Google PCs Coming Soon?
Paul Boutin believes that access-anywhere networked PCs, with most of the cool features of YouOS but backed by the multi-billion dollar Google bankroll, will be with us soon. As the article’s tagline suggests, “It’s coming. It’ll be great. You’ll hate it.”
Instead of trying to convince every consumer on the planet to buy a new machine, it makes a lot more sense for Google to build a super-service that you could log into from any computer, phone, or television, or car and airplane seatback. You would be able to access your files anywhere by logging in, calling up your desktop, and popping into Google’s array of Gmail-like applications for word processing, photo editing, and anything else you can think of.
A network-based PC could offer more file space, faster searches, guaranteed backups, cheaper software costs, login-from-anywhere portability, and far less home maintenance. Let’s skip ahead, though, to the most counterintuitive advantage: Dollar for dollar, network-based computers are faster.
Unless you’re playing Grand Theft Auto or watching HDTV, your network isn’t the slowest part of your setup. It’s the consumer-grade Pentium and disk drive on your Dell, and the wimpy home data bus that connects them. Home computers are marketed with slogans like “Ultimate Performance,” but the truth is they’re engineered to run cool, quiet, and slow compared to commercial servers. Google’s Web search is blindingly fast because your requests get handled by a sprawling array of loud, hot, power-hungry server racks that you’d never allow in your house. All your home computer has to do is draw the results of Google’s massive data-mining process on its screen—that’s the easy part.
The same division of labor applies to Gmail, Google Maps, and most of Google’s slowly but surely growing list of applications. Even graphics-intensive programs like CAD software and photo editing tools can be made to run quickly over a network connection if you optimize them properly.
Still, as Boutin notes, there’s going to be a lot of resistance. “No matter how snazzy Google’s online services, people will want to store their files at home.” Still, while that urge exists, people may well let go. Many of us have already turned our email over to Google and/or Yahoo. Indeed, although I have an essentially unlimited number out @outsidethebeltway.com email accounts at my disposal, I haven’t bothered to use any of them in well over a year; it’s just radically more convenient to be able to keep my mail in one location, accessible from anywhere.
This is more problematic:
But the real deal-breaker is trust: Are you going to let someone else handle all your data? If you use a Google-served computing environment, everything you upload, download, or type potentially passes through Google’s computers. I’ll be the first to sign up, but that’s my blind faith in statistics. If there’s a privacy breach at Google, I figure I’ll be about 10 millionth in line to get hurt. How about it: Would you trust Google to protect your e-mail, your tax documents, and your family photos?
As I’ve already noted, the answer is Yes on my email. Probably my tax documents, too, for that matter; there are backups for all that stuff. The photos might be more problematic. Then again, I’ve already got a PC that I could store the photos on.