The Chromebook: Cut the Cord and Join the Clouds

Remember the good old days in 2010, when Steve Jobs proclaimed the iPad a "revolutionary" new device that was going to fundamentally change personal computing for good? The problem was that the iPad couldn't do anything your computer didn't already do and there were tons of things your computer could do that the iPad couldn't, like edit video.

The same might be said about the Chromebook coming out June 15th. It costs about the same as an iPad and doesn't add much to what you can already do on your computer. But nevertheless the Chromebook does truly overhaul our whole notion of personal computing in a way the iPad hasn't. In Google's New World Order, software and personal hard drive space will become a thing of the past. We'll begin to store, work and really think online in the clouds that they (companies like Google) own.

Your personal text documents, family photos and home videos will be connected to a network of worldwide users.

This brings up some troubling questions. First, once we go down this path, there's no going back. The entire notion of private ownership and intellectual property as we've known it will change.

As Paddy Hirsh said (on this week's Cyberfrequencies podcast) about photos on Facebook: It's kind of like a co-ownership. And it seems this same kind of co-owner relationship may be forged between cloud users and cloud owners.

Second, it's very unclear what Google can and cannot do with our information, stored in their clouds, in terms of data-mining. If you hand over everything to Google that formally lived in a private space on your personal computer, then Google gains a very intimate portrait of your personality in a way that even Facebook doesn't have.

Third, if governmental docs start going up into the clouds, like the E.U. is currently talking about doing, doesn't that open up the "clouds" to attack by terrorists, hackers and anyone else who can benefit from state secrets? And don't companies like Google become kind of co-owners with various governments?

The Chromebook, if it catches on, is pushing us to the clouds in a very new way. Which sheds light on Google's free-love attitude toward intellectual property, copyright protection and data ownership on Youtube. Through Youtube, Google has slowly been getting both individuals and businesses comfortable with the idea of a kind of co-ownership of our material.

Both the music and entertainment industries have given up, for the most part, on trying to control what gets posted on Youtube. Now they seem to just add their logo to the media, or a link on how to buy the song, and hope for the best.

I'm a videographer (think large files) with nine external hard drives. I have to house them, dust them off, and most annoying of all -- they continually crap out a few days after the warranty runs out.

I'd love nothing more than to dump them in the trash and let my data storage and the tech problems associated with it become Google's headache. I put my finished videos on Youtube anyway -- what's the difference?

But I'm just not sure if I'm ready to take part in this giant social experiment with companies like Google and Amazon leading the way. To crib Queena Kim in the podcast cribbing Donald Rumsfeld: "There are a lot of known unknowns." And right now -- that's all we know for sure.