Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ten reasons why Mike Elgan's "10 Reasons" are wrong

Mike Elgan of Datamation posted "10 Reasons Why Chrome OS Is No 'Windows Killer'". Although I tend to agree that Chrome OS is not going to put Windows out of business, Mike's reasoning is highly suspect.

Reason #1, "People Don't Prefer Online Apps". This is incredibly naive given that Mike's focus is on MS Office vs. Google Docs. It is true that people are not flocking to Google Docs, but this is not an "online vs. desktop" question, it's really a testament to the power of the MS monopoly. People are also not flocking to OpenOffice or other desktop apps that provide an alternative to MS Office either, and that is because MS makes it extremely difficult to create bi-directional sharing of documents with other apps (note the on-going file format wars of OOXML vs. ODF). If it were not for the lock-in of the file format, online versions of office productivity would be the norm, not the exception, due to the superiority of having ubiquitous access to your files (no more synching work-to-home or desktop-to-laptop) and the improved ability to collaborate. This also misses the point that Chrome OS is likely to be a hybrid, allowing desktop performance and features and online capabilities and benefits simultaneously. If you want to see people "flocking" to online apps, look no further than Facebook.

Reason #2, "People Don't Prefer Google Chrome". Again, Mike is missing the point. Browsers are becoming ubiquitous in terms of their ability to faithfully render almost all of the web content out there. IE continues to be dominant on Windows, but alternatives exist not just on desktops, but on video games consoles (Opera in Nintendo Wii and Firefox in PS3), phones (Opera, Safari, FourthPass and numerous others) and even television sets and other appliances. The Chrome browser does not need a significant market share on the desktop to be successful, it just needs to be able to render web content faithfully.

Reason #3, "'Network Computers' Tend to Fail". Mike offers as his only evidence to this statement that although several attempts have been made to market computers that get their apps from the network, "none has made even a dent in the concept of a personal computer running local apps". Although his support for this statement is weak, for the most part I agree that 'Network Computers' have not displaced the PC, especially for home users. It's just that this has little to do with the the superiority of the PC/local app model and much to do with the lack of ubiquitous, reliable networks. At least in the US, cellular networks are slow and coverage is spotty, Wi-Fi "hot spots" are often few and far between and we are only just getting to the point where airline passengers have access to the Internet while in the air. These limitation are death for devices that require the network to function. Think of it this way - if the network were as ubiquitous and reliable to access as is the disk drive on a traditional PC or laptop, why would anyone want to store anything on a device that could experience a fatal disk crash or be lost or stolen?

more to come...