Chrome OS beta's Achilles' heel: Its reliance on the Web

In its first public version, the forthcoming cloud-based alternative to Windows and Mac OS X is too limited by -- ironically -- the cloud

By , InfoWorld |  Software, Chrome OS, cloud storage

At first, it's disconcerting to do work entirely in a browser -- I kept wanting to go to the equivalent of the Mac OS X Dock or Windows Start menu to access my apps and Web page favorites. Instead, you open a new tab to get your "home screen" equivalent each and every time you want to get to your apps. You also need to open a new tab to get to the menu to see your bookmarks. It's more work to switch tasks in Chrome OS than in Windows or Mac OS X because there's no quick-access mechanism yet.

You'll find basic interface controls in the Chrome OS, such as for the default font size for Web pages. On any Web page you're viewing, you can zoom in the usual way, by pressing Ctrl-+. But forget about a customized user interface or the ability to add fonts, desktop backgrounds, and the like -- at least in this early version. It's a spare, generic experience. Aesthetically, Google's vision of cloud computing is not personal computing. (You can apply Chrome browser themes from the Web Store, but they're ugly.)

There is local storage on the Chromebook, but there's no equivalent of a file system, so don't expect drive icons or folders. If you try to download a file, it's placed in a floating window called Downloads that acts like a folder for Web apps; you can upload files from that "folder" into those apps when you click their Browse for File buttons. This upload/download via a scratch space also is time-consuming compared to the drag-and-drop and open-in-app functionality we're used to on desktops and smartphones.

If you want to print from a Chromebook, you have to use Google's forthcoming CloudPrint service, which will work with printers designed to use it and with printers connected to a Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux PC (using the PC as a waystation) -- similar in approach to Apple's disappointingly limited printing capability in iOS 4.2. Right now, CloudPrint works only via Windows PCs, after an amazingly confusing and complicated install process. I couldn't get it to work from a Windows XP virtual machine on my Mac, but InfoWorld Editor in Chief Eric Knorr did get it to work from his XP laptop. But we can't test what the direct printing is like yet.


Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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