Gmail. Google Calendar. Google Documents. Google Chrome. In terms of functionality, do these sound familiar? These are the basic requirements for most modern office (home or otherwise) workers: email, calendar, word processor\spreadsheet\slideshow apps, and internet browser. What's missing? An operating system.
Of course in these days of cloud computing, an OS on a local hard disk is somewhat passé. So right now we we have our Google Accounts to keep all of the above in one place. But it's a little cumbersome. You still need a local computer with its own OS. Or do you?
Imagine a dumb terminal, a Google netbook or a future, Google tablet if you will, that connects securely to a virtual Google desktop environment. All you need is a boot process that runs a citrix-type client from a small flash drive. Kick it up, log into your Google account and you're online, in a virtual Google environment. You surf the internet using Chrome and instead of your office suite of applications you have Gmail, Google Documents, Google Calendar. You don't need to backup your device: if it gets stolen, lost or otherwise destroyed, your data is still safe online. On the downside, you need a reliable internet connection, and you don't have much control over the local device, but that hasn't stopped the iPad from selling. Maybe allow for an offline mode in more expensive models?
These could be cheap, $100 laptop-type devices that we've heard about, or they could be flashy status symbol devices like the ipad. I think trying to compete with the iPad would be a foolish move even for Google, so I'll go with the low end, low maintenance device.
Anyway, just a few thoughts on what I think Google might do in the next year to 18 months. Let's see what happens.