I’ve been fascinated by the reactions of different people this fall (showing my North America bias here, clearly) when I’ve broached the subject of netbooks for K-12 students in 1:1 learning settings. I’ve met educators extremely enthusiastic about the power, flexibility, and durability of netbooks, and I’ve met vendors who dismissed the entire netbook technology as useless, underpowered, throwaway toys.

If you’re still a netbook-doubter when it comes to 1:1 learning initiatives, consider Google Chrome OS. The current English Wikipedia article for it predicts a stable release in the second quarter of 2010. Yesterday’s CNN article, “Google OS: the end of the hard drive?,” predicts availability even later in the year:

The first Chrome OS netbooks will be available in late 2010, [Sundar] Pichai said. It will not be available as a download to run and install. Instead, Chrome OS is only shipping on specific hardware from manufacturers Google has partnered with. That means if you want Chrome OS, you’ll have to purchase a Chrome OS device.

I’m surprised to hear Chrome OS won’t be bootable from a flash drive if you’re running a different hardware platform. Mandating that a specific type of hardware will be required to run the OS sounds more like Apple than Google. Given Google’s preference for open standards and an open platform like the Android OS, I’ll be surprised if these predictions of a limited platform for Google OS pan out. Time will tell.

The three minute, 20 second YouTube video, “What is Google Chrome OS?” was published last Wednesday and gives a good overview (in a style reminiscent of Lee LeFever and his Common Craft “In Plain English” video series) about Chrome OS:

It is interesting that the video authors chose to highlight the word “stateless” to describe cloud-based computing on a browser-based OS like Chrome OS. I would have thought they would discuss “cloud computing” as a term instead.

Are client-side applications dead? Hardly. If you’ve done any serious video editing lately, you don’t need to be convinced of this. Cloud-based / stateless computing functionalities are exploding, however, and making the viability of netbooks running Ubuntu as well as (eventually) the Chrome OS stronger than ever. If you have doubts, check out the curriculum for the Google Workshop for Educators I helped facilitate with Lisa Thumann a week ago in Austin. The creative and collaborative possibilities with Google tools alone are AMAZING today. And these powerful functionalities are only going to grow in the months and years ahead.

When is your school district going to finally abandon paper-based textbooks and invest in netbooks along with digital curriculum for all students instead? 2010 won’t be too early.

Wondering how Google proposes to handle your digital music collection, if everything is stored “in the cloud?” Part of the answer is coming December 8th, according to the BBC, when Vevo is released.

Common Craft’s 3 minute “Cloud Computing in Plain English” video was released on November 11th, and provides an excellent overview of what cloud computing is and why it’s so compelling relative to older models of maintaining and supporting your own enterprise servers.

A new computing day has dawned. Has your organizational IT department officially noticed yet?

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5 Responses to Doubting the power of Netbooks? Consider Chrome OS

  1. James Sigler says:

    It think the Chrome OS will be customized for the hardware to reduce boot time. It will already have the settings written so it doesn’t have to detect the hardware each time. The OS is open sourced under Chromium Linux.

    I found an article that will allow you to run Chrome OS with VMWare on a USB drive. http://www.ghacks.net/2009/11/20/google-chrome-os-first-looks-first-impressions/

    Are client-side applications dead? Not yet, but they are dying. Linux now even has an OS the will boot from the internet. The internet replaces the hard drive. Maybe it is the hard drive that is dying.

  2. Goldmine CRM says:

    When Chrome OS is released, the non open source version will only be available on specific “chrome OS” machines. One of the reasons for this is it will only run on solid state drives but it does mean that anyone who wants to use it and not mess about with the open source version will have to buy a new machine.

    I believe this will limit the initial uptake but a few years down the line we will probably see a much bigger use of “the cloud”.

  3. Kellie Ady says:

    I think you’re spot-on about client apps not being dead – yet. I’d guess, though, that 90% – 95% of what folks do at my school could happen in the cloud. I’ve heard complaints about the netbook screen size, but the kids don’t seem to care (many of them watch videos on a cell phone).

    To me, client vs. cloud is analogous to how we need to shift our thinking about instruction. I think many people still see learning as “client-side” (students have to be in specific room with all of the materials & knowledge contained in that room, just like all files and applications used to reside on a single device). I’ve noticed that people who start to work in the cloud start to see learning differently. For us, much of that shift has been tied to the collaborative possibilities with GoogleApps.

    I’m surprised, though, that Google would be proprietary with its OS, and I hope that isn’t the case. But, whether we are using Chrome, Linux, Windows, or Mac, the shift to web-based apps might be the real game changer not only for the infusion of technology into learning environments but also for a shift in how we approach learning at the classroom level.

  4. Wes had a lot of great links in this article that lead me to learning about all kinds of new projects that would support the idea of a cloud computing OS
    such as Veevo (for handling music)

    I must say I cringe when I hear folks advocate for total replacement of Textbooks. It makes me feel old fashioned and a little bit like a luddite to be skeptical of a world without textbooks, but I must remember that they refer to “textbooks” as we know them today. I know that after seeing the complimentary materials to our school’s Algebra textbook, which included full digital version of the textbook with tons of supplementary materials including online video’s illustrating every concept, and online tools like full fledged graphing calculators, I was amazed at the increase in access this provided to students (Anywhere, anytime access to the resources they need to learn). AGain, not that ALL these tools packaged together are not available individually online somewhere in this day in age, but this “package” does provide value inso much as it provides access to materials organized in a meaningful way for this teacher and their students. Does it mean that this publishers ‘scope and sequence’ is the only way to get access to Algebra – absolutely not. But I do think this publisher has been preparing for a world where “textbooks” look much different than those we know today. A world where students will be carrying around a device, not a backpack full of textbooks.

    The example of how many LESS dictionaries we need in schools today can also provide some perspective. Just the other day I had a teacher in the computer lab ask me for a DICTIONARY because the suggested replacement for a misspelled words on a student’s word processing screen did not have the correct choice. My offer to help them learn other approaches available to them because they were sitting at a computer was seen as my “missing the opportunity” to teach this student the value of a dictionary as that teacher knew it. I think incidences like this are part of the motivation behind the “no more textbook” evangelist. It was almost as if this teacher was comforted by the opportunity to ‘teach the dictionary’. Are we holding on to old methods in a way that impedes forward moving approaches to problem solving (such as matching new learning approaches to the exponential increase of information available).

    Its no wonder I feel like I’m standing still as the fast paced change in the world leaves me standing in the dust. And I use to be known as the progressive cutting edge one amongst my peers.. gulp!

  5. idcj says:

    There’s still so many things that can be done on a client that cannot be done using a cloud service. Its just that we have made it so difficult to build custom software nobodys exploiting the hardware to its fullest, instead we use dumb browsers to connect to the cloud based services.

    I would suggest to take a look at LyteRAD at http://www.lytecube.com you can build many kinds of custom apps without code, and they work well on netbooks. And they have a free edition too.

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