It's when you move too far beyond mere Web-browsing, in fact, that the limitations of a cloud-based Chrome OS computer stand in starker relief. Want to download MP3s and then transfer them to your phone or iPod? No dice. You can, however, purchase a Rhapsody subscription for $10 a month and stream music on your computer or iPod touch, but that's an unsatisfying solution if (like me) you have a penchant for obscure Kansas punk-bluegrass bands that haven't made it onto that service's radar.
Name your multimedia, and similar problems appear: Want to store your photos? You'll have to upload them to Flickr, Picnik, or Picasa—and upload them from some other device: the machine wouldn't pull photos from my iPhone when I connected it via USB. (The port is there mainly for attaching peripherals like a keyboard, mouse, headset, microphone, and so on.) While there is an SD card slot, I had no luck getting it to access my camera's memory card either.
It's the same story for video: You have to upload your footage from some other device, although YouTube does have a rudimentary online-based editing service. Recording and editing podcasts? There's no obvious solution for the Chrome OS.
If you want to make stuff, in other words, the cloud isn't quite ready for you—and that means Chrome OS isn't quite ready for you, either. Will it be when (and if) Chrome OS netbooks actually hit the market next year? That's tougher to say.
Not everybody wants to make stuff, however. At this stage, the CR-48 isn't even quite as functional as the iPad, which was early on derided as a machine for consumption, not creation. (A trope now disproved by the many and varied wondrous things people have harnessed it for.) True, Chrome OS's reliance on a physical keyboard makes it better for writing, messaging, and e-mailing, but iPad offers a better gaming and movie-watching experience—and the tactility of its multitouch navigation engages in an entirely novel way, to boot. Chrome's meager advantages aren't enough to qualify it as a full-blown OS—it's basically, and somewhat unapologetically, a computer wrapped around a Web browser—nor to justify its somewhat puzzling existence alongside Google's Android OS for mobile devices.