Chromebooks are great for home use, but they truly shine for education. Its easy to see why -- they are easy to use, cost effective and (unlike the iPad) offer multi-user support. These are all essential things for school districts on a tight budget.
Today, HP announces the Chromebook 11 G4 Education Edition. Starting at a paltry $199, it looks to offer incredible value. Thanks to military-grade build quality, it should be very durable. This is very important, of course, as children are often rough on computers.
CES 2016 does not officially start until January 6, but, as we have come to expect, most of the major product announcements will be made right before the big opening day. Case in point, Lenovo has just unveiled its new ThinkPad 13, alongside ThinkPad X1 Tablet and other new gadgets.
Why is ThinkPad 13 newsworthy? Well, Lenovo's choice of operating systems makes it one of the most interesting new products in its refreshed lineup, as the laptop will be offered with either Chrome OS or Windows 10.
Welcome to 2016, dear BetaNews readers. Another year is here, and some trends will continue as before. The most intriguing being Google's push into both education and home with its wonderful Chrome OS. While a bit limited, devices with Google's Linux-based desktop operating system are perfection for many; especially as more and more time is spent in the browser.
Today, Acer announces some new Chrome OS devices that look really impressive. Its new Chromebook 11 and Chromebase 24 should meet the needs for many, and in typical Acer fashion, shouldn't break the bank. The Chromebase is particularly newsworthy, as it is the first-ever such all-in-one "base" device with an Intel Core processor. Quite frankly, it should make an absolutely glorious family PC.
Google has scotched rumors that Chrome OS could be ditched. There had already been some doubts about the truth behind suggestions that Android and Chrome OS could be on the verge of merging. Google has already gone to some lengths to stress how committed it is to Chrome OS, and today goes a step further in stating in very plain language:
"Chrome OS is here to stay".
Google is rumored to be planning a merger of Android and Chrome OS. An early build of the combined operating system is expected to see the light of day as early as next year, with an official release making its way in 2017. That's what a so-called "report" claims anyway.
Such a plan would certainly make sense, considering that Chrome OS has limited appeal while Android has matured nicely, becoming the most-popular mobile operating system. So, how does Google comment? Well, the search giant continues to stand by its less-popular operating system. What else do you expect?
Just as Microsoft is trying to streamline its various operating systems with the approach it has taken with Windows 10, so Google appear to have similar plans. The Wall Street Journal reports that plans are well under way to merge Android and Chrome OS.
Work has been going on for two years, and an early build of the hybrid operating system is expected to see the light of day next year. A full release is planned for 2017. While described as a merger of OSes, the report suggests that Google is really looking to expand Android so that it can run on laptops. Chrome OS may well live on, but the same cannot be said of Chromebooks.
I am not a fan of overly-large laptops, but if I were to buy one, Acer's 15.6-inch monster would be among my top choices. The Chromebook packs in lots of value, which first and foremost is 1080p resolution to match the large screen, a benefit that is atypical for the price and size class. Screen brightness is no match for the Toshiba Chromebook 2, but the matte finish compensates for dimness by dramatically reducing glare. Meanwhile, the IPS display gives great viewing angles.
The point: Acer doesn't just offer bigger, but better, among the overall Chromebook category, where dim TN screens are standard fare. That also can be said of competing Windows laptops, where with same size screen in the price range, or even more costly, resolution typically tops out at 1366 x 768. Chromebook 15 is 1920 x 1080. By more than size, the display is a big benefit.
The strangest, and largely overlooked news, coming out of the tech sector this week is Dell's Microsoft betrayal. This isn't the first time that the PC maker strayed. Linux joined the product stable long ago, and last year an educational Chromebook debuted. But this newer and larger model, which will be available September 17, raises question: WTF?
Dell's core PC market is business—small, large, and everything between. Windows, and that smattering of Linux, is core, and longstanding loyalty to Microsoft's application stack. But the Chromebook 13 announcement, as positioned by the OEM and Google, is all about the competing cloud app stack. Interestingly, selling prices rival Windows laptops, which is another head scratcher: $399 to $899, depending on configuration.
I'm a strong believer in using the right tool for a job. Yeah, you can probably drive a nail into a piece of wood with the handle of a screwdriver, but wouldn't you rather use a hammer? The same applies to technology in business. Many businesses should probably stick with Windows machines (coupled with Office 365), but others would be smart to choose a Mac or Chromebook instead -- it depends on needs.
Today, Dell announces the all-new touchscreen Chromebook 13. Designed for businesses the premium laptop can be configured with Intel Broadwell Core i5 processors and 8GB of RAM, making for a solid cloud-based workstation. The Chromebook for Work initiative is looking better every day.
Skype is one of the most recognizable communication services in the world. Unfortunately, Microsoft has not yet perfected it; there is plenty of room for improvement. The company is arguably mishandling Skype, by killing the much maligned Modern UI version rather than fixing it.
Not all news about Skype is bad, however; last week, Microsoft announced that it was opening the web beta to all in the US and UK -- awesome news. Today, the company makes this announcement even better, by expanding it globally, including Linux distributions and Chrome OS (which is technically a Linux distro) for instant messaging.
Mark the date with an alarm. Around May 28, 2015, sellers likely will fill eBay and Craigslist with spanking new Chromebook Pixels, available for bargain prices—if anything less than $999 or $1,299 could be considered a deal. Google's developer conference commences that day, when I expect many attendees will receive and quickly dispatch shiny, new laptops. Big G gave away the pricey Pixel two years ago, and it's good guess will do so again. Smart developers will keep the machines; many will not. Dumb move, but who am I to judge, eh? Pixel rests at the precipice of future computing, for those open-minded enough to welcome it. They are few.
If you are among those who get the Chromebook concept, who thinks about purchasing the laptop, but waffles indecision, watch for short-term selling prices that could meet what your sensibilities and spending budget can tolerate. It's good background for me to finally review the higher-end of the two costliest Chromebook configurations. My primer can help you decide whether or not to bother, either for full price now or for the chance of less later. Why wait? I wouldn't and didn't. I received my Pixel in March, on Friday the 13th, ordered two days earlier from Google. I use no other computer. It's more than my primary PC and could be yours, too.
Many people -- let's call them 'haters' -- like to make fun of Microsoft's mobile market share with Windows Phone. True, the platform is a failure in this regard, but many users of the OS like it. Quite frankly, besides the lack of apps, Windows Phone is a rather smart and well-designed operating system.
If you choose to laugh at Microsoft over its mobile presence, feel free, but please know that Microsoft is laughing too; all the way to the bank. What you may not know is, Microsoft makes money from Android handset sales thanks to its patent portfolio. In fact, it also collects money from Chromebooks too. In other words, Microsoft is profiting from Linux, since both operating systems are based on the kernel. Today, Microsoft increases its number of patent licensing agreements, by making a deal with Qisda Corp.
If my calendar showed April Fools' Day instead of March 31st, I would think the big Google announcement was a joke: $149 Chromebooks, with one model available from Walmart? I know some of these laptops sell for $199. But $50 less and models from Haier and Hisense?
Meanwhile, ASUS will, in summer, start selling something for even less: Chromebit, a $100 candy-bar size carry-all computer. Plug it into a HDMI-compatible display (like your TV), and your Chromie lifestyle is even-more mobile. The company also will release Chromebook Flip, a tablet-convertible wannabe, sooner. Someone tell me: This isn't a Foolie prank?
Last year I wrote about my big move to Google's computer operating system, Chrome OS. At the time my plan was simple -- use a Chromebook for the summer since I work from my porch and wanted something light and small to move around with me. The 15.7 inch Windows laptop wasn't going to cut it and, for obvious reasons, I wasn't moving a desktop outside, especially with a porch that seems to face the rain in every summer storm.
Though the time of my move hadn't occurred to me, the subject came up today in our newsroom. Joe Wilcox urged me to write about my experience, while my colleague Brian Fagioli tried mightily hard to get me to change to a new Chromebook. He called my HP 11 underpowered and implored I get the new Toshiba. Throwing money at a problem I don't have is not in my DNA. What I have works fine and I see no current reason for unnecessary expenses.
Because some BetaNews readers think Chromebook is a joke, I realized the necessity of getting out our Pixel buying poll before April Fools' Day. So here we are. Google released the second-generation Chromebook Pixel on March 11. The high-end laptop costs less than its predecessor (one model for under $1,000), but many potential buyers will question—and they should—the wisdom spending so much on a computer with browser user interface meant to be mostly Internet-connected.
Chromebook Pixel isn't for everyone—probably not most people. But our readers aren't most people. Many of you live on technology's cutting edge, and some bleed because of it. The laptop could be for you, and it most certainly is for me. I bought the high-end LS model on launch day and took delivery on Friday the 13th. I will have much good to report in my forthcoming review. But what works for me may not for you. So let's look more closely at the computer.