Google reinvent the Chromebook
Google are back with a brand new Chromebook, manufactured by Samsung and sporting the latest iteration of Chrome OS, Google’s cloud-based PC operating system. Interestingly, the new Chromebook will start shipping on October 26th, the same day as Windows 8 is released. Google aim to tempt users away from Windows 8 with a cheaper alternative, while would-be buyers have their wallets and purses in hand.
With an 11.6 inch matte display, it’s not quite as big as a standard laptop, but it’s still a little bigger than the 10 inch netbooks of old. Weighing in at just 1.1kg the new Chromebook is seriously lightweight, while still managing to provide an impressive 6.5 hour battery life in general use (based on Google’s tests). How this battery life holds up to real world use is yet to be determined.
Inside the Chromebook’s minimalist plastic shell (reminiscent of the MacBook Air), you’ll find a Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Processor, 16GB storage, 2GB of RAM, WiFi connectivity and a front-facing VGA camera for video calls (courtesy of Google+ Hangouts). As with the previous generation, you can pay a little extra and get a 3G enabled model for £299, enabling you to buy a data plan specifically for your laptop, without relying on WiFi access to connect to the web.
As you’ve probably already noticed, 16GB is not a lot of memory for a laptop, but because it’s running Chrome, all your files and data are stored ‘in the cloud’ on Google’s servers. To make sure you have plenty of online storage space Google are providing a substantial 100GB of cloud storage space, via Google Drive, free for two years.
Google are really promoting the Chromebook’s speed and security with their current advertisements and there’s good reason. The new Chromebook boots up in under 10 seconds and because it’s entirely cloud-based, the system should theoretically never slow down. So two years in, it’ll still boot up just as fast as it did on the day you bought it. If the OS becomes faulty you can simply re-install the software and it’ll be back in full working order in no time, with all your files exactly as you left them, courtesy of Google’s offsite cloud storage.
This also means Google can update the OS with new features, security updates and bug fixes without you ever having to worry about maintaining the system yourself. Think of it like more like a mobile phone OS than a desktop one. Even apps, themes and extensions are installed via the Chrome Web Store. No more CDs and downloaded EXE files. The Chromebook doesn’t even have a CD drive. In fact, there are no moving parts in the entire computer, not even a fan, thanks to the low-power ARM-based processor that powers the computer.
As all your settings are stored in the cloud, it means multiple users, family members, and even guests, can log-in on the same Chromebook without slowing the computer down or adding unwanted clutter to the OS. For users who don’t require complex software and can get by with Google Docs rather than Microsoft Word, then a Chromebook would be an excellent substitute for a Windows machine. Especially at such a low price. If on the other hand, you need more performance and access to specific non-Google apps, then maybe a Chromebook is not for you.
It’ll be interesting to see how well received this new generation Chromebook will be, especially considering they are going head-to-head with Windows 8. I can’t decide if this was a good move or a bad one. It’s possible consumers could be tempted away from a brand new Windows laptop, especially if they don’t take kindly to its new tile-based interface, but it’s a big leap of faith to switch to an entirely new operating system paradigm. No Microsoft Word, no Outlook, no ‘Start’ bar, it would be a big change for many people.
Due to this Windows legacy that Google have to deal with, it’s hard to see where the future of Chrome OS lies. As Android continues to grow in both popularity and features, it seems inevitable that Android will be the OS to capture the public’s imagination long before Chrome OS does. Android seems destined to evolve into Google’s definitive mobile operating system, capable of powering phones, tablets and laptops alike. Making Chrome OS obsolete in the process.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there is still a huge market for Chromebooks and Chromeboxes (Google’s screen-less desktop computer equivalent), mainly in education, but I think the average consumer will be drawn to Android tablets and iPads over an alternative to the traditional desktop interface.
I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Chrome OS and Android over then next three to four years. Speaking from personal experience, I see many people using iPads and Android tablets with bluetooth keyboards rather than Chromebooks. I’ve seen maybe one or two Chromebook users in the last 12 months. To me it’s obvious that Android is the way to go, integrating Chrome OS features into Android over time, seems like the inevitable future of Google’s mobile OS strategy.Tagged in: Android, Chromebook, google, ipad, Samsung, Windows 8
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