Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Take Your Hands Off My Hard Drive You Damn Filthy Ape!

If this is the future of computing, then I want out now.

Not something that I would typically say is it? I've had just about enough of the run to the cloud. The latest shove out the door is the announcement of Google Chrome OS. The name says it all. The entire OS will act like – basically be – a browser. No local applications. No local storage. While I'm confident that they will figure out how to cache data when you are disconnected (they do it now with Google Gears) it will still be completely dependent on the on-line applications and storage.

Am I the only one who gets what's wrong with this. Let's start with complete dependence on a service provider. We finally can choose broadband services from the cable people or the phone people or the cell phone people. Yet now we are supposed to become drones to Google. What happens if I don't like Google applications or have a problem with them holding on to my data? It's not like moving the data will be easy, if even possible.

And how comfortable are you with Google having sensitive data like a trade secret or the name of your doctor. That's what we are talking about here. Handing your personal or critical data to another company. Are we all confident that they are up to the task.

Can we talk availability? How many times in the last year has Gmail been out for some reason? Too many for anyone that isn't a casual user. So this probably isn't about the corporate folks but more on that later.

Do you mind tossing out all of your applications? That's what Chrome OS is all about. With Chrome OS, Google may well be able to control who you can get applications from. Like Google or their partners. So many people whine about how Microsoft dominates their lives. Okay. There are alternatives that don't require that you hand over your precious data to some company. Free ones at that. The proper reaction is not to hand over the keys to the kingdom to Google. Microsoft may own the application space but they don't own your data.

What worries me most is their approach to rolling out the software. So far, they are only releasing source code that is optimized for solid state devices. That reveals their strategy. Make this an OS that predominantly comes with consumer products. That way the great masses don't realize what they are buying into. Ooh. Look grandma! Cheap netbook/phone/blender doo hickeys. Sorry, but the “no local, persistent storage” aspect of this gives me the willies. Google wants our data and I'm not sure for what purpose.

So, call me a Luddite but I don't like what I see so far. Blindly handing over your data in exchange for a cheap device seems like a bad trade off for me. I'm not against cloud applications – in a controlled corporate data center. I am against people unwittingly handing over data to a faceless corporation with no guarantees. It's the dependency I despise.

The other night I envisioned a new Mac commercial in 2011. The first character is the slacker Mac guy (who never appears to have a job – just saying). The second is the boring PC guy who at least looks dependable. Finally, the Google Chrome guy who is a shadowy figure, dark, mysterious, and somewhat unsettling. As soon as the Mac guy starts to say something about the Chrome guy, the shadow reaches out and engulfs him. The last sound from slacker Mac is his muffled scream. The PC guy cries and wets himself.

And in the distance there is disembodied laughter. An eerie voice intones “Don't be evil” followed by maniacal cackling. Dissolve to black.

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