Chrome is often used to distract prospective customers from the underlying product

I've read with interest the storm that's brewing regarding Google Chrome. Does Chrome signify the death of the client? Can you really "live in a fancy browser" and be totally agnostic of the underlying operating system? At what point does the operating system become a commodity? These are all interesting questions.

It's a common trick of car manufacturers to use Chrome to make a vehicle look more valuable than it really is. Clearly there are many people who like the "bling" look. Given the choice I prefer elegant innovative design over "fluff and sparkle" - that's not to say that Google's Chrome appears to be without promise for those who seek an alternative to Microsoft - rather that it's early days and I think it's way too early to consider the underlying operating system to be obsolete.

We are approaching a point of inflection whereby it will become the norm for transactional computing to take place in "the cloud" as mobile internet connectivity becomes ever more pervasive in exactly the same way as the mass population adopted the web (in affluent areas of the World) for browsingg when they gained inexpensive access to wired Internet. It's going to take time for high speed low cost mobile internet reach to be sufficient for everyday people to consider doing away with offline access. As we transition between the Worlds of offline/online access to "always on" there will absolutely be a need for platforms like Windows Vista, OSX 10 and modern Linux alternatives.

Technologies like Microsoft Silverlight, Adobe Air and Google's offerings are transforming the presentation of online content to become close to that which until recently has only been possible via "thick" client software. Microsoft have some very exciting announcements coming up at this year's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) which will underline that we really do get the online play.

Even if we had mobile "always on" access to the Internet there are critical aspects of computing that are very difficult to handly purely online - information security and privacy technologies comprisings both hardware and software innovations are not trivial to implement in isolation.

What happens if the cloud based computing resource you rely upon has a major outage? What happens if said resource suffers data corruption or loss?

What happens if you travel to somewhere where you don't have the same level of access or where such access is significantly more expensive?

The one constant in the field of technology is of course that change is rapid. We'll see some interesting solutions AND some new problems as the computing platform evolves.

Comments (9)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Neil> Absolutely. I carry a 3G USB modem which works pretty well in the UK though it’s certainly NOT "always on" with decent bandwidth – and that’s in the UK which is better served with 3G than many places. I certainly can’t rely upon WiFi outside major cities.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mike> I always enjoy reading your comments as you go straight to the point.

    I like being able to access my data from whichever device I choose – I understand that you use technology in quite a different way to me given your comment. Going for purely offsite (cloud) or onsite (traditional) storage comes with trad-offs that some people won’t like – giving choice often makes more sense – though some people would rather not be bothered with deciding for themselves and just want it to work!

    We went to Egypt for a couple of weeks of Windsurfing, Diving and horse riding – it was wonderful – the average daytime temperature in the shade was 35 degrees C 🙂

    Where do you tend to go on holiday?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Neil> Agreed. Funnily enough I had a full bandwidth 3G connection in the Lake District! I can’t get a digital TV signal here in Berkshire!

  4. David Oliver says:

    Hi Steve,

    It is important to minimise the effect of dependencies that have an unreliable or indeterminable service level with mission critical applications.

    Take for example postcode/address validation, this in many cases  would be the first service that an IT Pro would think of as a safe bet to access via the Internet from a mail address provider such as the Royal Mail for example.

    Now would you be happy if 999/911 services depended on this postcode/address service via the Internet to pin-point and validate an emergency requests location? No ofcourse you wouldn’t be happy unless you had some pretty heavy service guarantees and we haven’t even touched on security yet.

    As for Google and Chrome, well I don’t give a monkeys. I think it’s just pure vanity on their part, I think it has little to do with competitiveness, skills to make a better browser or completing the portfolio. I don’t think we need another browser and I’m in a position that I can recommend the web guys to ignore supporting until it reaches 11% market share

  5. Neil says:

    I think we’re still a long way from the “always on” dream. Even if you live in one of the big population hotspots.  

    Transiently connected computing is *the* model everyone should be working towards — thick client or thin. The key to this is the ability to persist session state and data locally and to seamlessly sync with the cloud. Browsers with a local data store will help significantly in making this transition between offline and online computing as easy and transparent as possible.

  6. Neil says:

    Even 3G coverage isn’t that great. For example, I can’t get a 3G signal, or EDGE for that matter. Also, my signal strength never goes above 3 bars unless I head to one of the nearby towns.

    Until internet services are wireless and with much the same coverage as the terrestrial* TV signal, the always-on concept will only ever be a dream. Until then, the industry should a take a leaf from the Exchange/Outlook storybook. The seamless way in which Outlook (and Entourage) handles transient connectivity is superb.

    * I can’t even get digital TV here

  7. Tobie Fysh says:

    Steve – check out Chrome, already seen one feature I hate. Saved passwords can be un-masked so anyone who sits at your PC while your back is turned can have access to any saved area, you guys would be crucified if you had this in IE!

  8. nik says:

    You also need to look at the threat environment. “Always on” via Wifi and GSM can become “Where did it go?” with about £50 worth of jamming kit from China.

    Of course it’s illegal to do that, but then again that isn’t an obstacle to many attackers.

    My main concern is the lack of graceful degradation with many such systems. At the moment if the Internet goes off at work I think “that’s a pain”, but carry on with most of my work. Far more sensible IMHO…

  9. Mike Stoddart says:

    Call me crazy but there has to be a point at which we say “STOP!”. I don’t want another company hosting my personal data. I use GMail because the interface is, well ugly. Ok, I use it because it doesn’t throws ads in my face and it’s quick and dirty. But I don’t like the concept of always being on. I only recently hooked my PS3 to the internet; though the expectation is there nowadays that we’re all connected 24/7. I don’t want to be!

    I have a crappy, simple cell phone. I rarely turn it on and I only use it for emergencies. I don’t want to browse or send mail with my cellphone. I don’t want to live in a browser – browsers are annoying, they take up a lot of memory, they’re often unstable, the root of many insecurities and they run like crap when you visit content heavy sites.

    Oh yes, I hate content heavy sites. That was something that was bugging me recently. Visiting content heavy sites is like running Vista on a 8086. Why??

    What else? Ah yes – wtf is a cloud anyway? I must be losing my geekiness or else I’m tired of marketing speak, but cloud? A cloud is moisture, no? It disappears, it vanishes, it’s not solid, you can’t walk on it, land on it or rely on it. So why call it cloud computing? Cloud cuckoo land methinks. Isn’t cloud computing and the web 3.0 (sorry did I blink and miss 2.0?) just another fancy name for thin clients? What’s old is new and what’s new is the same old thing with a new fancy name to make investors think it’s s**t hot and worth billions?

    P.S. Have a great holiday – where are you anyway? Somewhere nice and hot and relaxing?

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