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Summary:

If the Chrome OS is “just a browser”, how can it be more appealing to some people given that other devices all have a browser and more? There are a number of reasons and an article we highlight explains them quite well.

2013 Chromebooks

How could the Chromebook, a device built around “just a browser”, be desirable when laptops, tablets and phones all have a browser and more? There are a number of answers to that question and no single reason is compelling. The more accurate answer may be a combination of reasons: zero-maintenance, low cost, high value and more.

Chrome OS fan, and GigaOM Chrome Show follower, Craig Tumblison, explains those reasons in an article that we call attention to on this week’s podcast. We also discuss the new Google+ photo edit support for ARM-based Chromebooks and offer some new Chrome OS tips and tricks. You can download the show here or tune in directly below.

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  1. ChromeOS is absolutely useless. I checked one at the BestBuy and it has a just a browser. Just tell me what I can do with it, except for twitter and facebook and browsing internet and for google ads to give Google enough revenue. Some people say PC era is over, Facebook recently agreed that most of their users are on mobile ( phones and tablets). If you cannot use ChromeOS to do things more than what you can do with phones and tablets, shouldn’t people buy tablets?

    1. You can do a lot more. You can do word processing/spreadsheet/presentations, pic editing etc. Many of the apps are available offline and so you can work with them even when you are traveling.

      1. You can do them on a descent android/ios/windows device.

        1. Well, you can do them with Chromebooks for less and faster than an equivalent priced one of the others, without having to bother about maintenance, viruses, malware etc.

        2. But before you wrote that Chromebooks were useless.
          Now you write that they are just as useful as an Android or IOS tablet – and I think most folks would agree that those are _not_ useless devices.

          I have a tablet and a Chromebook. I find the Chromebook fills the same role as a tablet, but is far nicer to use when I need to do a lot of typing.

          1. ChromeOS has gotten a lot better, so has the hardware and apps, and they are all improving a lot faster than any other OS too.

    2. Like yourself, Best Buy’s sales staff aren’t the most clued in people when it comes to technical details.

      ChromeOS is a full OS that can do anything and everything that Windows, Linux, Mac OSX etc. can do – it can run web apps (which is encouraged by Google because Google is a web services company) but it can also run locally installed apps the same way as Windows does for all of its apps.

      The difference is that it uses the web browser window as a display interface instead of a Window, and it is designed from the onset as a network authenticated, security hardened, remotely updated and maintained client laptop similar to the Windows laptops and support for security hardening and updates that many enterprises provide their employees at great expense, but with these services thrown in for free. This makes a Chromebook a zero maintenance device as far as the end user is concerned. It works seamlessly and efficiently with the Internet and with cloud applications in a way that offloads part of the workloads to Internet or local servers which can do the heavy lifting, so that it can work much faster than budget Windows laptops, with less load being placed on the device itself, so it can be both cheaper and faster than comparable Windows devices. For example, the fact that a large local drive is not required allows Chromebooks to pack fact high end Ultrabook class SSD drives instead of the slow mechanical HDD drives found on budget or mid-range Windows computers. Also a less powerful and more energy efficient CPU and less RAM can be used compared with Windows but still deliver better performance than budget/midrange Windows laptops.

      There is another important advantage of Chromebooks – by using the newly off the drawing board HTML5 and PNaCl technology for running apps – whether local or web based) instead of the old legacy Windows executables) they are designed so that all your data and applications are in the cloud even if local applications are installed (cached) locally), which means that all data can be accessed and all apps run on any computer – your light, nimble, easy to use and efficient Chromebook, your expensive but elegant Macbook, or your hot, heavy and maintenance heavy Windows laptop – or even a netcafe computer. It will also run on Android and iPhone and iPad devices when device support for Chrome apps arrives on these devices. It will also run on any CPU architecture – ix86 or ARM or MIPS.

      The only disadvantage with Chromebooks compared with Windows is that because ChromeOS, PNaCl and HTML5 is fairly new (HTML5 will only be ratified in 2014), there aren’t as many apps as for Windows, but given the open standard basis of HTML5 and the fact that HTML5 apps can run on any device under the sun with a modern web browser, HTML5 app base will proliferate much faster than legacy Windows or Metro apps, and will overtake Windows apps fairly quickly. For now however, the Internet and existing web apps provide more than an adequate use case for Chromebooks for the majority of home users, schools and universities, and a significant proportion of business users.

  2. The big reason Chrome is not desirable is you will be putting too much of your personal information in the hands of one company which will sell it to make money.

    It’s scary how the ads I see across the browser change depending on keywords in my mail, my Google searches etc.

    1. Cookies are scary.

    2. I think you are thinking about Facebook here, or possibly Microsoft’s online services. Unlike these companies, Google makes its money from advertising – it simply doesn’t make sense for them to sell your information to other companies – if they did, it would undermine their business model, because it would allow other competing advertisers to used the data to push their adverts. All Google does with your information is to direct ads that they think you may be interested in to you.

    3. Maybe Google is evil – but how is that different from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, HP, Yahoo, etc. etc.? They’re all big faceless corporations that don’t have your privacy as one of their best interests.

      If you put private information on a device, and that device touches the Internet – well, it can’t be guaranteed to be private anymore, can it?

      If you’re using that as a reason not to use Google, do you avoid every other tech giant as well?

  3. For me there are two things that are holding me back from buying a Chromebook –

    1) I still want a machine with decent specs (not Pixel level, but not a severely compromised either). I think Chromebook manufacturers have convinced themselves that they can only compete in the $200-$350 range and are compromising on hardware specs to make that happen. As acceptance of Chrome OS grows, I think there will be room for Chromebooks in the $500 – $600 range that has decent specs (including a 13.3″ – 14″ screen).

    2) I can live without most laptop apps but not Skype. I either need to convert my family to Google Hangouts or use a tablet or a phone for Skype.

    I hope Google doesn’t pull the plug on Chrome OS. I think it has the potential to get to a 5 – 10% marketshare in the next 5 – 10 years.

    1. It has 5% of the US market in 2013 already. Should be a lot more in 2014.

    2. There is a 14″ Haswell Chromebook (HP Chromebook 14) with a 10.5 hr battery life in the $300-$350 range, and it performs better overall (battery life, speed) than Windows laptops costing $400-$500 for the type of apps that Chromebooks run. Although required to run Windows without a slowdown, over specifying the CPU, SSD size and RAM on a Chromebook does not improve performance. Also most users want the advantages of a cool, light and portable device for Chromebooks. If you want a hot and heavy laptop, there are plenty of Windows laptops to choose from.

      Having said that, I would like to see a Chromebook with a higher res screen, and/or even faster graphics to push the WebGL games, and AutoCAD WS market.

      Skype was bought by Microsoft, and although web based IMO instant messaging supported Skype on Chromebooks until Microsoft pulled it last May. Best to beware of proprietary services like Skype that are likely to be pulled at any time.

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