When Google first mentioned ChromeOS, we figured it was their reaction to launching Android, then seeing Palm come out with webOS, and smacking their heads -- they could have done that with V8! (What, too nerdy?)
Now bear with me because this will be a little bit all over the place (yeah, what else is new, but the future is woven from many seemingly disparate threads). The business reason (and remember Google is a business) makes a lot of sense -- booting in 10 seconds and getting into Chrome, and just Chrome, means users only have access to the web, and Google owns the web and most of its advertising revenue. Boot into Windows, Mac, or the *nix OS, and users may waste time in native apps, totally outside Google's reach. That's why targeting SSD-only netbooks on hardware approved by Google with mass storage access and (we're guessing) internet-driven printing gives Google a chance to own ultra-small scale computing. Free as in Google indeed.
And that's why it makes perfect sense for Mobile handsets in the coming age of ubiquitous connectivity. We're not there yet but we will be soon. And maybe that's why TechCrunch is following up their rumours of a branded Google gPhone with even more rumours that it will be a data-only VoIP device. That's right, no voice plan, just cheap data with Gizmo5-fortified Google Voice and all those other cloud-based Google services like Gmail, navigation, docs, etc.. (It's also suggested this device would run on AT&T, giving them some glamor back if they lose iPhone exclusivity next year).
Bringing this back to the iPhone, we all remember in 2007 when Steve Jobs announced the first "sweet" iPhone development platform -- WebApps, and the resounding thud of that landing on unenthused developers and users alike. But Google isn't Apple and next year is 2010. ChromeOS is, as Casey says, ambitious in concept if tame in current realization, but for iPhone users, that may not matter.
See, as iPhone users, we're excited because we're counting on all those Google ChromeOS WebApps to run just great in our iPhone Safari browsers as well, just like Google's current cloud-based apps -- which is something Android apps won't do (they only run on Android devices). Microsoft going web-based with Office 2010, which we're also looking forward to running in iPhone Safari, only makes it "sweeter". Cheap or "free as in Google" gPhones for those who just want data and browsers, iPhones for those who want all that and more?
Could we be getting the best of all worlds again? Apple and 100,000+ apps native on our iPhone (or Windows, Mac, *nix desktop), Google and Microsoft filling up our cloud along with their own? Yes please.
Let us know what you think!