Where's My Google PC?
It's coming. It'll be great. You'll hate it.
Now, a few caveats before you get too stoked over Microsoft's imminent demise. Having been a network-computer advocate myself, I think they're cool. But I also know the resistance a Google PC will run into.
First, there's the inexplicable human urge to own stuff and have it in your possession. No matter how snazzy Google's online services, people will want to store their files at home. My starving-artist friends use Gmail, but as soon as they land real jobs they buy brand-new Macs and start keeping their mail on their own computers. Inevitably they lose it and don't have a backup, but they still like the feeling of controlling their data. Every network computing gadget I worked on faced the same objection from would-be customers: "Those things are fine for secretaries, but I need a real computer on my desk."
Second, a network computer works fine if you've got a fast, flawless network connection. Most of us in the United States (not to mention worldwide) don't and won't for a long time. My premium-grade DSL is acting up this very second. Google wants to light up San Francisco with Wi-Fi, yet they couldn't get one roomful of reporters online at Google Press Day.
But the real deal-breaker is trust: Are you going to let someone else handle all your data? If you use a Google-served computing environment, everything you upload, download, or type potentially passes through Google's computers. I'll be the first to sign up, but that's my blind faith in statistics. If there's a privacy breach at Google, I figure I'll be about 10 millionth in line to get hurt. How about it: Would you trust Google to protect your e-mail, your tax documents, and your family photos?
Paul Boutin is a writer living in San Francisco.
Photograph of laptop computer on the Slate home page by Ryan McVay.