Google, with much fanfare, recently demonstrated ChromeOS—their long-anticipated take on the future of cheap netbook operating systems. While I've been unable to get ahold of the hardware, one can download the OS (it's free, and open source) and run it in a virtual machine (like Parallel's Desktop or VMWare fusion).

The entire OS is centered around the web. It boots (quickly) and opens what looks like a chrome browser window. The apps are links to (admittedly) well-crafted web pages for the typical functions one would do with a simple PC: email, calendaring, and the like.

What's missing is any ability to install applications of your own. You get the web, web 'applications' and that's it. With the package comes aggressive blockade against anything resembling jailbreaking, side-loading of applications or rooting of the device. You get the browser. Compared to a Windows-based netbook, these are steep restrictions.

This is sold as a feature, the notion being most computer users are the opposite of savvy. The principle behind ChromeOS is most users are too dim and foolish to be trusted with vetting applications before installing them. Most would be safer and better off by entrusting Google to vet the applications, and hold onto data. For family members and friends of the hapless windows-based netbook owners, this might be a compelling argument.

Having fuddled with ChromeOS for a bit, I've come to one conclusion: I'd rip out the remainder of my hair if forced to use this sort of locked down computing device, with hideous and frustratingly thin parodies of applications—under centrally controlled lock and key.