Google's Chrome OS has very much tried to rethink the computer terminal, and now it's finally here. Chrome OS, until now, has been relegated to cheap disposable laptops. But the Chromebit will turn any HDMI capable monitor or television into a Chrome OS machine.
There was a time when technology pundits speculated that computer terminals would be the future of personal computing. A "dumb terminal" (or "thin client") would be dependant on a smarter, and more capable, host computer (or "fat client"). A basic breakdown of this relationship can be read on Wikipedia. This technology would reduce the cost of home PCs because they would require less processing power, and all they would really require is a good network connection.
The idea never quite took off, mostly because only recently does the average home have a fast enough Internet connection to make such as solution viable. But, the notion of the computer terminal has had a resurgence with the popularity of cloud computing and cloud storage. Increasingly, users rely on cloud services to conduct everyday tasks, and the cloud has made many technologies more or less irrelevant. Google Docs is a more than sufficient replacement for Microsoft Word. Hard drive space is made less of an issue with cloud storage. Email and chat is often done through the browser rather than through a desktop application. I'm editing this article using a cloud based CMS!
That being said, this is not a new form factor for computers. The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized Linux box which came to market in 2012. There are many "computers on a stick" that run Android. Even Windows 8.1 and 10 machines of a similar size have already been announced. But none of these (with the exception of Windows) make for a very user-friendly desktop experience, and Chrome OS has two key advantages. Security and administration. Chrome OS is sandboxed and is extremely secure. A user can sign into a Chrome OS device with their Google account and instantly have access to their Chrome apps and cloud documents. Chrome OS is easily deployable and is very lightweight - making it a dream for system administrators.
Smart TVs would be a whole lot smarter if they ran Chrome OS, and home users could easily have a family desktop computer just by owning a monitor and a Chromebit. Businesses could use this device to power board room machines for presentations or for hallway displays. Schools and Universities could upgrade their computer labs simply by swapping out a Chromebit stick. The $100 Chromebit (made by Asus) might very well be the most ingenious use of Google's strange, web-based OS.