At day 2 of the Google I/O conference today, the day was pretty much all about the Google Chrome netbook, or “Chromebook”, since “netbook” as a word is so 2010. After a number of delays, it looks like that the first Chromebooks will be rolling out in mid June, but what does this brave new OS world have in store?
First off, the Chromebook is still a netbook in that it relies on Google’s cloud service for storage. The good part is that since Chrome OS was built from the ground up to be a netbook OS and nothing more, all the applications that will run on Chrome will be integrated into the netbook mobile architecture. So unlike some other netbooks, all apps for Chrome will be made to have their primary functionality integrated with the cloud, but it has the advantage that all apps will have an equally functional offline mode.
Of course, the disadvantage is that Chrome OS is a 100% walled garden system, so absolutely everything that you’ll be running will have to come through the Chrome apps store.
There’s also the mental hurdle that’s always plagued netbooks— that despite the fact that your data is more secure and more stable on Google’s servers, it’s stil putting it in someone else’s hands. Sure, as the Chrome OS video points out, you could theoretically chuck your Chromebook into a river and you wouldn’t lose a thing, but not physically having your data on hand is something I think most consumers haven’t wrapped their heads around.
However, despite what it says in the video, you can’t do everything on the web. There’s actually quite a lot you can’t do on the web. I use a lot of design programs, and while there are web based design programs like Aviary, they’re not as good as say Photoshop and Illustrator. And as far as games, you’re limited to Angry Birds and whatever other Android ports and Chrome stuff that’s through the store. But the fact that the OS has constant, automatic updates is a good thing. Having to stop everything to update your computer and then reboot seems so outdated.
But the other big and interesting thing with Chromebooks is the pricing model. For educators, you’ll be able to get a Chromebook for just $20/month, including all software and hardware upgrades and for businesses, it’s only $28/month. Certainly that’s a very, very attractive selling point, even if the Chromebook at full price is around $300, already cheap as it is.
The first Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5 goes on sale June 15th.