Is There A ChromeBook in Your Future?

by Ben Bajarin   |   June 17th, 2011

The answer is probably not. However, if I were to ask you whether or not a browser based computer was in your future, the answer would be most likely.

I say this with confidence because it seems nearly inevitable that the client server paradigm of browser based computing will become a reality, at least to some degree. Therefore, whether the device looks like a notebook or desktop PC as we know it today, or comes in the shape of a tablet, hybrid, smartphone, smart screen, or something else, its going to be cloud connected and cloud dependent.

The degree said device depends on the cloud to function may vary by type of device, type of consumer, type of use case and more. Yet its clear the cloud will play a much more central role in the minute to minute functioning of personal electronics in the future.

Still, there are two things standing in the way of a fully functioning cloud computing reality, which are networks and software.

The Network Challenge

Even as 4G gets off the ground it’s still clear, we are no where near where we need to be for a pure cloud computing to truly hit the mainstream. Which means hardware will have to make certain trade-offs as manufacturers integrate more cloud computing capabilities. Offline caching being one of the primary trade-offs.

If we agree that 4G will be the first broadband technology to usher in cloud computing, then we still have a few years to wait. If you look back at the 3G adoption cycles it took just over 3.5 years for 3G to hit a critical mass of nationwide availability and device support.

Assuming 4G follows a similar path, as is likely, we are still a few years off from having total nationwide availability and device critical mass.

Software

If you don’t have software, you don’t have hardware. Without software all our devices are basically paperweights. However, what becomes interesting in this cloud computing paradigm is where the software originates. Today much of it originates natively, stored on our hardware. Our operating systems are “installed” and our applications are “installed.”

In a cloud computing paradigm where software sits in the cloud you will not install software you will access it through the Internet. It will already be there ready for you to use. The browser will be the mechanism that gives you access to the software of your choosing.

Accessing Internet based software solves quite a bit of software development issues. Developers won’t have to pick and choose which platforms they write software for because the Internet becomes the universal software development platform.

Therefore web standards like HTML and JavaScript become the software language of the future.

In this reality there is no such thing as apps that are available on one device or one platform that are not available on another.

In this reality every device that can connect to the Internet and has a CPU strong enough to process web standards, has access to the depth and breadth of Internet software.

Thus, again placing the importance back on the browser to be current and innovative. This leaves not only Google, but Apple, Microsoft and even Mozilla in strong positions if browser based computing becomes mainstream.

For software developers this is as exciting as it is important. For consumers and their hardware this is an equally exciting reality, we simply don’t know it yet.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • http://twitter.com/w_jackson w_jackson

    Debatable – only because for the foreseeable future the most restricted “commodity” in the entire game is going to be bandwidth between my “user interface” and the data (application and user data). When those are local, the state of the technology gives me a very fast pipe (Ghz busses, Gbit networks, Gbit data transfer, etc). When those are at the end of a pipe, the speed is nowhere near ready.

    This will happen slowly and on an application by application basis. Can I run a spreadsheet over the air? Sure, would I want to do photoshop or video editing with the source data at the end of the pipe? not yet.

    • Anonymous

      True about bandwidth. I do however see some interesting potential with OnLive the online gaming as a service company. What intrigues me is that their model could extent to something like photoshop. At which point Photoshop as a service becomes a viable possibility.

      Folks could then pay for tiers of service for something like Photoshop rather then pay the huge amounts of up front cash for something regular consumers rarely use.

      The point is what OnLive has done with gaming could easily extent to other software.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    I see your point, Ben. It’s not entirely new, of course, as companies have been trying to commercialize SAAS (Software as a Service) for a long time. Technology is only part of the hurdle here. One reason SAAS is attractive, of course, is that upgrades/updates can be more seamless and consistent.

    But the same reason companies love SAAS (well, the supplying companies anyhow) is the same reason the rest of us should approach it with caution, and that is that once you depend on the cloud for your software, you’ll likely have to subscribe to it. Software makers like the consistent revenue stream this produces; consumers ought to be wary of the consistent wallet-drain that goes with it.

    I don’t think consumers are entirely ready to move from a purchase model to a rent model for all their applications. At least I’m not…