I’ve been using a Chromebook for just over a month now, and I’ve totally fallen in love with it. After years of mainly Windows, some Mac, some Linux and even older stuff (Acorn Archimedes anyone?) I’ve found an OS that just does works for me.
The last computer I actually bought was a cheap Linux netbook for £100 about 7 years ago - all others had been inherited or bought. It just about did the job - I needed it to write basic documents like CVs, to check emails and to blog.
Since that more or less bit the dust I’d been borrowing a spare laptop that had Windows XP on it which was a big step up but was slooooow. Booting up into a usable state was about 8 minutes, and having to install more and more programmes to do what I wanted to do just slowed it even more, along with the virus checker chugging away in the background.
So I got an Acer 14 Chromebook with an HD screen because I wanted an efficient and affordable laptop I could call my own. The interface is very intuitive, but is in reality is only there to enhance the Chrome browser that 67% of readers of this blog use. This is a really weird concept to get your head around at first if, like me, you have been using Windows for over 20 years. You aren’t installing programmes, just plug ins to the Chrome browser. You aren’t using a virus checker because there’s nothing a virus can really do to you. The system updates itself in the background so if there are updates (and they do seem pretty regular) you won’t notice it at all.
Most importantly, everything is fast and feels ‘clean’. It’s booted up in 10 seconds - it actually takes me about as long to enter my password. There’s never been any lag for me. It’s a no-frills approach to computing that’s a pleasure to actually use.
As technology goes more and more down the cloud route, the benefits of a browser-based OS become very real. One of the main criticisms of ChromeOS is that there’s little you can do on them unless you have an internet connection. Which isn’t entirely untrue, but my response question would be: how often does an average user use their laptop without an internet connection?
Writing documents and listening to downloaded music are the main things probably, which can be done with a Chromebook offline. Games as well maybe, although the chances are if you’re a serious gamer you have a desktop or a console, not a laptop - and even then, our dependence on internet has encroached into this area with some of the most popular games being MMO. The majority of things people use their computers for today require wifi.
I know 2 people with MacBooks and many, many more with Windows laptops, but I think the minority would suffer from using a Chromebook instead. All that time ago my netbook felt very limited. Since we have become more and more fond of streaming media and using our smartphones for doing things, confining yourself to using a web browser is far less constricting. It should be said that I have been invested in using Chrome, Google Drive, Android etc for years now - if you’re already part of the IOS ecosystem it would make sense to get an IOS laptop. But I’ve been using a Chromebook for around 6 weeks there have been only 2 times when I have had to use a Windows PC to try and do something. Once was to fill in a form which had been created using lots of boxes on MS Word, which neither Google Docs or MS Online could manage (and to be honest even using desktop Word it wasn’t easy to do because it had been badly formatted to begin with). The second time was trying to upload different versions of songs to Google Play Music without them being replaced by the service’s matching system (and it didn’t work doing it on Windows). Neither were major things, although it goes to show that there’s a way to go for Google before it can expect people to use Chromebooks as their only device.
That time may be closer than expected though. Chromebooks are being used heavily in schools, meaning that a generation will be comfortable with using them, offices are increasingly becoming paperless and our media is now not only almost completely digital but largely cloud-based as well. Coupled with that, Android apps are planned to come to most Chromebooks soon - although the roll out has been painfully slow - and these will plug a lot of the gaps for people that see a lack of functionality. Although seen as a bit silly when they first came out, Chromebooks are definitely a very viable option for people these days, and it’s not impossible to foresee a time where they are doing extremely well out of beating Apple on price and Windows on ease of use.
It’s maybe premature to say that ‘they’re the future of computers’ - but I really hope they are.