A Look at Chromebook After Release: What Real Users are Saying

by Neel on August 20, 2011

They are cloud-computing based machines, and have taken a very different direction to supply cloud computing, when compared with the direction that the new Windows 8 operating system promises.

Google suddenly released the Chromebook in May 2011, and there was a lot of noise about this new concept in personal computing. The Chromebook is the first completely cloud operating system. It is the first time we have seen cloud computing in this way. Chromebooks run on the Chrome OS, which is essentially an extended version of the Chrome browser. In otherwords, your Chromebook, which looks like a laptop will need to be online all the time to do anything. You can think of it as an internet browser that has all the programs and everything else on your computer, except, nothing is actually on your computer. Everything is stored in your Google account or other online locations. Windows 8 is taking a completely different approach, it is also going cloud by allowing the same computing language of the internet work on your operating system independently of your browser, and still allowing more traditional programming languages of applications function at the same time. With Windows, we get cloud and not cloud, at the same time. So, while only available in the US, what have we seen so far with Chromebooks in a few shortmonths.

chromebook A Look at Chromebook After Release: What Real Users are Saying

  • Still More Tablet Like.Real user reviews are showing us that the Chromebook is more like owning a tablet with a keyboard. This means that we cannot really use one for getting all those tough jobs done, like doing design, producing super-cool presentations or maintaining a company network, for example. In other words, at this stage, the Chromebook is for of a casual internet surfer’s mini-computer and can supply the needs of a student who needs to get some research and textual work done. That is not to say that we cannot do more than that, but the fact remains, the Chromebook is not for the mobile warrior.
  • Cheap or Expensive.Google is shipping Chromebooks with payment plans that seem very attractive. Business can have them for about 30 dollars a month over 3 years, and students can get them for about 20 dollars a month for the same period of time. This includes all hardware and software updates. In reality, there will be no hardware updates, and software updates do not exist because there is nothing on the machine to be updated. When Chrome OS or applications are updated, they will not be on your computer anyway. While the price seems very cheap, considering what we are getting for our money, we could be buying a cheaper tablet for much less money. Only if Chrome OS and the applications improve greatly in a very short period of time, will we be getting the amazing deal it sounds like. Remember, the Chromebook is still not a replacement of a personal computer and running something like the new Windows 8 upgrade with improved features. As a matter of fact, it is nothing like a personal computer yet. It is like an oversized smartphone with a keyboard. Other operating system upgrades are usually very cheap, and updates and application updates, such as the Windows 8 upgrade, are cheap or already included in the original price.

  • Internet Relative.Google Apps are numerous and if you are used to using the Google system of getting things done like using Gmail, Docs, and all that comes with it, you are probably used to Google Apps. There are applications to allow you to edit photos and movies, for example. At the same time, if your internet connection is not superfast, using these online applications can be a little frustrating for even novice users. Chromebooks come with 100G of online access per month, and this could easily be used up by someone, if they were a heavy user. 3g users know that some applications do not work as well as with other types of applications. VOIP calling applications still do not have the quality over 3g wireless networks like they do with land-based broadband and cable networks.

If you think a Chromebook is a personal computer, as it stands, you are mistaken. It would be great to see the Chromebook provide the same user experience and features of a personal computer, and this is also further dependent on the speed and stability of wireless networks. It is doubtful wireless 3g or 4g networks will improve to match cable stability and speed for some time to come, if ever.


For Further Reading:

  1. Buy Google’s Chromebook? Read Why Not To Buy it
  2. What Is The Google Chromebook?
  3. Is Cloud Computing Just A Return To The IBM 3270 Days?
  4. Research Shows Internet Explorer Users To Have Lower IQ
  5. Sony Released PS3 Firmware v3.60 Today: Jailbreak Users Stay Away
  6. Applying Some Windows Tweaks and Tips for Better Performance
  7. How To Log On To Windows XP If You Don’t Remember The Password

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About Neel

Neel is a freelance writer. He is writing on various topics.

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SPM August 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm


1) Still More Tablet Like:
Just to make this point clear, Chromebooks don’t run applications locally – they run apps on a server. This applies to all applications. Chromebooks suite of applications include Windows desktop applications running virtualized on a server and accessed by the Citrix Receiver client. To do this it does exactly the same thing it does for HTML5 web apps – it accesses Windows running as an application on a server. Basically Chromebooks can run any application that any version of Windows you can virtualize can, and no differently from the way it runs web apps. The only thing that needs to be considered is that for people running heavily graphical apps like CAD technicians and Graphics artists, you will probably want a dedicated high end graphical workstation rather than a Chromebook.

2) Cheap or Expensive:
I would suggest hardware updates means insurance cover for damage or loss, and replacement after three years with new upgraded hardware. Windows PCs which get slower with time due to software bloat and need the hardware to be upgraded regularly to cope with software bloat.

Chromebooks do not allow the user to install or run any applications locally except a web browser and a few system applications like Citrix Receiver. These are fixed function applications based on tightly defined fixed protocol standards which do not change much, and therefore do not suffer bloat in the same way as Windows applications. For this reason Chromebooks do not require hardware updates – at least not for 5 to 10 years. On Chromebooks, application bloat is handled by the application provider upgrading the cloud server, and not by the user upgrading the client device as with Windows.

You say there are no software updates because there is nothing on the machine to be updated. This is not true. The OS on the Chromebook is a minimal Linux distribution, running a web browser, some ancillary applications and system processes which are part of the OS. These are automatically updated with improvements, bug fixes, and security fixes every time you boot up – for example the latest update added the Netflix plug-in, the Citrix receiver client, the Amazon Kindle reader, and the Native Client plug-in engine. On the application side, the application each provider will constantly update his cloud apps automatically. You always have the most up to date Chrome OS version and the most up to date version of each application you use. This is very different to Windows where you have to update the OS, anti-virus, and every application manually if you want them, and you have to upgrade the whole OS to a new version from time to time to continue to get bug and security fixes. You probably missed this because it all happens invisibly on the Chromebook.

You have also missed the key advantage of the Chromebook. Unlike Windows, Chromebooks are zero maintenance devices. You basically switch on and go. There is no OS configuration, application installation, installation of drivers and troubleshooting of hardware and dll conflicts, no manual updates, no defragging of the hard drive, no virus or trojan threats to worry about (since Chrome OS checks the OS image checksum and repairs any changes or corruption every time you boot up – possible because it does not allow local installation of non OS software or drivers). You basically switch on and go – there is nothing more to do.

This zero maintenance feature has big advantages for both business users and non-computer-hobbyist home users. Computer hobbyists are fine with the level of maintenance required from Windows desktops, because they are prepared to put in the time for free and actually consider it a labour of love and the reason for getting a PC, so they can learn how to maintain and use a computer. There are many non-computer-hobbyist computer users (perhaps the majority) who simply want to use a computer – mainly for stuff like Internet browsing, email, Twitter and Facebook, without having to configure and maintain it and learning how to do this. Chromebook is a much better choice for these people.

Computer hobbyists may be happy to maintain their own desktop computers for free, but if you run a business, you have to pay someone to provide desktop and desktop app provisioning, support, and maintenance. Hardware costs for laptops and desktop PCs are low, but labour costs are very high in comparison, and Windows desktops are very high maintenance machines – typically soaking up $1000+ minimum per PC per year in labour costs. Using Chromebooks in this context can save companies huge sums of money on their IT spending. Virtualized Windows applications are much cheaper to provision and manage, particularly for larger organisations because VM images can be replicated or copied from saved images to avoid installation, or re-installation, and new instances can be added without having to buy a PC. The only requirement to watch for virtualizing Windows desktops on servers is an IT department which is competent with managing servers. Most desktop PC IT support staff are not competent to do this.

In addition not everybody will need a Virtual Windows PC. Information workers who use web server based information and data based apps will be better off using a Chromebook. Executives who deal primarily with email, information sharing and communications rather than typesetting letters and forms, may be better off using Outlook Web Access webmail or Gmail for email, Google Docs with its superior document and spreadsheet sharing technology, and use Chromebooks for this while leaving the document type setting to their secretary.

Mixing PCs for users who need graphical workstations, with Chromebook users who use virtual Windows machines and those who only use web apps is easy. Install Chrome browser on the Windows PC and it will do everything the Chromebook will with exactly the same user settings and configuration that they would see if they used a Chromebook – pulled from the Cloud. Users who normally don’t need to use Windows can log into Windows via Citrix when and if they need to do so to access Windows apps on the server as can the Windows workstation users.

3) Internet Relative
If you install a WiFi router in your office or home, it is as stable as your LAN or your PC. Like your PC, you won’t be able to access the Internet when the Internet is down, but you will be able to access all your local corporate or home servers, including your corporate server apps, your virtualized Windows applications and any web apps with offline capability – Google is promising this for Google Docs this September.

I agree with you that Chromebooks are more for use as an ultra portable desktop within the home or in a Google WiFi campus or multi branch-campus context with only occasional use outside, while iPad or Android are more for true portability. The 2 year 100MB free 3G included is sufficient for email, looking up the odd website and Google Docs use for the occasional trip outside the WiFi zone campuses, but not for heavy Internet browsing. Google Docs is surprisingly efficient when it comes to bandwidth, and the 100MB goes a long way. In addition you can buy more data on a one off basis for individual trips at reasonable rates if more data is required. This type of use works out a lot cheaper than buying a 3G data contract subscription on a iPhone, or Android.

Gourav Jain August 22, 2011 at 12:58 am

Wohooow …. !!! Awesome. I really feel proud to have you as our visitor here. Thanks for the detailed comment.

We will surely update the article with the information you provided.

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