As the first post about my Chromebook challenge experience, I thought I’d take a look at what Chromebooks are actually like to use, from the perspective of a Mac user. The model that I’m using is the Samsung Series 5, and I’ve actually had it for a few months. When we were burgled earlier in the year, rather than replace my beloved stolen MacBook Air 11in, I decided to spend a whole lot less money on something that filled the same need for a small, reasonably light, “throw in your bag” occasional computer. I was also, of course, curious about ChromeOS and decided that I needed to know more about it.
While the Chromebook hasn’t been in use as my main machine, I’ve used it enough over the past few months to get an idea of its strengths and weaknesses, so it seems like a good place to start to talk about them. Continue reading
A while ago, I wrote a column for Tap on the differences between Apple and Google’s vision of “the cloud”, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) came down hard on the side of Apple’s. iCloud, as I saw it, was very much the more user-centred version.
The iPad and Chromebook represent two different views of the future of cloud computing. In one – the Chromebook – the applications as well as the data live in the cloud. In the other – the iPad – applications remain firmly on the desktop (or mobile), while the data floats wherever it needs to go.
Jason Perlow asks a pertinent question:
It’s important to note that if we had the Chrome browser on an Android tablet, why would we want a Chromebook? For the price of a Chromebook you could pick up an Android tablet with a keyboard that connects via dock or bluetooth. You would have the same functionality, plus the added capabilities of Android.
You would also have something running on a massively-less secure operating system, which is currently a prime target for malware authors.
I’m currently using a Chromebook as my main mobile machine, having had my beloved MacBook Air stolen. Using one is a culture shock, and it’s a profoundly different view of the world. But I’d much rather have it than a crappy Android tablet and some kind of hokey docking station (the keyboard on the Samsung is lovely).
Remember that rumoured tablet PC that HTC was developing for Google, running Chrome OS? According to an HTC executive, it’s dead.
Channelnews Australia quotes Anthony Petts, ANZ Sales and Marketing Director for HTC as saying that all development on the unnamed tablet has ceased, and that the company will be concentrating on mobile phones for the foreseeable future.
Who’d have predicted that, eh?
Daring Fireball: Maybe Instead of Two Cars, You Just Need a Car and a Bicycle:
“The idea of a computer that does a lot less — leaving out even things you consider essential, because you can still do those things on your other, primary computer — is liberating. That’s the opportunity, and that’s the idea behind Chrome OS and Litl and even Android and iPhone OS.”
The idea of it is liberating, as I’ve found out with my experiences with netbooks over the years. The problem is that while the idea of it is liberating, the actual reality of it is less so.
While my MacBook Pro takes up a larger bag, I’ve carried it around with me much more lately because it really doesn’t weigh that much more. And the rest of the time, I have my iPhone – a constantly-connected device which lets me take notes, write short documents.
Chrome OS is an interesting experiment, but in the long term the trend is still towards more power on the desktop – and in the lap.
One of the prime reasons for the success of Twitter is that it has never been reliant on a single interface. Because it has cleverly exposed everything via rich APIs, it has effectively allowed a hundred interfaces to blossom.
Don’t like the way that the web interface now handles retweets? Wait a few weeks and you’ll have a choice of other interfaces, as native (or semi-native) clients on your desktop. All of them will offer different options.
And it’s that combination of rich applications, rich APIs, and web interfaces which makes the Internet so powerful.
That’s why Google ChromeOS, which says “do everything in the web”, is so weak. Of course, there’s good reasons why Google wants you to use web interfaces for everything (MOAR EYEBALLS! MOAR ADS!) but there aren’t really good reasons for customers to want to do it.
Faster boot times? Does anyone really shut down laptops? The only time any of mine – Windows or Mac – get shut down is when they need to restart to install an update. Other than that, it’s sleep all the way, and my Mac’s two second start up from sleep makes ChromeOS’ seven second cold boot look sluggish.
Security? Really? Does no one at Google know how to install anti-virus software? And it’s not like web applications haven’t had their own security issues, or are immune from any kind of attack.
Rich applications. Rich APIs. Web interfaces. The future is all of them, not a single, ad-dominated cul-de-sac.