Letters from Readers
March Reader Letters: The Cloud Battle Rages On
In our February cover story, "Clouds Collide," Editor at Large Jeffrey Schwartz explored the developing struggle between Microsoft and Google Inc. for cloud-computing market share and mindshare. Redmond readers defend their favorite competitor.
I'm one of the Cr-48 testers. [The Cr-48 is a test notebook designed by Google for its Chrome OS pilot program.] I've noticed significant enhancements to Google Docs in the past month. Regarding the adequacy of 100MB per month, I used about 80MB of 3G data Jan. 6-30; the rest was WiFi through home and public access points.
I won't prognosticate about businesses, but for personal use, I expect Verizon to offer Chrome OS notebooks later this year at significant discounts (when tied to a monthly data plan), just as it does for cellular phones.
During the time I've been testing the Cr-48, I've applied Microsoft updates and security patches to Windows XP (always a ghastly process) and multiple updates to Ubuntu 10.04, both on an Acer netbook, as well as OS X updates on a desktop iMac. In contrast, updates to Chrome OS have been virtually transparent, requiring no effort at all on my part. There's a lot to be said for a platform that just works, and for which backups are unnecessary. Six weeks ago, I was skeptical of Google's vision of cloud computing; with each passing week it looks better to me.
I'm also a Cr-48 user. I haven't switched on the Verizon 3G because I'm using the wireless at work and at home. If you're working a lot from customer sites or whilst traveling, I guess you'd want the 3G.
My opinion is that it's basically a browser in a box, which might sound simple, but I think a lot of organizations will love having that non-personal (nothing is stored on it, everything is online) device that can be handed out right, left and center to any staff. You're no longer tied to your personal laptop -- you can pick up any notebook just like you'd do with a notepad or pen or other productivity tool. Plus -- because it's a simple device without internal memory -- it'll also be cheaper than anything we're using at the moment.
I have a Cr-48, too, as well as just about every other device out there. What's really impressive about Google Apps is that I can jump from one device to the next completely seamlessly: Start writing a Google doc on the iMac; head off to the train and write a few more lines from the Droid while standing in line; there's more space on the train so out comes the iPad. It's perfect integration. Save button? File system? I've forgotten why I ever needed that stuff.
Do I still use Windows? Yes. I ported a virtual machine through Remote Desktop Protocol to the iPad -- but, really, I have staff that can deal with converting legacy desktop documents to open cloud standards. I had to wait for a staffer to start up their Windows box the other day to get a file, and in that time I sent several e-mails, read some news and reviewed a proposal. If Microsoft wants a chance in this new generation of devices, the company must give up cornering the market on "Just wait, it'll get going in a few minutes -- and let me restart."
Maybe for some folks Google and the cloud are the answers, but I'm not buying into Google's totally cloud world. Like Microsoft, we also believe in a hybrid model, and will do business with vendors that produce revenue from sales and service of products such as Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle -- not vendors who produce revenue from advertisements. In addition, if recent world events are any hint as to the reliability of the Internet, we had better be sure we have real local resources.
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