Chromebooks take away user freedom and control. Yet Google is pitching the concept as an attraction to consumers.
Corporations may initially like Google's cloud model because it fences users in and makes it impossible for users to break things. Schools might like Chromebooks because they will make it difficult for students to do things they're not supposed to do, such as download malicious code. But few consumers would choose limitations over freedom.
If consumers actually wanted browser-only computing, they would simply do browser-only computing. Nothing stops anyone from buying a $350 15-inch laptop at Walmart, downloading the Chrome browser and then doing all of their computing tasks inside Chrome.
Nobody does that because it's unappealing. People like to install applications, and they will do so if they can.
People who want to replace their "flawed" Windows PCs have an alternative that's superior to Chromebooks: namely, the app model invented by Apple for the iOS, and used by Google Android, HP's TouchPad and RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook. App-based touch tablets solve the "torture" problem Brin highlighted, without the problems inherent in cloud-only computing.
And I'll just come right out and say it: Chromebooks are ugly. The hardware is ugly, and the Web is ugly, for the most part.
Thanks to the iPad, consumers have come to expect devices that are aesthetically beautiful, graphically appealing and fun. The Chromebook promises only drab utilitarianism. App-based touch tablets will be more popular for consumers than Chromebooks for the same reason that American Idol is more popular than C-SPAN.
Why Chromebooks aren't best for business
Yes, Windows PCs "torture" users. But so does the cloud.
Browsers aren't perfectly secure and reliable, and neither are Internet connections or websites.