Friday, July 19, 2013

Editorial - The Future of the Chromebook: Another Netbook or a Notebook Replacement?


I'm a pretty devoted user of Chrome and Chrome OS. I have three machines in my house that run the OS, and a work machine running the Chrome browser. I have made it my goal to use Google's Chrome operating system whenever possible. So far, I have only had one reason to use my old broken-down MacBook, and that was so I could burn a few CDs for my car. Other than that, I have relied primarily on my Chrome OS machines, an Acer Nettop running Chromium OS, an Acer C7 (my main machine) running Chrome OS, and my Samsung Chromebook also running Chrome OS. I have found tons of awesome ways to do what I normally would have done on my MacBook, and I have not missed using it at all. Not being near my Chromebooks makes me miss them. It simply is a better way to compute. Everything from word processing, to blog management, to news, music, movies, and of course, browsing the web, is better on the Chromebook. Yet, the question has arisen: will Chromebooks rise like the Netbook and stay that way? Or is the device doomed to end the same way that the Netbook did?

One article published Tuesday by Bloomberg Businessweek thinks that it will take another iPad revolution to bring down the Chromebook. 
"For the same to happen to Chromebooks, we’d need to encounter some other device that would keep consumers from purchasing Google-powered machines. Tablets work well as browsers and for running mobile apps, but few provide the optimal experience that can be had with a Chromebook. Wearables are supplementary devices and can’t replace traditional computers. At this point, there’s no device now, or on the near horizon, that could displace the Chromebook the way tablets displaced the netbook." -Bloomberg Businessweek 
Remember that the Chromebook does something that the Netbook did not do: it makes basic computing easy, cheap, and safe. Netbooks existed for two reasons: to sell more Intel chips and Microsoft Windows licenses. At the end of the day, they weren't fast enough or safe enough, and were far too small to be used as main machines.

Chromebooks are a completely different story. They can easily be used as main machines. Every six weeks Google pushes out a new release of the operating system that improves on the last: adding new features and apps. The last few dev releases pending final release for end-users has shown that Google understands that offline-use is a must to sell this device for some people. Because of this, Google has pushed packaged apps built will web technologies to make them safer, but with the speed and UI benefits found in traditional desktop apps. Some of the Chrome Web Store's most impressive packaged apps so far are Pocket, Wunderlist, and Google's own app, Keep.

Chromebooks also have something Netbooks didn't have: a non-Windows OS. Yes, there were some Linux Netbooks out there, but they didn't sell because of a lack of familiarity for most end-users or the brand that most users trust. People love and trust Google. Android has been a major success since its unveiling in 2008, and all of Google's services have gained immense popularity throughout the last decade. Needless to say, Google has the name and the product to go with it. In a world where the cloud is a need and the web is king, Google has invented the holy grail of cloud computing.

We published a few days ago that Chromebooks are expected to double or even triple in sales at the end of this year. In order for Google to keep the product on shelves and in homes, they need to prove one thing: we all need a Chromebook. So far, they're doing a pretty good job, and call me a fanboy, but I think the Chromebook exceeds most devices I have used as a whole. Sure, I'd like to have a MacBook Air-like experience with one of these babies, but at least I'm getting something similar in terms of speed and versatility. And at the end of the day, I'm pretty satisfied. Are you?

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