no humongous OS to launch so my browser fires up in roughly the time it takes me to adjust my chair for best ergonomics. I scan my retina through the built in webcam and this, via my OpenID (that ones for you Marek!) account I am ready for business, and ready to access whatever service I need. All my apps are (of course) in the ether so there are no issues there.

System tools? Don’t need them, my small solid state hard drive contains the bare essentials, the rest is in the clouds somewhere. Drivers?

Backwards engineering – there’s only a handful of OS’s but hundreds and hundreds of peripheral devices. Solution: backhack. All peripherals are loaded with the few drivers they need to work with the different browsers. The browser puts out its standard message that the peripheral then recognises from its small list of potentials. (This is kind of an exciting concept that I might follow up later).

No big mechanical harddrive and no processor robbing OS gives great battery life. No OS solves lots of buggy crash issues and the entire solution is to hardware what SaaS is to applications. A Designed (capitalisation intentional) solution that, from a user-centric perspective, seeks to do one thing only, solve a users clearly defined aims.

The ChromeBook totally takes us to the reality of that vision and I, for one, am looking forward to getting my trial unit next month. As I stated to the National Business Review in New Zealand;

I was at another event next door to the Moscone center when the ChromeBook was announced and I sensed that we really were witnessing something revolutionary. I posted almost four years ago talking of a day when we didn’t need to worry about operating systems, printer drivers and the like and could simply focus on doing what we wanted to do. The ChromeBook is very much a step in that direction. I’m looking forward to taking mine for a spin to witness, first hand, this brave new world

I find it hard to not resort to hyperbole when talking about this convergence of many things. The ChromeBook model sees businesses “rent” a machineoff Google and in doing so gain ongoing support and upgrades. True there are some questions about how Google will actually deliver that support, true there are some ongoing questions about depth of functionality in the Google apps, true there are some issues for those people who still need to use legacy installed apps but have no doubt – the ChromeBook is absolutely the future, and one that I am excited to see appear.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • “a day when we didn’t need to worry about operating systems, printer drivers and the like” – get a Mac already.

    • Boot up time on a chrome book outshines even those tools you fanbois use….

      How many desktop apps do you have on your machine Gary? 😉

      • My SSD 11″ boots from cold in sub 10 secs, but ready from standby is a more practical / reality based measure, Eg instant.

        Chrome browser and Excel is what I use mostly.

        • Nice performance. So your MacOS is pretty much a shell to wrap around the browser (and excel). Makes you wonder why you don’t just roll the minimal parts of the OS you actually need into the browser itself… oh yeah, that’s the ChromeOS concept…

          (Disclosure – I haven’t got mind yet so this is all very conceptual)

  • Plus the Mac has got the legs to do more if / when needed, media, music etc.

    Bit like the diff between a Nissan Micra and a Ferrari – both can take you to the supermarket.

  • Mark Conway |

    I had the same response to the ChromeBook announcement. It’s going to get adoption because of the fact that it’s going to make life so much easier for those supporting IT infrastructure. I used to run IT for a school district and this will be huge in schools. Schools don’t typically have much in the way of IT help. I was an anomaly since I had private sector large enterprise IT background but most schools don’t have access to people with backgrounds in IT infrastructure management. They are chronically underresourced and anything that can address that will be hugely impactful.
    Ben, sorry I missed you at Google I/O but I could tell from your tweets that your were doing a big multitask. I look forward to meeting you, maybe in NZ once I get there.

  • Technology moves fast indeed… 18 years after Sun released the JavaStation google follows suit…

    Will the google brand carry this one to success where the Sun brand failed??

  • Two great tidbits in the post: Offline capability and the effect on battery life. Cool to be able to say that you were there when it happened! (and thanks for reminding me that they declined to let me be in the beta pool).

  • hellonearthis |

    Yes, the offline functionality looks great.

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