Google has gained a reputation lately of simply canceling projects that aren't working out. The company has killed off Wave, Lively, Answers, Dodgeball, Video and other high-visibility projects. People start getting excited about a platform, then one day Google makes an announcement, pulls the plug and that's it.
Even more relevant is the cancellation of Google's Nexus One phone. Google came up with a new way to sell phones and rolled it out in January, 2010. The Nexus One was available only online, and unlocked. Google assumed that users would be happy to provide tech support to each other, and so the company didn't set up any way to support users. They assumed wrong. The phone was taken off the market in July.
The question on the minds of businesses considering the Chromebook is this: Will Google end support?
Businesses are used to buying equipment from companies like Hewlett-Packard, IBM and others that tend to support their products even if they're not runaway successes. And they provide migration plans if they do end product lines.
If a company is going to buy 300 Chromebooks and reorganize its IT department accordingly, it's going to need assurances that the platform will be supported for at least a decade. I haven't heard Google give that assurance.
The Chromebook's cloudy future
Google says one advantage of Chromebooks is that they don't have applications that need to be patched and updated. But that isn't true. Web-based apps get updated. The difference is that those updates happen without the knowledge, consent or control of either the user or the IT administrator.
This reminds me of the myth that cloud computing doesn't involve servers or hard drives. Of course it does.
The Chromebook proposition is not the absence of software, patches, servers and hard drives. It's the removal of these things from your control.
Who wants that?
The Chromebook idea sounds cool in theory. But in practice, a cloud-based laptop isn't best for consumers, and it's not best for business. The Chromebook will fail.