Tech-Friendly: You might buy a Google Chromebook if …

November 7, 2012

By Paul Gorski

You might buy a Chromebook because it fits in your pickup truck’s glove compartment. You might buy a Chromebook because it is light and shiny and reminds you of grandpa’s old silver dollars. Or, you just might buy a Chromebook if you’re gullible enough to believe the sales pitch “It’s just like a MacBook Air.” Enough of the Jeff Foxworthy “you might be a redneck” parody.

Google’s new $249 Chromebook laptop isn’t the computer for “everyone,” as Google’s new commercials may claim. It isn’t for serious gamers, people who want to install their own programs on their own computer, or for people who don’t want to be connected to the Internet all the time just to be able to use their computer. And it isn’t a Macbook Air.

The Chromebook doesn’t run Windows, MacOS X, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word or a host of other programs you may be familiar with. The Chromebook runs Google Chrome OS, which looks like the Google Chrome browser many of us already use. The browser-based interface is no accident: the Chromebook is a “cloud” computer, requiring an Internet connection to access your data and programs to be useful.

The new Chromebook is an inexpensive, lightweight and relatively perky laptop with a decent keyboard and trackpad that will allow you to surf the Internet, update your Facebook page, and write letters and use spreadsheets using Google Docs. That’s if you have Wi-Fi access to the Internet, as this new, low-end Chromebook only has Wi-Fi (wireless) for network connections.

I am going to dispense with the technical specifications, as the Chromebook is in that class of impulse buy gadgets, like the Apple iPad and Android OS tablets, that no matter what one says, some folks will just spend the money. If they don’t like it, they sell it.

Before your $249 impulse buy, I recommend you visit the Chromebook website at www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices and visit your local Best Buy store to give the Chromebook a test drive. The new Google Chromebook may not be for everyone, but it might just be the right solution for you.

Paul Gorski has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments that he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

From the Nov. 7-13, 2012, issue

6 Comments

  1. Craig

    November 8, 2012 at 6:40 am

    I just wanted to point out that you can still use google docs even without wifi nowadays and there are also a load of other apps that you can use offline! Take another look, to be honest, for myself, there is not much I can’t do with the chromebook that I can with a windows laptop when it is offline also!

  2. Jeff Yablon

    November 8, 2012 at 11:43 am

  3. Paul Gorski

    November 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

    To Craig:
    Off-line access to apps is limited, and I’m not a fan of Google Docs. Google’s Word compatibility is about the worst of the available on-line word processing apps. Zoho’s apps are much better and offer more solutions. I prefer Firefox for browsing because of the extensions I use for home and work and support of Kerberos authentication. If all you do is word processing and email, maybe a Chromebook, but then I steer you to the Linux OS Xubuntu or Lubuntu (Ubuntu is getting a bit bloated.) More apps, more robust. I don’t consider games or news apps when rating these things, as you can run those on your smartphone. If you have a personal productivity or business app that you use on a Chromebook let me know at paul@paulgorski.com, I might do a follow-up.

    To Jeff:
    PDFs were supposed to make us a paperless society, it has been about twenty years and that still has not happened. Moving to the cloud as a general rule of thumb might happen if 1) we can get more low-cost broadband access to all parts of the world and 2) security gets beefed up, there a just too many security concerns for corporate types like myself that keep on eye on this technology.

    Even Google doesn’t consider it a laptop, as they released it to coincide with the release of Apple’s smaller iPad and Microsoft’s Surface tablet. Google considers the Chromebook an impulse buy, a second or third solution to those that can afford.

    I’m not saying the Chromebook doesn’t have its place in the market, but buyer beware.

  4. Paul Gorski

    November 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Jeff,

    Also, regarding the link you referenced, the article is correct, some folks don’t like change. But Google has been trying to create the demand for a product not too many people have been asking for. Folks are asking for tablets and large smart phones, and that’s what they are buying. Chromebooks have been available since June 2011 and sales have been dismal. Google essentially wants to create hardware that forces people to use their software and get their work and browsing habits logged by Google’s big ad machine.

    Thanks for the comments and the link

    Paul Gorski

  5. Tim White

    January 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Chromebooks are however meeting a big need for schools with understaffed IT, who would like access to the greater web resources without the infrastructure and ongoing support demanded by a Microsoft based Technology rollout, or the cost associated with an Apple based rollout.

  6. Paul Gorski

    June 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Tim,
    Ubuntu or rather Lubuntu; real apps running on real computers with lower cost of ownership.

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