Google Cloud Music and Chrome OS

Google is ahead of it’s self once again with the launch last week of Google Music Beta and the first proper release of a computer running it’s Chrome OS.

Both of these services could be great, but both are so heavily dependent on having a solid mobile data connection that they are near enough useless without it.  Ok so they both feature some limited local storage but neither will work at anything like optimum without a data connection. So if you’re at home or in an office then Chrome OS PCs ought to be fine, but a service that streams music to your mobile by it’s very nature is meant to be used on the move.

Streaming music isn’t as bandwidth heavy as video, but 128 kbps streaming comes in at about 50Mb per hour, so 20 hours listening could use up your whole data allowance even on a fairly generous 1Gb package.

Google Music does have some clever settings that tell your phone to only download or stream when connected to WiFi so that should help mitigate the data use. But if you have to be at home or work  to download music to your phone why not just use a cable?

Clearly Google anticipates mobile data networks improving in speed and reliability, and presumably reducing in cost too. This to me is the really interesting thing about these products; Google has always had a vested interest in everyone having fast, cheap data access 24/7 and these products suggest that they think we’re not too far off this being the case.

4G, HSPA+ and WIMAX could well deliver this always connected, always fast future.  True 4G could deliver up to 1Gbit/s which would make streaming music and using a Chrome based netbook as fast or more so than plugging in to a wired LAN.

Connectivity aside, Google Music Beta is an interesting offering, it doesn’t currently let users buy music, but you can upload up to 20,000 songs from your home PC – including music bought from iTunes – and then stream  or download that music to any PC or Android device. The fact that users aren’t able to buy music yet is odd, but Google say that this is coming.

Chrome OS is basically a very stripped down Linux kernel that is there for no other reason than to run Google Chrome browser. The whole OS exists as a portal to Google’s online services like Google Apps, and while it does have the disadvantages associated with little or no local storage and reliance on a data connection it does have a few big plus points.

Chrome is small, and it is designed for a very limited range of hardware so it doesn’t waste resources with big bloaty drivers, programmes, anti virus etc. The result is that a Chrome device goes from powered off to browsing the web in a few seconds.

The lack of local storage means that the days of panicking when your hard drive fails are over, even if your Chrome PC gets run over, set on fire and thrown off a bridge, your data is safe – well, as safe as any data is in the cloud.

Chrome could be a boon to business and public sector companies, if an employee leaves a Chrome device on the train, no problem. Also, deploying replacement devices to staff and setting up new users becomes a breeze.

Certain activities are not going to be practical via cloud software for a while yet, anything involving large files and processor intensive work like video editing for example so this isn’t the end of Windows PCs and Macs just yet. But Google clearly believes the future will hark back to the mainframe – dumb terminal model of yesteryear.

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