Meet The New Chromebooks

Most of us spend more and more time each day in our browsers. We’ve dropped email clients for Gmail, write in Tumblr and WordPress more than Word, tweak pictures in Photoshop.com and Aviary, and more. YouTube and Netflix are the default place most people go to watch videos, and when you need to find something in a book, chances are you can find it in Google Books. The browser has taken over our computing life, and thanks to the recent speed improvements in browsers that was spearheaded by the Google Chrome team with V8, many web apps now feel nearly as fluid as native applications.

With all the advancements, though, are you ready to use just your browser with no other native apps? Google seems to think the computing world is ready to shift to using only web apps, and has turned their Chrome browser into a full Linux-powered operating system. The new Chromebooks will be ready to hit the shelves this summer, so let’s see what Chrome OS has to offer.

A Browser, and Only a Browser

Nearly 2 years ago, Google announced plans to turn Chrome into a full operating system that would let you use web apps, and nothing else. Then, last year, Google began test-driving Chrome OS with a pilot project that gave away their experimental Cr-48 netbooks to hundreds of users around the world. This week at the Google I/O Conference, the Chrome team finally announced the final result of their labors: Chromebooks. This is a somewhat radical concept for most consumers, so the Chrome team put together a great video to explain what Chromebooks are all about.

Chromebooks are specially designed netbooks will run Chrome OS, which will make them unique computing devices designed entirely around the browser. Instead of Chrome being yet another app on your computer, in Chromebooks, Chrome is the app to end all apps. You’ll boot the netbook in 8 seconds or less, sign in with your Google account, and all of your Chrome passwords and apps will be automatically synced.

Just like in Chrome on your computer, Chromebooks will automatically download and install updates to the browser. Chrome OS goes one step beyond that and verifies that your Chrome OS image hasn’t been tampered with, to ensure that your browsing experience is always secure. Best of all, it’ll work just like Chrome on your Mac or Windows computer, so if you’re already using Chrome, you’ll be ready to run in seconds.

Instant boot and long battery life are great upsides to Chromebooks

Netbooks With a Purpose

Netbooks have long been stigmatized as under-powered laptops that aren’t great for most tasks. Google’s upped the amp with Chromebooks, making them more powerful than many standard netbooks while shipping them with stripped down software that will run blindingly fast. Standard Chromebooks will ship with an 11-12″ screen, dual-core Atom N570 processor, 2Gb ram, 8hr. battery, and a 16Gb SSD drive. Unfortunately, that also means they’ll cost around $400 like most netbooks, though Google is also offering them for around $30 per month to businesses and schools, depending on the model. Still, that’s not much cheaper than many computers today, so it may be hard to convince consumers of the value of a computer that only runs a browser.

Chromebooks will include standard WiFi as you’d expect, but some models will also include Verizon 3G wireless modems. Interestingly enough, Chromebooks will come with 100Mb of free cellular data per month, so you can use it online anytime similar to a Kindle. That’s one feature that might make some people find Chromebooks more interesting. If you’d like, you can already check out a full selection of Chromebooks on Amazon to see if there’s one you like. The build quality and design of Chromebooks look nice so far, and it will be very interesting to see the in real-life use.

The upcoming Chromebook likeup at Amazon.com

While you won’t be able to install Photoshop, Microsoft Office, or many popular games on your Chromebook, you can use Photoshop.com, Google Docs or Microsoft’s Office Live, and can play any online game you already play in your browser. Farmville fanatics won’t have to miss their farms for even a minute. Even the ever-popular Angry Birds is now a Chrome Webapp, available for free in the Chrome Web Store.

The Chrome Web Store: Open for business worldwide on all editions of Chrome

The biggest problem is, most web apps currently only work when you’re online. That is set to change now, thanks to new offline capabilities that have been added to HTML5 in Chrome and other modern browsers. Google and its partners announced that many popular web apps will work offline. Springpad and Angry Birds, along with many other games and apps, while Google will be adding offline features to Gmail, Google Docs, and more over the summer. This will make Chromebooks much more useful when you’re flying or somewhere else where you don’t have internet access.

Conclusion

So, is a Chromebook the computer for you? I personally use web apps all day long. Google Apps, Simplenote, Flow, Twitter, Campfire, Instapaper, CloudApp, and numerous WordPress installs are the main apps I use, and so it would seem like a Chromebook would be perfect for my workflow. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m ready to give up native apps, though. Even for those looking for a full computing experience change, it seems like today’s Android tablets and the iPad offer a more compelling computing experience.

That said, it always seems like web developers keep amazing us at what they can do. We’ve always been excited about web apps since they offer a cross-platform experience that you rarely get with native apps. Newer web apps like Flow feel almost like native desktop apps, and browser based games get better all the time. With that, it seems like Chromebooks could be a viable full computing option in the future. I’d still prefer to have a Windows, Ubuntu, or OS X computer today, but since 90% of my day is in Chrome on one of those already, a Chromebook could possibly make the cut.

What do you think? Are you ready to buy one on day-one? Let us know your thoughts on Chromebooks and the future of the browser as an OS in the comments!


  • Gabriel

    If I ever get one:
    1. Jailbreak
    2. Windows 7
    3. Use the whole hardware not just a browser

    • Aaron Gabriel Taylor

      Gross. Windows 7? That’s like getting a i7 processor to word process your D&D backstory. If you want Lose7 you can pick up a netbook for the same price and have more than a 16GB SSD to play with. I see Chromebooks as something I would find useful with Cloud9 IDE/Balsamiq/Kodigen. It’s barebones and sans caps lock – beautiful.

  • http://www.troypeterson.com Troy Peterson

    I wouldn’t buy a notebook version of it… but, might be interested in a pad version.

    • Gabriel

      Would be nice, but again, might still want to use the “jailbreak feature” :)

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Apparently, Google referred to Chromebooks as “tablets with keyboards” during the Google I/O conference, which I find odd. But I’ll agree … Chrome OS might even make more sense on a tablet than Android 2.x ever did. Now with Android 3, though, Google seems poised to give the iPad strong competition. At the same time, they’re trying to compete with tablets with the Chromebook. Very odd all around!

  • http://www.cornerstone-exteriors.com/ Roofer

    It will be great experience for the users.

  • http://thefreelancepinoy.com/ Stephanie

    I do hope that Google will provide an offline feature just in case users don’t have access to the internet. It’s rare nowadays, but it’s possible.

    Personally, I’m not ready to shift to the cloud yet. I don’t always work where there is internet access so it would be useless to buy a Chromebook if the browser and its synced apps won’t function without it.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      I’m looking forward to the offline versions of Google Apps for my normal Chrome install in Windows 7. My internet goes down way too often, but I enjoy web apps too much to quit using them entirely. So, offline web apps would be a great halfway point for me. I can’t imagine switching to a browser-only computer right now either, but maybe in the future? Hard to say!

  • http://junkpit.net Steven Wright

    I really think this OS is for content consumers – much more than content creators. As a photo-taking guy, I can’t see myself using this, but for Facebook / news / Youtube stuff, could be of use if confident of an always ready network connection.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      That’s a good point. People have already been fussing that tablets are aimed at consumption, though the iPad has found many creative uses, way more than many people thought it would at first. The Chromebooks will still be great for using Google Apps, and even the Microsoft Office Web Apps. It’ll be interesting to see how people end up using these devices!

  • http://digitizedsociety.tumblr.com DigitizedSociety

    is it really 100 Megabits? or did you mean Megabytes? 100 megabits free per month does not sell me on this solution.

  • Tomas

    For the price I could see getting one just for fun but I think my iPad offers me more of what I want.

  • Connor Turnbull

    I’ll most likely be picking one of these up when they hit the UK. However, i’m more excited for the Chromebox and to use it for streaming video on a TV!

  • Tim

    Ummm, yeah, the problem is I don’t spend most of my time on the web. It is spent in Photoshop and Corel Painter working on files anywhere from 2K to 1.5GB. I can’t work on a 1GB file on the web.

  • http://craigps.info CraigSnedeker

    If it were cheaper, I’d get it. I could use a light-laptop

  • http://switchr.net Ameer

    The video is awesome, You would really need a fast internet connection to use chrome book right? What about the security issues? My stuff will be shared with others. It’s really a new thought and I’m not really ready for it yet.

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