Chromebooks? Why all the fuss?

There was a lot of press this week regarding Google’s announcement that it would begin offering “Chromebooks” as a sort of subscription-based computing option for businesses.  The idea of a small, lightweight, and inexpensive computing option for business users does definitely sound appealing. And it goes without saying that any time Google does something, it’s generally perceived as a big deal.

The WiFi Acer model will reportedly to sell for about $350, while the Samsung WiFi and 3G models will sell for $450 and $500 respectively. Not a bad deal. And unlike Chromium OS, these will be the only manner one will be able to use Chrome OS –  à la Apple and OS X.

When the above video ends with “It’s kind of a new thought,” I just groan and feel as though I’m back in 1980 using a PC as a terminal emulator.  There is no “Cloud” okay? That’s just tech-zecutive snake oil.  There are clients and servers or server clusters and networks.  They aren’t fluffy things floating in the sky, they’re in terrestrial data centers. When the network, or servers go down, so do you. There are also potential privacy concerns that should really be the subject of another post.

The difference between 1980 and now is network speed, infrastructure, and the more user-friendly interface of the web along with vastly more powerful and compact computer hardware on both the client and server ends.  Most ofl the advantages to general users as shown in the above video are indeed true.  However, there are some stunning over-simplifications being drawn:

  1. Yes, there is too a computer – not a computer-like-object.
  2. Yes, there is too an operating system, which is actully called Chrome OS. It is a custom distribution of Linux that will be installed and shipped only on these new machines. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Chrome_OS  for more details regarding this.
  3. And yes, if you throw it in a river, you will definitely need a new notebook computer. Your filew may still be available, but no more so than if you’d used any number of other backup services.

When Sergey Brin said that Windows and other traditional PC operating systems are “torturing users” at Google’s Chrome OS Launch, he was correct.  And I applaud the simplification of the desktop, but there is a better way.  Today, a 1 Terabyte hard drive can be purchased for about $30 and excellent netbooks or laptops can be purchased for under $450 that can be configured to provide all of the benefits touted by the Chromebook announcement and then some.  Simply install Ubunutu, which is free, and away you go – even if you aren’t connected to the internet.

I will be writing more about the most recent Ubuntu release soon.

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