Some Open Source notes

In my persona as an Associate Lecturer of the Open University, I promised some brief notes on Open Source software to help a colleague who’s leading a Staff Development workshop in a couple of weeks’ time.

Educational providers always need to find workable inexpensive software to provision their students. Around 1990 I taught the first Open University course which took ICT facilities to the students in their homes, rather than requiring them to book time on terminals hosted by friendly local institutions. The DT200 course existed in the days of DOS, but it used an early on-screen word processor (FirstWordPlus on the GEM GUI), a cut-down version of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, and the CoSy conferencing system. The configuration was an Amstrad 640 with two 5.25 inch floppy drives and no hard disk. Oh, and the mouse port was on the left hand side which is why, more than 20 years later, I still use my mouse left handed.

I promised some notes, as I said. And I thought I’d share them more widely. I use Open Source software quite freely but nothing startling. I also use other freeware and a handful of niche purchased products, such as Graphic Converter for the relatively limited image manipulation I need to do.

My main OU course now is the ICT foundation course which introduces students to a range of practical ICT tools as well as the social and global context in which the technologies operate. It uses Audacity for audio recording, which I’d been using for some time already for creating podcasts for students on another course. It uses FreeMind for mind maps. Alongside this it uses tools like Picasa for image manipulation which is free (from Google) but of course isn’t Open Source.

I use a Mac but run it sometimes as a Windows machine using BootCamp. On Windows I don’t maintain a Microsoft Office licence so I use Open Office. While there are some compatibility issues with on-screen presentation I haven’t hit any significant problems. I know there are some, but they haven’t affected anything I’ve needed to do. I use the VLC media player on Mac for Windows Media Player formats, since Microsoft no longer make a player for Mac.

The Firefox browser and other elements of the Mozilla family are of course Open Sourced and Firefox is my browser of choice. I use the internal web server on my Mac which is a version of Apache.

For application development I use Cincom Smalltalk which is a full object-oriented environment and although it’s commercially owned it’s developed by its OS community. I learned Smalltalk, also 20 years ago, when working on a collaborative academic-industry research project and I still love it.

Working in industry, as I did until recently, I encountered a lot of suspicion about Open Source. More recently I think it’s abated somewhat but it’s still there.

The debate around OS in the commercial IT sector focusses on accountability – not knowing who is accountable for quality or who can be sued (to put it bluntly) for any real problems. It’s difficult for procurement-minded professionals to accept that a community of interest is likely to have higher quality standards and to identify and fix problems more quickly than a major for-profit software supplier.

This attitude has softened over the past several years, not least because some software (such as Apache and Linux) has become widely used in the enterprise. To my reading there are (at least) two reasons. Cost (obviously) but also licensing.

It’s a lot easier to promote a web service when you don’t have to license according to the number of users. Quality has become a given for the most widely used products. Security can be easier to assure and handle when there can be access to source code. And acquiring OS software through a distributor does offer some assurance of quality. There have been some high profile espousals of OS software, such as Linux or Open Office in government departments which are supremely cost-conscious, but these haven’t had an enormous impact in the wider commercial marketplace.

What is, I think, true is that as more specialised niche requirements have been accepted within the enterprise, there’s a recognition that either open source or niche (= small startup) providers may be the only route to a solution. Someone, somewhere, has created an open source community around your need.

There are various definitions of what constitutes Open Source. By one definition, a specification is “Open” if it is published, so that it can be used by other platforms – as other word processing software can create documents in Microsoft’s format. Conversely, the Open Document Format was defined through an open process: but isn’t yet accepted as the leading standard for interoperability. This is the open process I learned about through by participation in the Object Management Group’s work. Building consensus and reconciling different viewpoints, including those of commercial developers, takes time: but there is often a strong academic foundation, and academic rigour often sustains a longer-lasting and more effective standard. Or, again, there is development through an open community which brings many minds to bear on problems; which converges on useful solutions; but which can become self-perpetuating so that the vision does not always grow or, where necessary, change.

• Sourceforge: one of the strongest groups of Open source communities
• Sourceforge is host to Audacity and to FreeMind
• Linux (of course)
• Apache (the Apache Software Foundation) also hosts Open Office
• Mozilla for Firefox, Thunderbird and more
• Smalltalk (see this page for versions)
VLC media player
Commercial products:
• Graphic Converter from Lemkesoft
• Picasa from Google
• Gem Desktop

Insight coverage: Consumerisation

Tomorrow I’m part of the team delivering the Corporate IT Forum’s Consumerisation Summit in London. That’s prompted me to create the latest InformationSpan insight services Coverage Report.

Coverage Reports identify the major, second tier and niche insight providers who can effectively support enterprise IT in their strategy, decision making and operational management. In the case of consumerisation, a review of our database of over 400 IT insight providers is revealing.

There’s a strong tendency for consumerisation (or, in North American coverage, “consumerization”) to be equated to the use of smart endpoint devices. Certainly the movement began with enabling cheaper, consumer-side PCs rather than corporately procured devices with a tailored enterprise desktop; and the use, now, of smartphones, tablets and other Bring Your Own devices is a key part of the topic. With, of course, its attendant concerns for appropriate use, security, information protection and so on.

But consumerisation, properly understood, must encompass the wide range of consumer-end online services and applications: freeware (such as the Open Smalltalk which I use for programming); consumer cloud services (where Google Apps started); replacements for conventional technologies (such as the fax-to-email service which provides my rarely-used fax reception capability); and much, much more. I surveyed these in a presentation a couple of years ago; see the link below.

So I define consumerisation as the use, in the enterprise, of technologies provisioned directly by users through the open consumer marketplace – or, at the least, technologies also commonly purchased and used directly by end consumers. I categorise these into: collaboration platforms; communications; research; contact management; and infrastructure.

This Coverage Report identifies who covers what, based on what I can see on their websites. While, as mentioned, a lot of coverage is confined to smart devices, there are providers who look well beyond this and take a more positive attitude (as opposed to lock-down-everything). Forrester Research, of the majors, has been looking for some years at the impact of Generation Y on the workforce and the end-user experience they bring, and this informs their coverage. Horizon Watching, as always, punches above its weight.

CSC’s Leading Edge Forum were probably the first to fully identify this trend, and have around ten years’ well developed coverage. The surprise in the survey is a second-tier provider called Info-Tech Research, who also have a range of strategy starters, tools and other resources.

For a bit more information about the report, visit InformationSpan, below. Other links to providers are in the report which costs £150 from

• Coverage report: Consumerisation. InformationSpan, Feb 2012 (brochure)
• Can Web 2.0 run your Business? InformationSpan presentation, BCS Consultancy SIG, Jan 2010 (free download)
• Consumerisation Summit, Corporate IT Forum, 22 Feb 2012

Tech trends for 2012: who thinks what?

It’s the time when insight services are awash with predictions for the coming year. I’ve been having a look or, where possible, a listen to a few.

Did you see a recent Forrester announcement? In line with their own recommendations, they’ve replaced the CIO post with a Chief Business Technology Officer. With hindsight I’m surprised it’s taken this long; “Not IT but BT” has been a Forrester theme for several years now.

Another place where I’ve seen the Business Technology tag used is in McKinsey‘s quarterly newsletter. Their Business Technology office has just reported their sixth annual technology survey. According to the newsletter, “executives say their companies are boosting IT spending and adopting new technology platforms to support innovation”. McKinsey see a significant challenge to IT: “Aspirations—and current expectations—for IT have never been higher”.

Here are a few other pointers.

IDC Insights believe the CIO’s 2012 agenda will be shaped around the “Four Forces” (Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data). I’m registered on their webcast (10th Jan: free) to hear more. Yankee Group also offer a focus on mobility. Their focus is on the market for devices, but their research speaks also to the corporate buyer strategist when they see an even smartphone market between Android, iPhone and BlackBerry. Oddly, though, they refer to the Bring-Your-Own market but don’t have a focus on tablets. They do, though, see both personal Cloud services and HTML5 becoming important in the coming year.

Gartner, of course, have created their swathe of Predicts 2012 content. Of course, most of it is client-only access. But the front page of Predicts 2012 includes a 15-minute podcast from Darryl Plummer. He highlights the same four areas as IDC (except he says “Information” instead of “Big Data”). It’s worth listening to Darryl; he’s quite listenable-to.

Significantly, Gartner’s highlighted report for the IT community is titled “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2012 and Beyond: Control Slips Away“. You almost don’t need to read the report; but there’s a useful summary by Peter Galen at Infosec Update. Corporate control of users’ IT assets has been useful, but is now increasingly a myth. Seems like Gartner are saying that this year is the year it will reach tipping point. But, listening to Darryl speaking in this area, I did rather wonder “What took you so long?”

IBM, in their “5 in 5” (five trends in five years) take the argument a step further and look beyond the WENA (western Europe/North America) corporate market. Thanks to Basex for the alert to this, but I’m not entirely clear that Basex is looking at the same report. Their focus on mobile devices is on the super-smart, not on the abolition of the digital divide. Worth a look, to lift your eyes beyond the immediate page.

Finally, Ray Wang (now at his own Constellation Research) highlights “10 Mega Business Trends To Watch For In 2012”.


Perhaps the key one, for IT, is “Keep consumerisation of IT enterprise class”: in other words, ensure the right balance between enablement and discipline. Here’s a world class statement of the issue:  If IT is too strict, business fails. If business fails to have a level of discipline in technology adoption, IT can not keep up with the lack of standards and scale. Ray sets this in the context (and there’s a timechart) of the change from transaction to engagement as the basis for business. There are comments for innovators, and for those who are scared to innovate.

Happy New Year!

• Forrester Research Names First Chief Business Technology Officer, Forrester Press Release, 5 Oct 2011
• A rising role for IT: McKinsey Global Survey results, McKinsey Quarterly, Dec 2011
• IDC Insights 2012 Predictions: The CIO Agenda, IDC Insights, 4 Jan 2012, in IT Governance and Executive Strategies. For the webcast (10 Jan), the registration link is at the foot of the page.
• Register and download 2012 Mobility Predictions: A Year of Living Dangerously, Yankee Group , Dec 2011
• Predicts 2012: Gartner; summary at Infosec Island, Peter Galen, 3 Jan 2012
• IBM the next 5 in 5, see also Basex Tech Watch
• 10 Mega Business Trends To Watch For In 2012, Ray Wang, constellation

Beyond gmail: Google apps event with BCS

I’m at a BCS North London event at Google’s London office, listening to presenters from the AppsBroker consultancy extend my understanding of how Google Apps work. We’ve passed through the background stuff about using cloud apps in general and now getting to the meat. If you’ve wondered, like me, what Google APIs can really do, then this is an as-it-goes posting; watch the space! Any errors in understanding or interpretation are mine, of course.

How to write a Google-extended app …

1 – Appscript; 2 – Gadget APIs; s – Data APIs

1: Appscript = Javascript extended. Primarily for spreadsheets plus elements such as contacts, calendar, finance, sites, docs list, maps (some of these are in Labs).

Just seeing the down side of everything being online rather than on the device; the demo’s gone down through being unconnected. Notwithstanding that I’m doing this on Google’s guest network,, the demo doc is, it appears, “offline”. Embarrassing, even when the demo’s working on a ChromeBook, which admittedly does reboot nice and quickly!

When it’s come back, we get a quick view of the script code inserted into a Spreadsheet to quickly create a form with follow-on technology such as mail-outs based on the respondent’s input, or sending update notifications when an online document is changed.

2: Data APIs, based on REST rather than SOAP (HTML based, IIRC, but can use other languages eg. Java/script .NET, …). Can for example use Data APIs to push data into a shared spreadsheet in real time from multiple users/locations/sources, but maintaining one version of truth.

3: Gadget APIs: simple HTML/Javascript to extend gadgets. Example shown: a smart reschedule for a shared meeting. Looks a lot like the calendaring that Lotus Notes has done for years!

Google App Engine and Cloud Storage will have a >99.9% SLA from November. Cloud SQL (see Google Blog last week) is under beta.

— adding to the interest level, we just had a fire evacuation and a quick tour of Eccleston Square with the fire marshals. Now trickling back – at least, most of us. I think some people have decided to duck out.

In the pipeline: Google Big Query: online dataset analysis – data mining/BI application. And something called the Google Periodic Table (there’s an extra column in the Transition Metal section …) which visualises the family of applications and extensions. Prediction, for example, can look at web traffic and draw interesting conclusions. Lots of searches on “sore throat” might signal the start of a flu epidemic.

Abbreviated in response to the disruption: Dalim, chair of the Branch, talking about governance. What changes with the cloud? Some of the controls e.g. for change management; assurance from third parties, and provider management; identity and access management (d0 you still have super users?) and monitoring; evolving technology, complexity and challenges. Dalim offers an app assurance checklist [see BCS NLB website in due course].

Q&A … references to Google’s global infrastructure capability; e.g. guaranteeing at least four copies of data on different continents (that is, replication like Lotus Notes used to do). Regarding data protection issues – Google can’t at present commit to (for example) segregating data into the EU though this is being worked on. The offering currently may not be appropriate for heavily regulated in-country enterprises e.g. some areas of government, finance. Google, though, takes the approach that they are not data owners; they are data holders, and would pass access requests to the data owners. And there are data online about which countries request legal discovery, how often, and when. From the security point of view, just a glimpse of the multiple levels of protection applied to data.

Thinking about a portfolio of services: Google Apps will integrate both on-premise (e.g. with AD) and other cloud services (e.g. a strategic partnership with And there’s a commitment to back data out if a service relationship is terminated. Cloud, to Google, is short term contractable (e.g. 12 month; or a little as 1 month) – no lock-in.

• Google Apps (follow the links)
• Google App Engine, Cloud Storage and Prediction API are open for business, Official Google Blog, 11 Oct 2011
• BCS North London Branch: Past Events 2011 (you may have to scroll for this event; presentations are not yet posted but are expected)
• AppsBroker consultancy

Oops, no title! Social media outside WENA

An excerpt from a recent IDC Financial Insights blog posts a useful summary of the social media focus outside WENA (Western Europe/North America). Though the focus of the whole post is banking, this bit is particularly general:

It Is Not Just Facebook. It is easy to be dazzled by the current leading light of social media — Facebook. Indeed, many executives have disregarded the promise of social media by thinking, “how can Facebook really be useful to my bank?” The truth, of course, is social media is not just Facebook.

Across the Asia/Pacific region, there are dominant Facebook alternatives: Weibo in China, Wretch in Taiwan,Orkut in India, and mixi in Japan; these have developed different trajectories and propositions vis-à-vis Facebook. Furthermore, there are market-specific Web boards that provide a wealth of feedback on how banks stack up against each other (e.g., Product Review in Australia and Thai Visa in Thailand). In our recent IDC Financial Insights forums, other social media sites have been cited as useful: YouTube (product training and knowledge sharing made more effective because of video), Twitter (Australian banks dealing with crises such as bank outages), Yammer (internal Q&A and knowledge sharing), and LinkedIn (hiring of staff).

For more, see Eight Principles for Social Media in Banking, IDC Financial Insights, 13 Sep 2011

Other links:
• Weibo: The Chinese Twitter that dwarfs Twitter, Guardian blog (undated). The site is in Chinese
• Wretch (also in Chinese)
• Orkut (which is part of Google)
• Mixi article in Wikipedia; the site is in Japanese but there is a company overview in English

Interestingly, the Chinese and Japanese language sites feature menu headings in English.

How sweet to be iCloud

HApple iCloud logoow sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the blue!
It makes him very proud
To be a little Cloud.
How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the blue!

Thus sang Winnie-the-Pooh, when he was devising his strategy for getting access to essential resources – the honey in the bees’ nest in the tree. But it could have been Steve Jobs’s theme tune last week.

I finally sat down to watch the keynote session led by Steve Jobs from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this week: the one with the much-trailed announcement about iCloud. And to write: with a background of plasterers and plumbers in the house, and a digger reconstructing the drive outside!

In a keynote lasting nearly 2 hours, and viewable online, there was a lot of other stuff first. I’ll skip over it briefly: you can watch for yourselves or read other more detailed reports, but it provided context. Gartner’s Brian Prentice has said that “Apple’s vision of personal computing has unleashed a massive, pent up demand amongst people … But they are just one of many companies having success in reaching out directly to the user …”. It’s interesting to see Gartner finally and fully embracing the message that some of us have been preaching for years. Think King Canute: he knew he couldn’t hold back the tide but he had to go to the beach and demonstrate it to his sycophantic wise men. But this has been the other way round: the kings have been trying to hold back the tide, but even Gartner’s analysts now see that it’s not a winnable battle.

On the other hand, looked at from a corporate perspective: what iCloud will do is to bring to the consumer market the benefits that corporate infrastructure has provided its users for decades. Lotus Notes, with its replication and synchronisation capabilities, meant that I could access the same resources from anywhere, my own machine or not. I could read and reply to email, without having to copy stuff manually from one machine to another. I could update a meeting agenda, or modify a document, or publish a new application, ditto. It all just worked. But, to date, there’s been no consumer equivalent of maintaining multiple copies of data in sync across multiple devices. Even if you use a purely web-based email, you’ll still download documents or want to send one you’ve prepared earlier. And it’s not on your phone: it’s on the desktop Mac back at base.

Enabling that, it seems to me, is the vision of iCloud.

Phil Schiller said that the PC market shrank by 1% last quarter, while the Mac market grew 28%. OS X is now 10 years old; the next version, Lion, is due soon and there was a review of new features. The iPhone experience is feeding back into OS X: pinch, swipe and touch will arrive on Mac trackpads and in consequence the scrollbar will be much less in evidence. So will the menu bar, which has been fixed at the top of the Mac screen since time immemorial! Another iPhone idea that’s now (since January) on the Mac is theApp Store; Lion has it built in. Spaces (the multiple virtual screen feature, for Windows users who don’t have it) has the ability to move application windows from one Space to another or, even, to a new one. A new Resume feature means you can restart the machine just as you last left it: no need to restart everything separately. New visual paradigms and built-in search for handling mail. And more: take a look at the video, at around 6 minutes in. Oh, and you’ll go to the App Store for Lion. In July.

Then, there was a focus on the iPad, iOS, and the iPhone. But I skipped over that. At about 80 minutes in, Steve Jobs is back on stage to talk about iCloud (about 30 minutes’ worth). The primary rationale: the recent proliferation of types of device, and the complexities which arise if you create, buy or download digital material on one of them and need to maintain sync with the others. Even without media, it’s complex enough; I sync my address book and calendar between my main Mac and my phone (not an iPhone), but I draw the line at trying to keep these, and email, in sync between these two devices and my Macbook. What is Jobs offering? All the devices have comms built in. If the “centre of the universe” is the cloud rather than my iMac hard disk, then automatic sync can be enabled.

iCloud “stores your content in the cloud, and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices”. And it’s “integrated with your apps” so it’s all automatic. “It just works”. Jobs did take the hit of the failure of MobileMe; “not our finest hour”, he said; but, while MobileMe has been canned with immediate effect, the new service harnesses the hard learnings. There are new features such as calendar sharing: familiar in the enterprise, but now brought to the consumer market. Cloud-based replicated mail – with no ads. Integration of AppStore purchases across your devices: one purchase automatically available to all your devices, including the ones you haven’t bought yet. iBooks: again integrated, and where you’ve got to is kept in step between devices. Time Machine becomes cloud backup, and makes it easy to initiate a new device.

I got confused about Documents in the Cloud (90 minutes in). There’s automatic replication of documents, and updates, between devices using the same principles. Not needing to keep versions in step manually when working away from base on another device does sound good. It wasn’t clear whether this is limited to Apple’s iWork office suite (now available for the iPhone too); but then it appears that the Documents feature integrates PCs as well as Apple stuff. The story is to “let the app manage its documents”, but that’s where we started. When I have a project I may have text documents, and spreadsheets, and presentations, and PDFs, and other stuff all related to the project. And I want to keep them together. I want to go to one place and see the stuff that relates to that project. That’s what a folder is for.

And finally, iTunes in the iCloud; no additional charge to re-download to additional devices for historic purchases; new purchases will “appear” on all of them. A new subscription feature, iTunes Match, will match from the iTunes library any music you’ve legitimately purchased (on CD) and make this available to your other devices too.

Customers get 5GB storage in iCloud: and purchases, music and photos don’t count towards it. All this does make me wonder how much local storage is going to be needed on all these devices as content is pushed equitably to all of them. I guess storage is still getting cheaper and more compact, so perhaps that’s not an issue. Though iCloud won’t keep your Photo Stream for ever, even in their new enormous data centres. That’s too much, even for the cloud.

How sweet to be a cloud … Now some reactions.

In the ten days since the WWDC keynote, there’s been time for comment to gather. And as I’ve already hinted, Gartner no longer ignore all things Apple, nor counsel clients to avoid them like the plague. Read Brian Prentice’s blog: I think he sees iCloud as finally being the tipping point to get the personal device denialists in enterprise IT to realise the need to think creatively about the possibilities. He calls it DTTU (“Direct To The User”) and says “… enterprise IT organizations are some of the most resistant departments to change. Conversely, when change becomes absolutely unavoidable they display an amazing ability to craft intelligent, finely-tuned governance controls to deal with the new reality.” iCloud won’t go away, and can’t be legislated against in the enterprise. It’s time to start adapting, he says. And it’s a free service: how’s that for taking cost out of the bottom line?

There is an outline of some of the standard issues, quite succinctly put, at; and we’ve covered them in depth – and the plus side too – in workshops at the Corporate IT Forum. also link a slideshow (from PC World) about iCloud, but I’d recommend taking the time to watch Steve Jobs because this is a bowdlerized and very limited summary.

Presumably not by coincidence, Forrester on the same day as Jobs’s keynote released a report called “The Personal Cloud: Transforming Personal Computing, Mobile, And Web Markets”. I can only see the summary. But I rather suspect that Frank Gilett didn’t foresee Apple making iCloud a free service built into the OS. In a report aimed at vendors, this report “forecast[s] the number of users and paying subscribers to personal cloud services through 2016”. Jobs himself had a go at both Amazon and Google, in the context of the music download business (Mike McGuire of Gartner deals with that one too). There’s little in the Forrester Community. rehearses some of the standard enterprise concerns about consumerised services; they’re real ones, and the summary is good. But follow Brian Prentice in your approach, if you’re in enterprise IT. It would be good to know if Gartner are starting to do some of that thinking. The article links to a short slideshow, originally from PC World, which outlines what iCloud is about. But its coverage is very selective and limited. You’ll do much better to take the half hour to watch Steve Jobs directly!

But I was surprised at how little real analysis there is in my regular sources. Looks like the industry – vendors, users and enterprises – is holding its breath for the official launch, to see what happens. You will do better searching Twitter; there are some links there to useful comments.

But for me, it finally begins to make sense. Lion’s integration with iCloud is a single, coherent picture; nothing’s merely an “add on”. And it’s free, so what’s to lose?

• Apple WWDC Special Event, video, 6 Jun 2011, from (iCloud starts around 80 minutes in)
• iCloud on
• Welcome iCloud – Now Prepare To Meet Your Enterprise IT Detractors, Brian Prentice, Gartner blogs, 9 Jun 2011
• The Personal Cloud: Transforming Personal Computing, Mobile, And Web Markets, Frank Gillett, Forrester Research, 6 Jun 2011 (subscription or purchase required for full report)
• Apple iCloud Draws CIO Concerns,, 14 Jun 2011
iTunes in the Clouds, Mike McGuire, Gartner blog, 7 Jun 2011
• Corporate IT Forum event: Deploying iPads and other post-PC devices, 27 Jan  2011 (subscription required)
• Twitter feeds:!/search/iCloud


ChromeBook reinvents the Thin Client

Google’s Android is probably the mobile platform that, in the popular perception, is coming closest to the iPhone. Now there’s the ChromeBook. It’s a couple of weeks since the announcement, so there’s been chance for reactions to hit the web. Time for a round-up, then.

First, a recap. Sundar Pichai presented the Day 2 keynote at Google I/O from the Chrome team. The Chromebook presentation occupied the second half of this. The case for Chromebook is that, these days, most users spend most of their time on the Web (as I’m doing now, creating this post). That’s whether they’re private individuals or corporate users. Individuals upload pictures to Facebook, and communicate with friends either there or on Twitter (or possibly e-mail).

Corporates are adopting cloud services for collaboration, ordering, sales management, and all the services which used to need large servers. Given a wide range of online apps, there’s almost no need for the historic baggage of disc storage, system checking, backup, antivirus and so on. So Chrome, and the Chromebook, throw all this away. The Chromebook is what we used to call a Thin Client: no processing power, no local storage, just apps and data. in the cloud. It’s an always-on, always-connected world (of course, so long as your provider – Google – doesn’t go down; it’s been known, but then so do corporate centres).

What’s neat is the ability to register online apps as file handlers; and these are integrated into the context menus. So, for example, images might be handled by Facebook, by a screen viewer, or by an image editor app: all these show up as right-click options.

Where the hand-waving comes is when Google admit that devices are sometimes actually disconnected: so that some apps (Gmail and Google Docs, for early starters) are now available for offline use. We didn’t hear what that means in terms of a return to local storage, local processing and so on … But the I/O presentation rounds off with some interesting enterprise use cases, which would certainly be easily predictable to anyone whose memory goes back to the old thin client days or to Sun’s web client machine for that matter. Netbook technologies never made the mainstream somehow. Will it be different this time?

Well, with a little time to consider, who thinks what? TechRepublic’s Jason Hiner thinks that corporate IT will get on board. Eventually. Just as with cloud services, perhaps, the suggestion is that it will take a while, but the business case will eventually compel attention. Not impossible, I’d say, that Chromebooks will appear by the back door – brought in by business users, like the iPad in many companies. Especially when they go on sale on Amazon at compelling prices.

But for the corporate heavyweights, George Colony, CEO of Forrester, has given Chromebook his personal attention and he is not convinced. He’s looked for the business agenda at Google as well as the technology: they gain leverage (advertising) from increasing use of online services. Processing power gets more powerful and cheaper faster than networks, so the Chromebook’s 8-second bootup time and fast response may be less of an advantage than Google aver. And, of course, no senior executive is going to do symposium demonstrations with large files so the demos, as you can see from the video, were indeed impressively fast.

No take (blog or mainstream) from Gartner. There’s an interesting broader comment from Andrew Frank about Google’s branding strategy, particularly with regard to Chrome. Otherwise, there seems to be remarkably little in the mainstream analyst community. In Tier 2, Red Monk comments particularly on the “Tablet as a Service” aspect of Google’s announcement: the idea that users will lease a Chromebook, getting a new one every three years just like a leased car. This went along with the push that, unlike most personal machines, a Chromebook won’t deteriorate over time. No locally stored stuff, so no hard disk fragmentation, crashes or issues. No software clashes. No malware protection, to slow things down. Just continual updates as Google improves the ChromeOS experience, so in fact (so the pitch went) this computer actually gets better, not worse, over time.

The lease option is also picked up in another short Forrester blog, for sourcing professionals: this cautions potential leasers to consider the possible unstated negatives (and positives), such as support costs in the enterprise, and inability to run the existing software portfolio – against which, in the long run, the downloadable app model might work out cheaper. Might. One feature, though, which will attract: the online model (nothing on the local device) clearly will ease enterprise management.

So the most authoritative comment so far is Forrester’s. Forrester believes in a synergy between web services and powerful local processing, and George Colony is sceptical about the Chromebook’s ability to steal mindshare from the iPad.

Time will tell.

• Google Chrome: Day 2 Keynote from Google I/O, Google I/O, 11 May 2011: video replay, for Chromebook pick up at around 38 minutes
• While IT pros scoff, Google Chromebooks will likely seduce businesses, Jason Hiner, Tech Republic, 12 May 2011
• Google Chromebook: Business Model By Ideology, Counterintuitive CEO (George Colony), 16 May 2011
• The Embattled Google Brand, Andrew Frank, Gartner blog, 13 May 2011
• Chromebook/Notebook/Tablet As A Service. On Google Competing With IBM Global Finance, James Governor, Red Monk, undated but probably 13 May 2011
• Do $28/Month Laptops Really Exist?, Clarence Villanueva, Forrester blog, 13 May 2011