December 13, 2010, 9:01 AM — Computers and their software today are too complicated, and users are increasingly looking at iPads and cloud-based services such as Google Docs to handle the basics that most of us stick to: document editing, photo management, emailing, Web browsing, and the like. Running Office on a PC or Mac is beyond overkill for most people. Google proposes we do away with the PC altogether, at least part of the time, and replace it with Google's cloud-based laptop -- an appliance in which the Chrome browser serves as operating system. With the Chrome OS, all actions occur in the browser and the cloud.
Google announced Chrome OS in July 2009, formally introduced it 13 months ago, and then went silent. Last week, it re-introduced Chrome OS and this time gave an ETA for the real thing: mid-2011. It also distributed prototype "Chromebook" laptops to people like me for ongoing testing of what Google CEO Eric Schmidt said would be an alternative to both Windows and Mac OS X. I've now had some quality time with that laptop, its Chrome OS, and the early apps available for the platform.