How Chrome OS Changes Everything

Posted on 22. Nov, 2009 by in Mobile, Software

By: Hillel Fuld

There have been so many developments in the tech world lately, it was literally difficult for me to choose one to write about. However, at the end of the day, all the new mobile phones announced over the last month, or the new Twitter features released to the tweeting community, are not going to change the future of how we use our computers, Google’s announcements will.

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I am not referring to one announcement or another, I am talking about what seems to be an increasing Google dominance of our virtual lives, and how we use our computers. While the desktop and mobile worlds are becoming overly obsessed with software and how many apps are available for this platform or the other, Google is doing what they know best, and they are thinking out of the box. They are not occupying themselves with developing more apps for mobile or desktop, what they are doing is trying to figure out a way to create a world in which 3rd party apps are not needed.

They are moving to the cloud. Google is single handedly responsible for a shift in the way users access their information. While the other large corporations such as Microsoft and Apple are busy developing new operating systems and approving and denying apps to their app store, Google is buying and releasing services that are cloud-based and will enable us to do whatever we are doing now, without slowing down our computers with heavy and unnecessary software.

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What is amazing is that Google seems to have covered all their bases, and offers a solution to almost any software need you have. The problem is, and this is just my feeling that grows and intensifies with every Google acquisition/announcement, the more we use these Google products, the more information we trust in the hands of Google. Now I don’t know about you, and maybe I have seen one too many movies, but it seems Google is collecting a little too much information on my every move, and it is starting to make me uncomfortable.

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Let’s just take a quick look at what needs Google now fills in our lives. Of course, there is the obvious Web search. Google knows exactly what words you and the rest of the world are searching for. No biggy. What are your interests? Yup, they know that too with Google Reader. Who and what are you emailing? That’s easy, they have Gmail. What do you do with your time? Google Calendar. Remember, why use Outlook and store your information privately, when you can use Google Calendar and store it in the cloud, over which Google has full control?

Moving along, and the list is quite extensive, who are you chatting with? Gmail Chat (assuming you store your chats in Gmail). What movies are you watching? YouTube. Then there is of course the professional side of things with Google Docs. No more “need” to save your documents on your hard drive, why bother? Give them to Google to store.  Pictures? “Store it with us in Picasa”.

The list really does go on and on with services such as Blogger, Feedburner, Google Maps, Chrome, Analytics, and many more. However, two of Google’s big announcements this month are really the cause of this post. Google’s dramatic entrance into the world of consumer GPS turn by turn navigation, as well as the announcement of Chrome OS, changes everything.

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As if the information available to Google was not enough, they go ahead and enter a totally new industry, the turn by turn navigation for mobile phones, and now they take the expression “knowing your every move” to a whole new level, a literal one. As opposed to many other consumer GPS products, which do not even need to be connected to the internet since the maps are stored locally, Google’s GPS, is updated in “real time” using your phone’s data connection. It would be a totally different story if users would be the ones deciding what to share and what not to share, sort of like a social GPS.

However, what is happening here is that the information about your location is gathered in the cloud automatically, and the turn by turn instructions are then pushed to you from Google. Is it just me or is that kinda creepy? Now I know Google is not the first company to collect information about your location via satellites, in fact, that is what makes GPS technology so amazing. However, somehow when Google is watching you, it just seems different to me, and I don’t mean in a good way.

So, now Google knows where you are at every moment. OK, I know I am being overly dramatic, since this is only true if you are using an Android 2.0 device, but according to experts, it wont be long before Android devices begin to dominate the market. If last year, there were 3 or 4 Android devices from which to choose, we already have more than 20 including the very popular Droid device, as well as Google’s rumored phone, which we should be introduced to soon.

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Well, at least there are still companies who provide an alternative. I can always choose to use Outlook for email, Photoshop for pictures, and Microsoft Word for my documents, right? Well, yes and no. Those products are not going anywhere soon, but the new “cool” kid on the block is Google Chrome OS. No more “need” to store anything on your hard drive. Forget everything you know about the way we use our computers, use Chrome OS and you wont even need a hard drive. That is what we are being sold, and a lot of people are buying it. Now, do not get me wrong, the thought of a computer that starts up in 7 seconds is extremely appealing to me, and I would be lying if I said I did not intend to try it out and possibly use Chrome OS. However, I would also be lying if I said that did not worry me.

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Once again, maybe I have seen one too many movies, but you know the guys in the streets with the cardboard signs claiming the end is near? You know how they all talk about the corporations ruling and controlling our lives? Well, I do not want to seem crazy, but does not seem so far fetched anymore, does it? Google claims they collect this information for us, so they can provide better services for us based on our needs. To me it seems that what they are doing is less “crowd sourcing” and more acting like a “big brother“, not in the good sense of the word. I am not talking about a big brother who teaches you how to ride a bicycle, I am referring to the popular reality show in which every single move you make is recorded by hundreds of surrounding cameras ( and is borrowed from the George Orwell book, 1984, as a friend pointed out to me).

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In conclusion, let me say that, I like Google products, they generally work well. I will even go as far as to say that I do prefer most of them over their desktop based competition. However, we all need to do some serious thinking about where the Web and the software world is heading, and decide if we are comfortable with this new trend. Until last week, the words “cloud computing” was very much a thrown around buzz word. With the release of Chrome OS, it has become a reality, and quite a frightening one.

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For a full list of all the information Google knows about you, you can take a look at your Google Dashboard, yup, they are not even trying to hide it! So, is this new shift in the way we use our computers scary to you or I am just being paranoid? What do you think? Would love to hear your insights in the comments!

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36 Responses to “How Chrome OS Changes Everything”

  1. Yoel Israel

    22. Nov, 2009

    Scary, Google is like the private industry’s big brother. I have a friend in my MBA that swear against Microsoft for their dominance and monopoly, so they are supporting Google. But they end up supporting what they initially turn against.

    How far does legislation go in protecting us from companies who watch out every move like Google? Or are there none, because unlike government we voluntarily hand over our info?

  2. mayasagi

    22. Nov, 2009

    Hi Hilel,
    Great post (even though quite creepy).
    I remember sitting in an Internet marketing class in college where the lecturer showed us a movie about “Google taking over the world”. It was disturbing then and it is more disturbing now as some of the features predicted in that movie are becoming a reality.
    Call me paranoid but I am scard to use too many Google products…(although This can be very useful: http://alturl.com/pb36 )

  3. hilzfuld

    22. Nov, 2009

    Yoel and Maya, thanks so much for the comments, appreciate your feedback and glad to see you share my concerns…

  4. Wesley

    22. Nov, 2009

    I think the problem is well recognized…the question is, what do we do about it? Government regulation is an unlikely solution because we consumers are knowingly agreeing to exchange our privacy for cool new Google programs—the government doesn’t like to interfere with contracts (bad for business). And persuading consumers not to make that bargain seems far-fetched, especially since those Google products work so damn well!

    No, the data-gathering trend will continue, and it is inevitable that Google and other large companies will amass large amounts of information about their users that we’d prefer to keep private. Perhaps the most realistic step at this point is to educate consumers about the information being collected and try to get them at least to keep sensitive information out of the Cloud.

  5. Oren Todoros

    22. Nov, 2009

    I’m glad you took the time to prepare a post on what the Google OS really implies. I have to admit that besides seeing the Google OS Brand being mentioned through every social circle I didn’t make time to really understand too much about it.

    One of the questions it sparks up for me is, are mainstream users ready to run everything off the web? We’ve already become accustomed to web based email but many are still hesitant about using web based office type products. I create a Google Doc when I want to share info with people but I’m still not ready to give up on Word or Excel. Let’s not even get into web based video editing services which I have yet to find one that does what it’s supposed to.

  6. hilzfuld

    22. Nov, 2009

    Wesley and Oren, thanks for the comments, was a little worried that I would come off as nuts when writing this post. Now I see if I am nuts, I’m in good company :)

  7. Saady

    22. Nov, 2009

    great post Hillel..
    i agree with every thing u said…

    i guess the scariest part is that Google’s services became a “primary need” for every one out there just like breathing and eating… and with the new “GPS turn by turn”, they even know were are we looking for places to hide, so it’s litteraly, no place to run and no place to hide.

  8. hilzfuld

    22. Nov, 2009

    Indeed Saady, pretty freaky! Thanks for the comment :)

  9. rich97

    22. Nov, 2009

    It doesn’t really scare me, the main reasons being that:

    1) I have nothing to hide anyway.
    2) The information they collect is about “a person” not you.

    Google need this information, I remember seeing somewhere that Google make something like 95% of their money though advertising. The thing that worries me the most is not Google possesing this information, but governments forcing Google to hand them that information.

    I trust Google not to use this against me, however, I don’t trust the rest of the world…

  10. hilzfuld

    22. Nov, 2009

    Thanks Rich, I hear you, but am not so quick to trust Google. Why do you think they wont use it against you? It does not have to be something huge, but even ads and spam emails can get really annoying…

  11. Johan

    22. Nov, 2009

    I would say that most people expose themselves much more through things they write and/or upload to social networks, forums, blogs, etc, than they’ll ever do through Google.

    It’s interesting that people are increasingly paranoid about “big brother” (governments, corporations) when the biggest threat to your integrity comes from “little brother” (your schoolmate with a camera mobile and a youtube account).

  12. David Leonhardt

    22. Nov, 2009

    The healthcare debate is adistraction. People actually fear their freedom will be eroded by being given access to healthcare with government help. Might they be looking in the wrong place?

  13. victed

    22. Nov, 2009

    @HilzFuld Shalom! I was thinking of the song.. I got a feeling, someone is watching me.. that someone is Google! lol

    Enjoyed your article.. good job!

    Rgds
    @victed

  14. Sam Cohen

    22. Nov, 2009

    Yes Steve Balmer said in 1998 that Network Computers are Dead
    (Microsoft tried to kill them) Thin Client Model is best since the Internet has dominated computing. “The Network is the Computer” Larry Allison lost Money on this and SUN too but it is alive and Kicking, Nokia made a lot of Money with this Microsoft Free Technologies. So Google Chrome is here.

  15. León

    22. Nov, 2009

    I agree with not having all yourself eggs in one basket, understand what info you share. As of today, i have never been forced to send out to the Internet any info i have not explicitly decided. And i read a lot of blogs with Google ads on them, but (i think) i have never received a spam Mail from Google.

  16. Chris

    22. Nov, 2009

    The fact that alternatives exist is key…You don’t have to use Google’s products….ever!

    Now, if it was mandatory, or forced upon us, that would definitely be scary.

  17. rutherford

    22. Nov, 2009

    for those worried about conspiracies – here is the data google has on you:

    https://www.google.com/dashboard

  18. Benji

    23. Nov, 2009

    Hillel ~ Great post!!

    I am not the first to say it, but more and more people are going to move towards these products only because it makes life easier!

    WHAT IS IMPORTANT is to train the public what information they can post and what information they should keep to themselves. Unfortunately, many people like to post anything and everything they can, not realizing that some of the sensitive info can actually be used against them…

    All in all, sounds like a very cool product… and I can’t wait to try it… but I am no fool…. I will do my best to keep certain info to myself.

  19. Overloaded

    23. Nov, 2009

    your only hope is numbers (lots of other users potentially more interesting/dangerous than you), keeping a low profile and hoping you dont catch the attention of the humans in the “big brother complex” that take action based on what the AI’s feed them.

    if you can feed the AI’s misleading info (i remember that wired article on “if your TiVO thinks you are gay”) even better ;-)

    thanks for the enjoyable and conspiranoic entry!

  20. Martin

    25. Nov, 2009

    It’s sooo 20th century to be afraid of the “Big”. Be it big government, big boss or big brother. The danger of the 21st century is the autonomous acting single terrorist who got “inspired” and does not even belong to any structure.

    Our threat is the little brother next door, as somebody posted correctly. What’s needed in this century is again more of the “Big” — to protect us from the “Little”. It’s not bombs that threaten us but rather box cutters, noisy blog posts, crappy snap shots, random phone calls.

    My spam comes from a kid in China, not Google. Google and Apple protect me from spam and viruses better than any open source clique ever could. It’s the independent “free” open sourcers who pose the real problem with all their incompatibilities, bad taste and all too frequent updates.

    I want my life easy and I want guidance. Therefore I accept some loss of freedom and look to the 10 comandments. I take the other pill and enter the Matrix. So should I wear a head scarf to protect my privacy or wear sunglasses at night? It may be fashionable to discuss this style, like here, but in real life — no thank you, don’t need it.

    Hillel, your “fear” that you outline in your blog here is purely theoretical. People who seed fear are the ones I personally fear most. God bless you.

  21. Bapcha

    30. Nov, 2009

    My take is that the “cloud” is in fact a step BACKWARDS – to the world of centralized [distributed in the case of the "cloud"] computing. Replace every instance of “cloud” with “mainframe” in all of the promotional material that I’ve been seeing in the past few years, and what you get is a platform of computing that is as old as computing itself!!!

  22. Michael Hartzell

    30. Nov, 2009

    Perfect Points to Ponder.

    There is still a very big world out there on the other side of the fence though. Wonder if someday there will be fights between the virtual techie clickers and the dirt world stompers. Those who live in the “cloud” vs. those who work without the need for gadgets, devices and virtuality.

    So while there may seem to be someone watching most of the folks I know work hard creating / teaching / building and fixing. (yes, I can see my house on Google maps) The virtual world / phone / etc. are a minor part of their life.

    The worry I have is about which reality will the important decisions be made on? That which can be clicked and stored in a cloud and watched on a video? Or the stuff people do every day with tears, laughter, pain and sweat.

    Go clickers. Hooray for stompers. (I am rooting for both) :)

  23. K Mulvany

    01. Dec, 2009

    All that you say is true, but…

    First of all, it’s up to the individual to choose to use any of those Google services. So if anybody is all that concerned about privacy, all they have to do is opt out of using a Google service. The fact that the alternatives generally cost money while Google’s are free is really not something that we can blame Google for, is it? After all, they are undeniably bringing a new choice to the ecosystem.

    Secondly, while it’s probably true that every move we make while using a Google service is recorded somewhere, it’s not like there’s a sentient being – a real Big Brother — hiding back in the server farm looking at our every move. That would require way too much (expensive) storage and compute power. All Google can cost-effectively do is search for keywords or other ad-triggering info amongst the vast sea of otherwise irrelevant data that we spew out while using Google services. So Google is only going to keep the metadata that matters to them — and personally I feel reasonably secure with Google’s commercial objectives. My concern would be if government steps in to require that they be provided access to our Google data too. Then it’s a different ball game.

  24. martinluff

    15. Dec, 2009

    Of course if you want a bit more privacy then you can always choose to encrypt a lot of those communications that run on the Google cloud services. Wave, for example has encrypted communications at it’s core…

  25. chambres d'hotes

    28. Aug, 2010

    Thanks,

    This is a great article and a great website. I liked it very much. It will help me to optimise my websites in europe. I have website in travel and that meens a lot of seo work !!

    Thanks a lot and greetings,

    Dave and Carol
    Seo and Travel Website in Europe, France

  26. Itamar B.

    09. Dec, 2010

    Thanks for the great post Hillel. You are definitely not alone with your concerns… :)

    You are pointing out some interesting (/creepy) points, however, as I see it, it’s all good as long as you have an alternative… Not interested in exposing your private data? Don’t use cloud-based service.

    On the other hand and based on Google’s strategy (as I see it), soon enough we won’t have the option to choose, unless we will voluntarily decide to be left behind.

    My conclusion is that we should all find the balance, keep our private data close to our chests and always keep an open eye on what we do and where we go…

  27. Cristian L.

    16. Dec, 2010

    Great article. Thanks.

    At the moment there shouldn’t be too many causes for concern, but imagine a situation in which Google goes bankrupt and they have the ability to sell this database of information about everyone on the black market. There isn’t one company that lives forever.

    About the Chrome OS, other than the great UI, which can easily be reproduced on a Linux machine , and the fact that it is open source , I don’t see it as a big hit. As some people mentioned above, it must be Google’s strategy to enforce cloud computing. I don’t see that working either. I can see why they would want to extend to this kind of system : there can’t be any piracy so the revenue must be much higher.

    Is it possible for Google to store every single file from all it’s users (more than 1 billion i guess) . I don’t think they can afford that much space . That must be exobytes.

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