Google is hard at work putting the finishing touches on the Chrome OS, expected to hit the streets as a netbook operating system before the holidays. A new feature dubbed "chromoting" hopes to bridge the divide between Chrome and Windows, but the sketchy details thus far don't make it sound all that compelling.
Companies that already rely on Google offerings such as Google Docs, Gmail, Google Voice and Google Buzz will probably feel right at home on the browser-turned-OS. The purely cloud-based origins of the Chrome OS, however, will make it a difficult pill to swallow for businesses that are already invested in Microsoft software and Windows-based applications.
There are reports circulating, though, of a feature in the upcoming Chrome OS called "chromoting", essentially a mash-up of "Chrome" and "remoting". A Google software engineer, Gary Kacmarcík, confirmed the existence of chromoting in a message shared by a third-party in the Chromium-Discuss Google Group. "We're adding new capabilities all the time. With this functionality (unofficially named 'chromoting'), Chrome OS will not only be great platform for running modern web apps, but will also enable you to access legacy PC applications right within the browser."
Unfortunately, there are no details behind how exactly chromoting will work yet. Speculation revolves around either providing a remote desktop connection back to a running Windows-based system, or remote access to some sort of cloud-based Windows software repository in order to allow Chrome OS users to run legacy Windows software.
Neither solution sounds very elegant. It doesn't make a very compelling case for making the switch to the Chrome OS if productivity from the platform relies on leaving a Windows-based PC live and connected to the Internet so it can be accessed remotely.
The Web-based server solution sounds more impressive from the standpoint that at least it would be Google or some third-party providing the Web-connected Windows platform and applications rather than users having to maintain both platforms. However, it sounds like a licensing nightmare to try and share Windows-based software with the Chrome OS masses from the cloud.
Granted, many of the iPad productivity solutions also rely on some sort of remote connectivity to an existing Windows PC, and that hasn't stopped the iPad from being considered as a business computing platform. However, for Chrome OS to be taken seriously as a Windows OS alternative, it should be able to stand on its own merits and not rely on its ability to integrate with Windows to provide a productive environment.
It is a testament to Microsoft's dominance that the measure of both cloud-based productivity apps like Google Docs, and Google's web-focused Chrome operating system seem to rely on how compatible they are with the existing Microsoft software.