Google launched its new Chrome browser not too long ago. It's so far available in 100 countries for free for Windows users. (I'm told that versions for Apple and Linux users are forthcoming.)
Chrome debuted just a week after the release of Microsoft's IE8. Google has promised lots of bells and whistles, an open platform and, somewhat importantly, a neat way to deliver advertising. In the hours before the launch, Google offered an entertaining comic-strip explanation of what Chrome is, and why Google created it. You can read it here.
Chrome, if it integrates all of Google's other office products and communications tools - including the new video for business offering also announced - brings us one step closer what I call "webtop computing." Forget your desktop, where you're currently tethered to your local hard drives and clunky software apps that must be stored and run from a computer in your office. Information can be stored remotely, in a "cloud," and then accessed for later use on any number of devices.
Here's what Google's Alfred Spector, VP Engineering, and Franz Och, Research Scientist had to say:
As we're already seeing, people will interact with the cloud using a plethora of devices: PCs, mobile phones and PDAs, and games. But we'll also see a rush of new devices customized to particular applications, and more environmental sensors and actuators, all sending and receiving data via the cloud. The increasing number and diversity of interactions will not only direct more information to the cloud, they will also provide valuable information on how people and systems think and react.
Thus, computer systems will have greater opportunity to learn from the collective behavior of billions of humans. They will get smarter, gleaning relationships between objects, nuances, intentions, meanings, and other deep conceptual information. Today's Google search uses an early form of this approach, but in the future many more systems will be able to benefit from it.
What does this mean to Google? For starters, even better search. We could train our systems to discern not only the characters or place names in a YouTube video or a book, for example, but also to recognize the plot or the symbolism. The potential result would be a kind of conceptual search: "Find me a story with an exciting chase scene and a happy ending." As systems are allowed to learn from interactions at an individual level, they can provide results customized to an individual's situational needs: where they are located, what time of day it is, what they are doing. And translation and multi-modal systems will also be feasible, so people speaking one language can seamlessly interact with people and information in other languages.
So what does all this mean, exactly? You see, Chrome can run applications as well as search the Internet. If you combine Chrome with all of Google's other offerings - Google Calendar, gmail, Google Docs, Picasa - you may find yourself in a situation where you won't even need to own your computer anymore. In short, Chrome is basically an operating system.
And with the new release of Android, which is being called the GooglePhone, all of the content you work on can easily go mobile.
If all this seems very futuristic, that's because it is. Except that the future has already arrived, and its name is Google.
What do you think? Have you downloaded Chrome and started to use it? Got your hands on an Android phone? Let me know...
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