You probably won't buy Google Chromebook, but should reconsider

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook

Today begins the great Google experiment. Will people really buy into the cloud?

On Sale Today

Amazon and Best Buy here in the United States are now selling the first Chromebooks, from Acer and Samsung. Google also provides retail information for the other launch countries. Preorders started last week.

That day I asked Betanews readers: "Will you buy Google Chromebook?" Most of you won't. You're satisfied with the status quo, balk at the hardware, won't trust Google or don't believe the cloud offers enough.

Your response isn't as surprising as how it changed. In early polling, more than 85 percent of respondents said "No" to Chromebook. That number is now 69.4 percent, from 562 respondents. The number answering "Yes" rose from about 2 percent in early polling to 11.57 percent today. The number answering "Maybe" is 19.04 percent, up from about 11 percent in early polling.

Chromebook runs Google's Chrome OS, presenting the browser as the user interface. For anyone using Chrome on Windows, Mac or Linux, Google's operating system will feel familiar. While there is 16GB of local storage on Acer Chromia and Samsung Series 5 models, Chromebook is meant to stay constantly connected to the Net, storing data in the cloud and accessing services from websites or apps installed in the browser.

Three Big Benefits

Users must adopt new behaviors, if they don't already spend most of their time in the browser, and new attitudes. The fear factor -- that somehow connectivity will cut off users or privacy will be breached -- is high with Chromebook, based on reaction I've been getting. There's also sense of giving up something by using a cloud-connected computer.

Based on my experience using Google's Cr-48 tester and Samsung's Series 5 Chromebooks, there are three immediate benefits that fundamentally improve the computing experience:

1. Instant on. Flip the lid, and you're ready to work.

2. Instant setup. Imagine opening a laptop for the first time and getting to work within just a few minutes. There are no apps to install because they load from the web and the browser syncs them up from Google's cloud. Type in Google account ID and password. That's it. Instant setup is simply transforming.

3. Instant update. Apple and Microsoft update their operating systems every few years, and they require installation -- which for businesses can be an arduous process. Chrome OS development tracks with the standalone browser. Google already has released three Chrome versions this year. Chromebook users can expect to get improvements faster and delivered automatically.

A Netbook by Any Other Name?

Many Betanews readers see Chromebook as an oversized netbook offering much less. The Acer model has 11.6-inch display and the Samsung one 12.1 inches. Both offer Intel Atom processors, 2GB memory, limited ports and no optical drives -- just like netbooks.

Betanews reader Aires answers "No" to the will you buy question -- "and I wouldn't recommend one to wife or my mother either. I'd still buy a netbook and I'd recommend an iPad to my wife and mother. I see no benefit in this to anyone other than people who don't know how to use a remote control and don't like tablets."

"Lee" computerguide18 responds: "I won't. Instead I would get a Netbook, through which I can have access to my data in all situations." Thugbot agrees: "You can get a netbook runing windows 7 and sync to the cloud of your choice for free."

To Buy, or Not to Buy?

Other Betanews readers penalized Mike Robin, with five thumbs down, for his response: "Looks like I'm the only one here today who is going to buy one then." Not the only one, but certainly among the minority of Betanews readers answering the poll or responding in comments.

Price also put off many readers, which I find surprising. The first Chromeboooks sell from between $379.99 and $499.99.

Kevin Brown's response summarizes the feelings of many:

This device is not the future. Nor will it sell well at all. Cloud only will never work. People only need to be without internet access for a few hours for this whole idea to fall apart.

And a intel atom, are you kidding. I have experience with atom, and it wasn't good. It's beyond slow. For those who think different, you must never had owned a CPU that cost over 50 bucks.

Bottom line is I can't think of one reason i would even try this thing. Windows works just perfect. I have access to all my programs and can still play in the cloud should i need to. I'm not sure why Google is even bothering with this chrome OS. It's something that will never work.

I'll respond to that. For most people, whether consumers at home or people on computers at work, Internet outage would be devastating on any computer. I'm no Atom fan either, but the real evaluation is something else: Does the hardware provide as much as the user needs? That most certainly is my experience using the Series 5 Chromebok. I can't answer "that will never work" on first day of sales. I don't expect Chromebook to fail, but that's relative to the measure of success. The three "instant" benefits are transforming -- until Apple and Microsoft bring them to their operating systems.

Commenter McDork is ready for Chromebook: "I have placed an order for a Wi-Fi only Acer with Amazon. I'm so fed up with the security/malware hassles that I'm hoping this will give me some relief. Phishing is still a risk but hopefully the hardware will stay un-poisoned. Plus I like Google and am inclined to trust them until proven otherwise."

IT Advisor answers: "Maybe not immediately, but next time I replace my laptop I will get a Chromebook."

Based on my experience, Chromebook isn't for everyone, but there is a market for people looking for less hassle, who live in the browser and who are big Google services users. Google has done remarkably good work here -- truly commendable. Launching a new operating system, particularly in a market where Microsoft is the 800-pound elephant in the room and Apple is the 200-pounder sitting at the door, is tough work.

Don't dismiss Chromebook without first experiencing it (although that's tough with early sales being online). You might be surprised. I've written extensively about Chrome OS and Chromebook. Here's an abridged reading list:

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