Earlier this summer I wrote about moving to a Chromebook -- I'm working from my porch and I want something easily portable. I stated at the time that I was not sure where things would lead when the weather took a turn for the cooler. In previous years I've used a Windows 8.x (or 7) computer, as my office contains two desktops and a laptop running the Microsoft operating system as well.
Don't get me wrong -- I still see a need for the platform, but I simply don't see it for myself. I write in Word, which has a Chrome app. I edit images, which Pixlr handles quite well. Beyond that, I do little else outside of checking email and scouring the web for news.
VMware, Google and Nvidia are all teaming up in a scheme which will allow high-end graphics intensive applications to be used on a lowly Chromebook.
How will that work? Obviously a Chromebook doesn't have the horsepower to run heavyweight programs such as, say, Photoshop or AutoCAD, but the laptop won't be running it in this case. The software will run in the cloud, on powerful machines in data centers, and be streamed to the notebook.
This summer, I took a break from Chromebook, to conduct an experiment going "Microsoft All-In". After using the browser-based concept for about two years, I even gave up Google products and services for awhile. What terrible timing! There's a sudden shift in the winds, as Chromebook heads away from x86 and towards destination ARM and competing Intel processor Bay Trail. These lower-power consumption, lower-heat producing chips also illuminate new Chromebook form-factors: 13.3-inch displays. The first of these -- from Acer, ASUS, and Samsung -- started shipping in June, July, and August. I tested the ASUS C300.
Like the other two manufacturers, ASUS offers Chromebooks with 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch screens. I review the larger laptop. Both compete with the ARMs by adopting Intel’s Bay Trail processor, which offers similar benefits and performance pitfalls. There's nothing exceptional about the C300, which strangely is a benefit. The laptop's attributes are quite balanced -- design, performance, and price.
Chromebooks are amazing computers. Part of the genius of Google's Chrome OS is its lack of freedom; a seemingly crazy statement, I know. You see, users cannot install software locally, which in turn, also blocks viruses and malware. In other words, limitations become a strength from a security standpoint. However, sometimes the limitations of the OS are not a positive, but a negative.
For business users in particular, using Chrome web apps exclusively is a non-starter. Sure, some small business users can get by, but many large companies rely on specialized software -- mostly for Windows. Today, Windows programs come to Chromebooks -- sort of. Google announces that Citrix Receiver is coming to Chrome OS. Will this massively disrupt the business market?
When it comes to Chrome OS, the Chromebook reigns supreme. In fact, Google's operating system is viewed by many consumers as a laptop-only affair. However, the Chromebox has existed for quite some time now; it just has not caught on with consumers as much as the portable versions. The mini desktop form factor always feels like an afterthought when discussing Google's operating system.
It is understandable for people to pass on the Chromebox. You see, a Chromebook with HDMI or DisplayPort can also function as a desktop when connected to a large monitor, keyboard and mouse. In other words, why would a consumer or business user tether themselves to a desk rather than having the option to go portable? There are many reasons; business users may have requirements that a computer does not leave a location. For home consumers, one of the most important reasons is style and design. A Chromebox takes up little room on a desk and looks attractive; more than a laptop with a mess of wires. Today, Acer drives this point home by announcing the Chromebox CXI series -- super-slim, sexy and very functional.
Google's Chromebook is on the up and up, according to the latest report published by analyst firm Gartner.
This year, Gartner estimates that total Chromebook sales will hit 5.2 million, which is up 79 percent from 2013. Looking further out to 2017, the number of units sold should reach 14.4 million, in other words we're looking at a near tripling of sales inside three years. Which has to be music to Google's ears...
The concept of a Chromebook is awesome. All of your files are stored in the cloud -- family photos, office documents and videos to name a few. This opens up an entire new way of thinking, where nothing seems impossible. Hell, even most of the apps are web-based and that is enough to blow someone's mind. Since local apps cannot be installed, this makes Chrome OS extremely secure and an ideal platform for accessing sensitive information.
Unfortunately, as great as the operating system is, the hardware has been lacking. Most models require the user to make a compromise for the sake of cost. Poor quality screens, not enough RAM and questionable build quality are the issues that are most apparent. For some reason, manufacturers equate Chromebooks with "cheap" and this is not the case. People really do want a midrange Chromebook and not just throwaway, disposable tech. Today, Acer announces a Chromebook that may be the one we have been wishing for (fingers crossed); the unimaginatively named Chromebook 13. It is the first-ever Chrome OS laptop to have the Nvidia Tegra K1 ARM processor.
Google is making an ever increasing amount of inroads with the education sector. Chromebooks have been finding new homes in many schools over the past year, with institutions either purchasing the devices for students or requiring them to attend with one.
Google is not above taking advantage of this momentum by using it in new advertising, and is doing exactly that with a new video that seems made for TV.
It seems all of us have made some switches thanks to warm weather here in the northern hemisphere, where summer is in full swing. Working outside seems prevalent, and that means, in many cases, an entirely different set of hardware.
I, for one, make my porch my office when the weather gets nice, and to do so means certain sacrifices -- or does it? As it turns out, not so much. I'm managing just fine with what I am using, able to get the job done with only the very rare exception that forces me to flee to my (rather baking) third-floor office to use a Windows computer.
Google's Chromebooks have been making inroads as of late. Many schools have been adopting the platform, and there have even been stories of businesses moving over after the death of Windows XP. The latest numbers released show that this trend is continuing.
TrendForce reveals that shipments of Chrome OS devices have risen to 1.8 million in the second quarter of 2014, with Acer leading the way, ahead of all other OEMs.
Get ready for another rash of "Year of the Chromebook" stories. It isn't, but tongues will wag. Today, NPD released new data about U.S. commercial computer sales which, like the last set, is sure to be misquoted. Spurred by educational buying, Chromebooks accounted for 40 percent of U.S. commercial channel notebook sales for the three weeks ended June 7. But some nitwits are sure to claim all sales, as they did following December's data drop. Commercial sales are more limited and represent those to businesses, educational institutions, governments, and other organizations.
That's not to diminish Chromebook's success, considering the category is but three years old and supplants OS X and Windows sales in the coveted education market. Users gotten young often stay with a platform for life. The browser-based computers aren't singular entities, either. Android and stand-alone Chrome platforms benefit, too, from halo sales going both ways.
Chrome OS is an awesome, albeit limited, Linux-based operating system. It is a pleasure to use for most things, including writing, but it is hard to use exclusively. Just recently, I needed a Windows machine to achieve root access on an Android tablet -- a Chromebook proved useless for this task (Surface Pro 3 saved the day).
My biggest complaint however, is not about the software, but the hardware. For some reason, manufacturers largely produce junk Chromebooks with ugly screens and 2GB of RAM. Believe it or not, there is a market for mid-range computers running Google's OS. Not everyone is just looking to Chromebooks as a way to save a buck. Today, Acer releases the world's first Core i3 Chromebook, featuring 4GB of RAM as an option. This may be the Chromebook we've been waiting for!
The most popular computers nowadays, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, are full of compromises. Sure, they are sexy and fun to use, but hardly ideal for true work and creation. Hell, the "smart" in smartphone is starting to feel like a misnomer. A true desktop operating system coupled with a laptop, desktop or hybrid form factor will offer the most functionality and success.
Consumers have overlooked these mobile shortcomings as they have been mostly consuming content at home. However, the tides may be changing -- it feels like the consumer love-affair with mobile devices is starting to wane. Smart-watches may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. People are tired of retrofitting their desired computing to small screens. How about using an actual PC, rather than try to get PC functionality from a mobile device? Crazy concept, I know. Today, IDC announces that PC shipments are showing strong growth in the USA for Q2 2014, year-on-year.
The battle for the classroom is heating up more and more every day. Lately, it feels like Google and Microsoft are fiercely going at each other in an attempt to capture precious education market share. This is beneficial for schools, as competition should lead to more affordable technology for students. Arguably, schools really can't go wrong either way -- both Chromebooks and Windows laptops (including Surface) offer very rewarding experiences.
Today, Google announces that it convinced the Chesterfield County Schools in Virginia to buy 32,000 Chromebooks. While this is a major score for Google, it is more importantly a big win for students. But, did the school make the right choice?
Let me start by thanking HP public relations for quickly responding to my information request, even after my warning the story would likely be ugly -- and it is. Today, the company unveiled a new Chromebook 11 model that is less than the original. As widely-rumored last month, the beautiful, 300-nit, IPS display with wide viewing angles is gone. "It’s an 11.6-inch screen with standard display technology", according to HP. That means dimmer and duller.
HP designed the first Chromebook 11 "With Google", which is branding appearing on the computer's underside. The laptop without Google matches the look of the 14-inch model, adopts similar fantastic keyboard, reduces display quality, and keeps the same aged ARM chip and puny 2GB of memory. The panel and processor choices perplex. If I had to choose between the original, which I reviewed in October, and its successor the choice is simple: Last year's model, which debuted at $279 and is available from Amazon for $225. The newer Chromebook 11 lists for $279 and sales start next month. Even if priced the same, I would choose the original.