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The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

Can you use Chrome OS for all your computing needs? It all depends.

Chrome OS is a web-based operating system that runs web-based applications and stores all user files on the web. If you use web-based applications, that's great; if you're tethered to traditional software-based applications, you're out of luck. You simply can't run Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop or Quicken in Chrome OS. It just won't work.

It also means that you need a live Internet connection to run Chrome OS, access all your apps and files, and use your computer, period. If you're Internet-deprived, your Chrome OS machine turns into a very expensive paperweight.

On the other hand, if you do run web-based applications or spend most of the day on the web (using Facebook, for example), Chrome OS is a great little operating system. For many of us today, the browser is already the operating system; Google Chrome OS just takes this model to the logical extreme.

In reality, the web-based aspects of the Chrome OS run faster than the Chrome browser in Windows—and much, much faster than Internet Explorer. It makes sense; because the browser is the OS, you don't have to deal with that whole extra layer of operating system that you do in Windows. Chrome OS is a very, very fast operating system for the coming cloud generation.

That said, I doubt that Chrome OS will make big inroads in the corporate market, at least not initially. In that part of the marketplace where Microsoft Office and other traditional software rule, a web-based OS running web-based apps can't hope to compete.

But in the netbook market and among users who live their lives online, Chrome OS is a faster, simpler alternative to any current Microsoft operating system. It will be interesting to see how Chrome OS develops between now and its official release, and how well it's accepted at that time.

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