John Naughton’s column in the Observer yesterday analyses the impact of the coming Google operating system.
The flip side of all this, of course, is that Chrome netbooks will be the ultimate in tethered devices. You may own the machine, just as you may think you own your Apple iPhone, but in fact Google controls it, just as Apple controls the phone. If, for example, you’ve tinkered with the device overnight, and the Google server detects the change as you hook up to the net, then the operating system may be remotely deleted and a fresh version installed without your knowledge or consent. Google will argue that this is for your own good – that it’s an effective defence against the viruses, trojans and malware that plague current users of Microsoft operating systems.
And so it is. But it’s also a limitation on your freedom. In his 2008 book, The Future of the Internet – and how to stop it, Harvard academic Jonathan Zittrain painted a vivid picture of the dangers of a world in which most people’s access to the internet is via tethered devices controlled by powerful companies. If Chrome OS takes off we will have taken a giant leap into that nightmare. For 1984 read 2010.