Earlier this month I spent two days at the Google campus in Mountain View, California. The Google in Education team invited an assortment of Google Certified Teachers, Trainers, and partners to learn the latest about the recently released Chromebook. There are some neat things on the horizon.
Jaime Casip, Google Education Senior Evangelist, spoke for a large portion of our second day together and explained the reason Google is venturing into the world of operating systems and hardware. His response was not at all what I expected and was quite visionary. So much so, I thought it was worth sharing: the development of Chrome OS and the Chromebook is an effort to make computer hardware obsolete.
“The device,” said Jaime, “should be completely transparent.” You shouldn’t need to think about whether you are using an Mac or a PC or a smartphone or a tablet. The experience should be simple and seamless. Without software to purchase or update, hardware configurations to worry about, or limitations based on support of flash, silverlight, etc, you can focus on doing what you came to do.
Someone using a Chromebook can have the exact same experience using the Chrome web browser on their PC or Mac. Ultimately, if Google gets the widespread adoption of HTML5 that it hopes for, we can also have the same experience on our iPad or Android phone.
I thought that Google was taking on Apple and Microsoft for a piece of the huge cash cow known as hardware and operating systems. Not at all! Google is trying to get computers into everyone’s hands. Google is betting that everything will move to the web and wants to make sure that everyone can get there quickly and reliably. Google won’t lock you into their hardware (unlike Apple) or charge you an arm and a leg for their software (unlike Microsoft). If you don’t want to purchase a Chromebook, fine, you can do everything a Chromebook can by using the Chrome web browser. The point isn’t the hardware or the software, it’s speedy, reliable access to the web.
As an educator, I applaud Google’s efforts. Hardware is expensive and difficult to maintain. Making the decision to choose Macs or PC’s essentially locks a school into a set of abilities and limitations. If the web is your platform, however, many of these issues disappear.