One of the comments from an earlier post on Google's ChromeOS had mentioned there was a way to try it out using virtual machines. I finally got a chance to take it for a spin this morning using the image built by the team at GDGT. GDGT is an interesting site itself - basically a new social-type site for people with gadgets.
Alright for the nitty gritty.
First - I think it is important to put Google ChromeOS into context. Because it's still early and only the uber-geeks are trying it out - the reviews have tended to be viewed by that community with what they want in an OS. Which is not the audience Google ChromeOS is aimed for.
That out of the way here is what the user experience was like:
1 - You start the machine
2 - You are prompted to login with your Google credentials.
3 - You are logged in what seemed like a second. The screen is really just Chrome browser with the home tab set to your Gmail. A second tab is already opened to your Google calendar.
You can then browse as normal. In the name of research - I then played a game of Bejewled online which is the latest casual game addiction. Because my wife is closer to the target audience of ChromeOS than I am - this was important. Because if a computer that came out today couldn't play Bejewled - she would not use it. So yes, I played the game in the name of research. Sometimes research requires sacrifices like this.
But overall - the OS was a lot more polished than I expected. Of course much of it is built on existing bedrock - Linux, Chrome browser and Google's services. And to be candid - my gut feeling on just playing with it this morning was similar to the feeling I got when I first got a chance to play around with Apple OS X at the first ApacheCon a decade ago. That this - while not completely polished - was going to be a game changer.
I'm not going to say that ChromeOS will kill Windows. But just as OSX drove a lot of requirements for Vista/Windows 7 - ChromeOS could do the same thing here. And as Martha Stewart would say "That's a good thing."
For example imagine your environment that assumed you were always on a network (not entirely far-fetched) but could gracefully handle when you were not. That instead of assuming all of your documents (whether those were docs, spreadsheets, video, music, etc) were going to be default local - were instead stored online.
You can of course already do much of this today - I for the most part live this. All of my mail exists in the cloud (personal mail in Google, work mail in Oracle Beehive). My project tracking list is managed in Toodledo. My notes for just about everything in Evernote. All of my new work related documents are being stored in Oracle Beehive workspaces. I'm trying (again) to write a novel. This time using Google Docs - primarily so that I can write on it wherever I am without worrying about having the latest chapter with me.
But - while this is possible - it does require dedicated work to use. That's why I'm optimistic about the world moving to a natively integrated cloud OS.
Identity management will have to play to a key role for this to function. For example - to give you the most flexibility about where your documents are stored you will want an Identity Rights Management product to make sure only authorized people can access the docs. There will have to be numerous behind the scenes federated authentication (whether that federation is SAML or something else like OpenID or OAuth) and of course identity attributes will need to be virtualized because that data could literally be - anywhere.