Chrome OS In Q4 - Is It Time to Bid External Storage Goodbye?

When Chrome OS devices hit the stores late this year, users may have to start getting used to a web-centric mindset. Practically everything on their device will be running on the cloud. And with easily accessible Google Docs already accepting up to 1 GB storage for ANY kind of file, it would be difficult to resist storing and moving more files to the cloud as well. 

So does this mean you’d have to say goodbye to local drive storage or even your trusty USB flash drive? 

Ever since the introduction of the floppy disk, external storage devices like USB flash drives have proven to be an indispensable partner of every regular computer user. Students carry in them their homework, mp3 songs, and ebooks; accountants and salesmen have their spreadsheets, business letters and reports; IT personnel have their program codes, installers and experimental OSes; and so on. 

External storage devices enable people to exchange files quickly, keep backup copies, hold their most confidential information close to themselves, or (for the Linux geeks) carry a fully functional operating system. These extremely portable tiny devices allow users to be more mobile and able to work away from their main computer. 

If you have a USB flash drive (a.k.a. pen drive) and only need the most commonly used applications like MS Word, Excel or PowerPoint, you can easily set down to work in almost any establishment that has a computer. Of course, I find it difficult to imagine any regular computer user possessing only a USB flash drive. Besides, they’d have to pay for computer usage each time they need one, which would certainly be very expensive.

In most cases, users do have their own computers and these devices are mainly used for sharing files with colleagues, business associates, and friends. Today’s highly mobile computer users (a.k.a. road warriors) usually have three gadgets with them: a laptop, a cell phone, and a USB flash drive - all other laptop accessories are secondary.

As for tomorrow’s road warriors, that’s what I’m curious about. With cloud computing and online storage, things could be different. Will the number of main gadgets be reduced to two?

i.e., a Chrome OS laptop and a cellphone?

If you’ve tried working with Google Docs, you know that file sharing is as simple as 1-2-3. You click the Share button, Invite people, specify the email address of the person you’d like to share your file with, and click Send. That’s actually 4 steps, but you get the picture. 

Excited to move your files to the cloud already? You might have to hold your horses first. If you ask me, Google and other cloud services providers have yet to provide much better assurance as with regards to one major issue: security. You’d only need to look back a few months to see where I’m coming from. 

Chinese hackers attack on GMail, Google’s own webmail service. Does that ring a bell? 

Once people start the exodus of files to Google Docs, the thrill of hacking into those accounts would be very irresistible. 

So should future Chrome OS users bid goodbye to their trusty USB flash drive? I don’t think so ... well, at least not yet. Store files on the cloud, but leave the most confidential ones in your internal or external storage devices. 


The Beast said...

Nice post,although I must disagree with the reason that usb sticks and other external storage will remain in use, the majority of people do not research about the services they use, at least from my experience. Take Facebook for example,it's been criticized many times for its privacy terms and the fact that it takes possession of everything you put on it, but still people don't seem to be moving away. Businesses and security aware people are the only ones I see staying away from Google Docs for sure.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but google is positioning themselves to handle that too. Everyone seems to think that google want to be the place where everything is stored. Businesses and security minded individuals will never go for that. But google have developed the perfect next generation office, collaboration tools, mobile sharing, you name it, they have it. There are a million small projects all over like "google desktop", that one day will all be drawn together to form two things.

The two things will be:

1. Google's own OS (Chrome OS), usable by home users and corporates alike and
2. The corporate cloud appliance.

2 has not been discussed or even mentioned by anyone but I say it's existence is soon to be announced.

Imagine an appliance device a large corporation could buy, that provides a cloud to it's corporate users, providing all those server centric tools that google have painstakingly developed. With Chrome OS on every desktop, on lightweight, likely nettop or thin client devices, hooked directly to the corporate cloud. All sold as a competitively priced, future thinking replacement for MS back office and desktops.

Google recently renounced MS windows, there was more to that than a few press releases.

Blind freddy can see the future coming and it's one in where google replace all MS functionality with increasingly better and more secure products, providing everyone the cloud experience,sold as a locally hosted product, with added support contracts.

If I were a corporate CIO I'd throw MS as far as I could to replace my infrastructure with Google's "Cloud with a Chrome lining".

(I'll put my crystal ball down now, this reading is over)


Anonymous said...

Let's not overestimate what we can do in the cloud quite yet.

We're not (yet) at a point where uploading and downloading files to any random computer is fast enough to be considered convenient. Problem #1.

Storage in the cloud is still limited when compared to what you can carry in your pocket. Problem #2.

Cost for those services is yet to be determined. However, since Google Docs has gone to a online only model, there are a lot of use cases where it becomes too inconvenient. Problem #3.

So no, I don't expect that offline external storage is ready to disappear quite yet. :)

Thomas Mc. said...

"When Chrome OS devices hit the stores late this year, users may have to start getting used to a web-centric mindset."

Or they can just use a real OS.

johnV said...

@ The Beast - Good point. And perfect example with Facebook. I'm really amazed at how FB users freely accept apps or practically anything that their friends share with them.

Me, I try to avoid shared FB apps as much as I can; pressing the Ignore button about 99% of the time.

It would certainly reduce a few grams if manufacturers eventually decide to remove SSDs from their devices and much more for HDDs.

johnV said...

@ Anonymous #1 - Your crystal ball does look right on target. But what do you mean by "locally hosted product"?

johnV said...

@ Anonymous#2

re Problem#1 - While it may take some time to move certain files up and down the cloud, we won't have to worry about this problem for most frequently used ones like word processing documents and spreadsheets as they can be created, edited, and stored in the cloud.

Now, all they've got to do is perfect their printing feature. right now, Google Docs can only be "printed" to a pdf.

re problem#2 - you can actually add up to 1TB in Google Docs ... for $256 per year.

re problem#3 - this is where the big question mark lies. How much will end users get to spend in the long run? If everyone goes to the cloud, will Google still provide their services for free?