Chromebooks are viewed by many people as the Windows Phone of laptops, paling into insignificance when compared to Windows machines and MacBooks. But the cheap and cheerful nature of (most) Chromebooks has seen the share of certain markets rocket -- particularly in the classroom.
Back in 2012, less than one percent of devices in US schools was a Chromebook -- now the Google-powered laptops account for more than half of the market. Google's interest in education is not new, but the inroads it has managed to make in such a short space of time has caught many people off guard.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation claims that Google is gathering data about school children, including their web searches. In a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission about the search giant, the EFF gives details of the deceptive usage tracking it says was uncovered while conducting research for its Spying on Students campaign.
The campaign, which launches today, aims to "spread the word about companies collecting students' data and launching a campaign to educate parents and administrators about these risks to student privacy". At the center of the controversy are Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education.
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".
If you've been thinking of investing in a new computer, Microsoft has an incentive that might just help to convince you that the time is right. You've probably got an old computer laying around that you need to get rid of, and Microsoft will happily take it off your hands and give you cash into the bargain.
The Trade Up program offers a minimum of $200 for a laptop trade-in, up to $300 for a MacBook. The caveat? The Windows 10 computer you buy must cost at least $599. The deal is running in the US and UK -- but people in the UK have a different, and somewhat less impressive, deal available to them.
One of Google's slightly more unusual hardware releases is the OnHub wireless router. At $200, it's a network device that some might consider expensive, but at the same time its performance has impressed. A router is a router is a router, you might say, but Google's OnHub is somewhat different to the majority.
A teardown by iFixIt revealed the guts of the router, showing that it's a TP-Link device (confirming what Google had already said) with a somewhat unusual antenna design. It's an intriguing piece of hardware that Exploitee.rs has referred to as being "at heart a Chromebook without a screen modified as a router". The good news for anyone who likes to get their hands dirty with some hardware hacking? It is rootable and Exploitee.rs reveals all.
Chromebooks are wonderful computers for light and medium computing. While Windows and OS X are superior for heavy lifting -- especially with legacy software -- Chrome OS is a dream for web surfing, email and writing. If either you or someone you know lives in the web browser, laptops running Google's Linux-based operating system could be perfect. By design, they are virtually malware free, and OS updates are a breeze.
Finding the perfect Chromebook is difficult, as everyone's needs may be different, but I only suggest models with at least 4GB of RAM regardless. I also demand a quality keyboard and display, and I think all consumers deserve this too. Toshiba's new Chromebook 2 (2015) meets all of my needs, while also being affordable. In other words, it will probably be a winner for you too. Here are my first impressions.
Chromebooks are amazing web surfing machines, offering great battery life, focused computing and affordable pricing. While they aren't for everyone, they are a smart choice for many. Do you know someone that spends all their time in the web browser? Chromebooks are designed for them.
Toshiba makes particularly great Chrome OS laptops, and its Chromebook 2 was quite a hit with fans of Google's web-focused operating system. Today, the company refreshes it with Broadwell processors and backlit keyboards.
Today, at IFA in Berlin, Acer unveiled its first convertible Chromebook and updated the Windows counterpart, which gets 6th-generation Intel Core processors and USB 3.1 Type-C port. The two computers join a surprising assortment of new gear, including gaming notebooks and tablets and smartphones.
The Chromebook R 11 Convertible comes in consumer and commercial models. Base specs: 11-6.-inch display (1366 x 768 resolution); 1.6GHz Intel N3150 or N3050 Celeron processor; 2GB or 4GB RAM, 16GB or 32GB SSD; Intel HD graphics; webcam; USB 3; WiFi N; and Chrome OS. Weighs 1.25kg (2.76 pounds). There are four modes of operation, depending on positioning: display, laptop, pad, and tent.
Chrome OS is a wonderful operating system for what it is. Guess what? You can be a fan of Windows or OS X and still embrace Google's browser-focused Chromebooks. Sometimes you will be doing all of your computing in the web browser, such as email, social media, and web surfing. For that, a Chromebook might be the best tool for the job.
Choosing a model can be difficult, however. Why do I say that? Well, there are more duds than winners. Too often manufacturers release chintzy Chromebooks with poor specs or terrible build quality. Lenovo is hoping to change that with the upcoming 11.6 inch Chromebook 100S.
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.
When Google's Chromebooks came onto the retail scene, consumers were dubious, and rightfully so. After all, for the most part, the operating system appeared to be nothing more than a web browser. While Chrome OS is actually a full-fledged Linux distribution, the focus is on the web browser, so consumers aren't far off -- perception is everything.
While Chromebooks can be a great option for people with limited computing needs, Windows 10 offers so many more possibilities. Despite limitations, what kept Chromebooks semi-popular, was the low cost. Unfortunately for Google, that benefit is short-lived. Today, Acer announces its Aspire One Cloudbook line. With super-low prices and Windows 10 Home, these are sure to be wildly popular; consumers may forget about Chromebooks altogether.
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.
Nine years ago, a NPR interviewer asked me about Google and other U.S. companies censoring search results in China. The question was one of morality -- to which I gave answer she didn't expect. That response, or my recollection of it, is appropriate for rather ridiculous and self-serving statements that Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly made two days ago.
"We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy", Cook said, Matthew Panzarino reports for TechCrunch. "The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it". Oh? What is moral? The answer I gave NPR in 2006 applies: There is no moral high ground in business. The high ground is quagmire, because all public companies -- Apple surely among them -- share a single, moral objective: Make profits for stockholders. Plain, pure, and simple.