Today, Google officially released the source code for Chome OS. The idea of the browser is to work “in the cloud”. All applications would be web applications (such as webmail, Google Docs, Microsoft Live, flash games) and most data would be stored off site. At the same time Google has been pushing it’s “Gone Google” campaign encouraging businesses to use Google’s products for their business, Google Apps.
What would the use of Google Apps on a Chome OS mean for Education? Many schools are wary of a one-laptop-per-child program because of replacement costs, home environments, or other issues. Schools may instead implement laptop carts, but then they face the problem of student data storage and the high cost of licensing applications. Another issue is keeping the network secure while still allowing students access to the data they need (their own, their teachers’, the web).
The Chrome OS is built around signing in to the Google network. This has already been accomplished on Google’s Android OS for mobile phones. A single sign on (on the phones this is done only during the initial setup) and all contacts, email, calendar, and other web-based information is available. In Chrome OS, a single sign on brings the student into the Google net (or possibly the school’s intranet) and then through a seemless interface out into the internet. One beauty of cloud computing already experienced by mobile users is the ability to access information through multiple devices, even transferring phones without moving any data. Chrome OS takes this a step further by allowing access to all this information through the same UI, Chrome browser.
Of course this places us in another awkward problem, this one philosophical rather than practical. How much do we trust cloud computing? Not only for the reliability (which Sidekick users can attest is not entirely reliable), but for privacy concerns. Should we allow Google, or any other company, to own the physical aspect of our data, including manuscripts, contact information, or financial information?