Well, as the whole world tries to figure out who exactly will be using the Google ChromeOS (as is probably the case with Google Wave), this some how reminds me of Sun Microsystems days when they were releasing Jini and Jxta (which are surprisingly still highly active). There is one thing common between these two events, thinking ahead in time. While ideas of Sun were too ahead of time, Google might have got it just at right time, well may be…
There is one big missing link with Google ChromeOS; a dirt cheap (or even free) internet connection that is fast. If you do a comparison with traditional Operating Systems, this what is basically your RAM and Hard disk (they are extremely cheap to upgrade, as compared to the central processing unit) are supposed to substitute for. Google is trying to make a shift here, move the storage out, so that you need not worry about local failures (at this point I am completely neglecting all the privacy concerns). RAM still plays a crucial role, but then the OS is lean and mean, and the apps that run on that would also probably be of similar type (and possibly constrained too).
In fact, idea wise ChromeOS is bringing in nothing new. If you open up a bit this is exactly what was there in Windows 98 – IE integrated tightly into the OS, to the extent that there is not much differentiation between an OS and a browser. However, it is important to note that the design principles are totally different … and Google “assures” them to be safe.
Coming back to the “missing link”. I think this kind of model can only succeed if there is always connected device. This would probably mean this won’t be mobile. Mobile networks as of now are in no way great to provide good QoS while on move. Another issue is that the network should be absurdly fast, and cheap at the same time. Building this infrastructure from ground up for a company is simply going to take ages. However, if the experiments with providing internet access via powerlines would succeed, this would be the place where ChromeOS can win a majority market share… only time will tell where this is headed.
For me, I want complete control over all my digital content, and don’t really see myself using such a dumb device (probably ever dumb than my mobile phone!). Though, if ChromeOS catches on, I could imagine a world filled with computer (ill)literates who cannot do any thing without Google.