Could the Chromebook Crush Windows?

by Jabulani Leffall on 7 June 2011 6 comments
Photo: Ed Yourdon

It isn’t until your laptop temporarily becomes a useless brick than you begin to take a step back and look at how technology works. If you’ve ever found your PC or iMac not working because you needed to reinstall the operating system, perhaps the concept of planned obsolescence has crept into your head. (See also: Make Your Computer Faster Instead of Buying a New One)

If you’re not familiar with planned obsolescence, it’s an idea that's built into the life-cycle of most of our technology — basically, designing products and applications with a limited shelf life.

But will Google change that with its new Chromebook? The Chromebook has an operating system and browser in one, which means it enables a user to surf the web and house applications (such as word processing, spreadsheets, media player functions, etc.) and files on a server somewhere you’re not. This way, if your laptop becomes a brick because your Windows, Mac OS X, or other proprietary operating system is on the fritz, you can always access your files on another device — your phone, another laptop with Internet access, or even your desktop at work.

Google's Chromebook laptops — from Samsung and Acer — will be available June 15 and are priced between $349 and $500. This price is comparable to buying an operating system alone out-of-the-box and having to upgrade, and considerably less expensive than outfitting a PC with no software package at all. For those willing to try out Microsoft Office-like web apps such as Google Docs, or who just need web surfing and e-mail capabilities, the price is a steal. The Chromebooks are cheaper than iPads, most fully-loaded smartphones iPhones, and most PCs.

Even better, because Chrome is a web-based OS and browser in one, the system will update itself for free. Google makes most of its money off of search and web surfing, which is why the hardware with a dual core processor is the only hard cost here for individuals. (For businesses, a $28-per-month subscription fee dwarfs Windows' and Apple's license renewals and hardware upgrades.)

It's a welcome prospect as none of the "software" features coming with the Chromebook (in theory) would require a trip to a big box retailer where guys wearing polo shirts would charge you more money than you need to pay to fix your computer.

Of course, the opportunity cost here is that while the Chrome operating system is “free,” it takes up your free time in learning about it, to gain the technical savvy required to break the chain to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

That said, it’s important to look ahead to the possibility of increased adoption of technologies like the Chrome OS. After all, how many of us have felt like dopes when we've waited too long to upgrade our operating systems and realized how much it would now cost to do so? A lot of us (raising hand right now), I’d wager.

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Meg Favreau's picture

Are any readers planning on getting a Chromebook? Why or why not?

Guest's picture
Mkibrick

I am one of the 40,000 lucky people chosen to be a Chromebook beta-tester. I can tell you I love my new chromebook, but it has limitations. The biggest one I've seen is lack of plugin support. Though Flash works, Silverlight, Quicktime, and other plugins do not. You cannot download and install these. Additionally, I have had some pain with some downloadable files from websites (such as Travel Expense forms or PDFs). Still it makes a great laptop for people who have a desktop at home.

Meg Favreau's picture

That's awesome! A friend of mine got to beta test it as well.

No Silverlight = no Netflix instant stream, correct?

Guest's picture
mkibrick

Yep no Netflix.

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Alex

I need a new laptop and want to get the Samsung Chromebook really bad. I have a quality desktop at home. My only reservation is its compatibility with downloads etc. Maybe they will fix these issues with updates?

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Jack Ass

Got my samsung chromebook. It is an excellent browser and does not support Java, which sucks. Google needs to have a JVM for chromeos