Is Mobile Broadband Ready for Chrome OS?

How will Google's internet-oriented OS work with today's mobile broadband?

Chrome OS is grabbing headlines this week, as Google reveals more details about its cloud-based operating system for mobile devices. Netbooks running Chrome OS won't ship until mid-2011, however, which allows us plenty of time to speculate on potential shortcomings.

For instance: How well will Google's Internet-oriented OS work via today's mobile broadband infrastructure, which isn't always rock-solid reliable?

Wireless networks continue to evolve and improve, but questions remain as to whether they're reliable enough for Chrome OS, an operating system dependent on the cloud for basic tasks, such as accessing applications and files.

Google officials point out that many Chrome apps, including those available at the new Chrome Web Store, will run offline. However, a Chrome OS-based netbook shut off from the Internet would be less capable than one running a local OS like Microsoft Windows.

PCWorld's 13-city 3G network performance tests, conducted in early 2010, show that 3G broadband performance in the U.S. is improving. In fact, average reliability of the four major wireless carriers now tops 90 per cent.

Those reliability figures probably won't change much in the coming months, however, as carriers focus on building out their 4G networks.

"We wouldn't expect 3G mobile broadband reliability to change significantly between now and the time that Chrome OS-based devices come to market, and so 3G connectivity will remain an issue for Chrome-based devices." writes IDC mobile analyst Susan Kevorkian in an email.

Kevorkian adds: "4G mobile broadband may improve on 3G's reliability, but most likely won't be broadly available when Chrome-based devices come to market."

Chrome OS users relying on Wi-Fi networks will face hurdles too. Wi-Fi has a limited range, and Wi-Fi hotspots aren't always available when you need them.

Google's cloud-centric operating system sounds intriguing. But is it ahead of its time?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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