Chrome OS Subscriptions: (Possibly) A Step Forward
By Jason Kennedy
It’s probably no secret that I’m a complete fanboy of Google’s Chrome OS. I went from splitting my time between a desktop and laptop to almost exclusively using my CR48 all the time, as my other machines gather dust. I’ve blogged about my CR48 before (and intend to again), but this is about something different: what could possibly be the future of Chrome OS.
According to The Chrome Source, Google is thinking about releasing Google Chrome OS to the world through contracts, where users pay a monthly fee for subsidized hardware. That’s right, almost exactly what we have in place for our cell phones now. The story references “$10-$20 a month” as a subscription service, and would possibly include some internet (the CR48 comes with a 3G antenna and Verizon service), tech support from Google, updates, and hardware refreshes (!) when Google released them.
These are of course just rumors, but I will admit I was instantly blind with rage. I was on Twitter in seconds, and only the CR48’s lack of a caps lock kept me from screaming my dismay and anger to any and all who would hear. The idea of signing my soul into another 2 year contract made my blood boil. You could buy the hardware outright if you wanted to (much like unsubsidized phones), but the whole thing seemed like a money making ploy by Google to rope in customers, and make them pay for years to come.
Thankfully, some of the calmer, wiser members of my twitter stream responded to my vitriol, and it caused me to sit back and take a breath, and approach this whole thing from another angle: Software as a Service (SaaS)
Google is in a unique position. Chrome OS is Linux, true. But it’s a condensed, speedy little flavor, one that doesn’t require much for system resources and is mostly hidden from the user. The front end is just a browser: there’s no “My Computer” or “Home” analogue (though you can get there if you really want); it’s like having Google’s Chrome browser as the entirety of your computing experience.
The oddest part is that it really works. I’ll admit, it was awkward at first. The CR48 did little to make me settle my unease, with its initially quirky touchpad and odd hotkeys (and no caps lock? How was I going to win the internet?!). But if your day-to-day computing is handled primarily on the internet, you’ll find a wealth of sites that act just like the programs you’re used to, or access applications that run through a browser.
It took some acclimation, but now I feel awkward sitting down at the Windows machine I use at work — an odd transition. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m using an operating system that’s easy, intuitive, and just works, will being inexpensive. It’s complicated enough if you want to drill down into the Developers section, but you don’t need to. It’s got something for everyone.
Back to the Software as Service angle: part of the The Chrome Source’s story references Google Music, too. So, what if this 10-20 bucks a month included Music plus maintenance, pay-as-you-go internet, a new laptop to cover hardware refreshes, tight integration with Google’s services, and any maintenance? I’ll tell you what: it’ll sell like hotcakes. For good reason, too: It’s an amazing pitch and everyone wins.
I imagine a world where I pay 20 bucks a month, and never have to worry about my computer being obsolete as soon as I walk out of the store, because I know I’m getting the next iteration of the hardware as soon as it comes out. I imagine Google fights wireless providers and wins me competitive rates for 3G service on the laptop in my area, so that I can finally put an end to my reliance on home-based internet. I imagine a world where I can hit a web-based store for applications, and not worry about whether it’s in stock or if it’ll work with my chosen OS.
Obviously, this won’t be everyone’s solution. Your mileage may vary, but I am happy with a cloud-based life online, and I’ve owned powerhouse gaming rigs, dumb terminals, and everything in between. It’s just what I’m ready for. Can Google provide this? After failing so miserably with the lofty ideas behind the Nexus One, I have concerns, but I for one am ready to hail our new, internet-based overlords.
Obviously, Jason’s continually busy over-reacting to things and, having a few moments to reflect after face-pounding his keyboard, coming back with something relatively well thought out and rational. If you remain quiet and stay behind the yellow line, you can probably watch the entire process via his twitter.