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Will Chrome OS render SysAdmins obsolete?

Google Vice President of Engineering in charge of Chrome Linus Upson made some interesting comments last week to the New York Times' Claire Cain Miller.

Not just that Google's new Chrome OS will make its public debut in a lightweight netbook computer by year end, probably in beta form, or that the OS is now conceived by Google as a computing platform that will support not only laptops, but also smart phones and other hand-held devices, tablets and even eventually TVs.

The jaw-dropper was Mr Upson's prediction that, when the Chrome OS gets its general release in the new year, 60 per cent of businesses could immediately replace their Windows workstations with Chrome OS computers running the Cloud-based OS.

Chrome will not run applications directly, but function more like a mediator between the computer's user interface running Google’s Web-applications like Docs for word processing, Gmail for email and and Picasa for photos, or third-party Cloud software like Microsoft’s Cloud-based Office 365.

While 60 per cent early adoption is doubtless an extravagant exaggeration, if the Chrome OS way of doing things catches on - even with a smaller but significant percentage of enterprise and institutional users - it should give pause to corporate and education system administrators as to how secure their jobs would be in such an instance.

Not to mention prospects for Microsoft and other firms whose business model is heavily based on supplying commercial enterprise OS and productivity software. Google's Chrome OS is an open source project and thus will be available to users at no cost.

Based on Linux and reportedly running only on specifically-designed hardware, the Chrome OS will feature a user interface similar to the Google Chrome browser's. At least initially, the operating system will be targeted at netbooks, and Google says its Chrome OS team has been working with several technology companies to design and build devices that can support the Chrome OS, including Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba.

How about you? Ready do embrace the Cloud? The concept is certainly seductive to those of us who prefer that our computing tools 'just work' with minimal need for care and feeding by either system administrators or ourselves.

Configuring, maintaining and upgrading of remote Cloud applications is somebody else's problem. On the other hand, wholesale Cloud adopters will find themselves crippled if they venture away from Internet access, which is still unavailable across vast swaths of the planet, and anything but universally accessible to everyone even in locales where it is.

For more information about the Google's ambitious OS project, check out the Chrome Blog.