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Chrome OS – Doomed Before It Is Out of the Gate (Brain Job #2)

Chrome OS is one big lemon just waiting to drop and get squashed under its own weight.  This has nothing to do with the right-hand competing with the left-hand Android OS although that may be a contributing factor.  More critical is its foundational philosophy.
Time Warp circa 1995~2000
The web at its fundamental layer is built on TCP/IP and the philosophy that built TCP/IP envisioned a highly redundant network of almost self replicating simplicity** where each node controlled its own decision to participate, partially participate, or not participate at all…in other words the technological equivalent of a democracy.  Okay let’s not get carried away there.  The ARPANET Lab Rats who evolved TCP/IP didn’t have democracy on their minds.  But the fact is the entire internetworking architecture has an eerie resemblance to a fully functioning democratic structure….

This is what made the web succeed and crushed everything else in its path.  Not because it was superior technology talk to the pundits and they’ll bemoan the leaky bucketiness of TCP/IP but because of a promiscuous* communication protocol that gave precedence to the freedom to connect (or not) over the commercial politics read: patents of establishing such connections.  (At least not till now when we have vultures circling the data pipe using ‘Net Neutrality’ totems)
Microsoft, AOL, and Compuserve (anyone remember Compuserve?) all tried to control it by having exclusive networks partially true. Which is what killed them (that specific business model). Outside these walled gardens TCP/IP enabled HTML to spread like wildfire.  And no gated community can match the unique diversity of every node acting of its own volition.  
History Repeats Itself
Chrome in its quest for the user experience is sacrificing something fundamental – the freedom of the user.  The web/PC model presented the user with a choice.  Here is the device.  Here is the data pipe***.  Connect to whom you want, when you want.  Work online or offline.  You choose.  Be connected and part of the swarm or be a lone ranger.  Using the connection is your choice. Chrome removes that choice.  For even basic doc’ing or exceling you need a living connection.  You can’t move to the Himalayas and run a bicycle powered genset to charge your tablet and work off it.  No option to exist without the Net. You need a fairly decent 3G connection to get anything done.  
In 50 years when 7G delivers 20Gbps wireless access and infinite personal storage yes, maybe a tethered Chrome appliance to a local/global data warehouse will work (like Captain Kirk’s pad) but as an independent, self managing, seamless productivity tool for the busy professional.  Nada. #bigfail.

(BTW: i have applied for a machine under the CR48 pilot program even though it is restricted to the US….my excuse: gadget mania!! ;))

On a more serious note it also contravenes the minimum device specs for The Guide.  Can you imagine scouting Klingon Birds of Prey and outwitting Empire Stormtroopers with a patent violated cloaking device and using your Chrome tablet to take notes in sub space radio silence (read: zero data transmission)? No.  ‘Nuff said.

That’s the mistake Novatium is making too.  Rajesh Jain correctly predicted the dawn of the cloud era but screwed it up with implementation.  Hmmmm.  Had a quick look at the site just now, seems like they are breaking away from the centralized thin client computing model.  There is hope after all!

For Rodinhooders there is an important lesson here.  The first billion have already been monetized.  Now we are just churning the milk to skim the fat.  The next billions are the ones who are on the fringe edges of tech.  TVs and mobile phones are their primary tech appliances.  They’ll crap along the pavement edge but jump through hoops to get themselves a bike, a smart phone, and a TV….and soon a Tablet.  Many of them want to bootstrap themselves out of their economic misery. And that’s dead center Rodinhood territory.  

We need to exploit decentralized methods of spreading value through the system. Decentralized self replicating models that rejects centralized control are going to be the winners and disrupters in the 21st century.  Fractal theory will win**.  We need to find TCP/IP ways of doing business.  Self replicating nodes that suck in 1x and spit out 100x in value….

The current costing and economic value models were dreamed up by fat 15th & 16th century European goldsmiths who created systems that primarily ensured they profited at the expense of everyone else.  It is inefficient, highly toxic (social, emotional, environmental), and management heavy. A relic of monarchic command & control systems that tries to win by gaming the system.
The Lehman Brothers, Enron, Arthur Anderson, and the like were their greedy, spoilt children.  They ate themselves to death.  Many of those obese, dissipated brats (and their monstrous children – Union Carbide, Monsanto) are still around but their days are numbered. Arteriosclerosis will get them all.  
What will be left are the lean, nimble, agile ones, who harmonize themselves with the environment, society, and emotion. Something that a Rodinhooder is geared for. The ones who will dream up new systems of wealth creation and transmission….  

What do you think?  Will Chrome succeed? Can we effectively monetize the next billion with the current systems of wealth creation?

Rip it in the comments.

*promiscuous mode is a networking state where your network node will pass traffic without any sort of discrimination.
**My favorite line from this brilliant TED Talk: “Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules that are repeated without end”
***This might seem a bit disingenuous as the only option to connect now a days is TCP/IP.  Back in the day there were many competing networking technologies most of them controlled by one vendor or a group.  TCP/IP leaked through because it was Free, as in Beer and as in Freedom.


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  1. I agree the macro environment will support large scale cloud coverage and therefore Chrome has a chance to spread inspite of this dissconnect.  But this breaks natures model and the web’s success was built on “repeating simple rules without end”.  Chrome breaks that.  Time as they will tell.

  2. Hi Abhimanyu…

    Have been following this discussion thread. Any revert from Baby Oye?

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