June 19, 2011 Leave a comment
The demand for portable computing devices keeps increasing. Smartphones, tablets, and netbooks have sold briskly in recently years; supplementing traditional laptops for those that have a need to be productive outside of a traditional office space.
Over two years ago, I purchased a netbook, which I wrote about on this blog. I am still enjoying the netbook today, and am not yet in the market to replace it. It is very easy to take in my backpack, and useful for checking email, writing blog posts, taking notes at meetings, and more. It has been a good investment for me.
In the time since I made my purchase however, there has been an explosion in mini-computing options. I now have a cell phone running the Android operating system from Google. It is great for reading email, keeping my daily calendar, and doing some limited web browsing. The small keyboard is difficult for me to type with though.
Notable for its popularity, the Ipad tablet is a popular device in the same price range as netbooks. One college professor I am acquainted with purchased one over a year ago, but found he needed to plug in a separate keyboard to do the large amount of writing he is accustomed to.
A school district superintendent I know got one for use at work, but says that they do not use it as much as they initially thought they would. Although I can not say for sure, I believe the lack of a traditional keyboard makes responding to email and the like more difficult than this person had envisioned.
Still, tablets are great for those that do not do a great deal of writing. They function well for reading and browsing, and certainly fill a niche (as can be seen by the millions of units being sold). It should be noted that in addition to the iPad, Android based tablets are growing in popularity.
One friend of mine acquired an Android based Ebook reader, and hacked it to make it function essentially as an Android tablet. He told me that he uses it to do research for presentations he gives on a regular basis with his organization.
Now comes a new device, which in some ways, embodies some approaches that go against the grain of traditional computing. It is called a Chromebook, and is essentially a netbook running on Google’s Chrome operating system and browser. Some techies will argue with me that the Chromebook is not a netbook, but it seems to be marketed towards the netbook market, and is in a similar price range, so it is hard not to make the comparison.
I have not seen a Chromebook personally, but am basing my comments on what I have read so far.
After a large test run, Chromebooks are now officially hitting the market. They have a 12″ screen, which is larger than the typical netbook 10″ screen. They are primarily set up for use on a wireless network, and do not have a traditional ethernet plug-in available. They store information almost exclusively in “the cloud”, meaning your documents are stored on a server somewhere.
Word processing, presentations, photo editing, and more are done through Google Apps and other web-based programs. Google promises that Chromebooks will have the ability to work on these types of documents offline, and will update the server when going back online. Having not seen one yet, this is one of the greatest concerns I have about Chromebooks. In the rural area where I live, Internet access is spotty, and inconsistent.
Some Chromebooks have 3G wireless available, but that will come at a higher price.
Having said all that, I look forward to seeing how Chromebooks fare in the marketplace. They appear to be well-suited for email, web browsing (to include use of social media sites), and more. For those that want a machine that is energy efficient (lasting several hours on a charge), and capable of doing most of the basic functions of a traditional computer, this is certainly an option.
- Google Chromebooks: Hardware specs, the business case, and first-look photos (hazima.wordpress.com)
- Samsung Series 5 Chromebook has arrived! (karenclassic.wordpress.com)
- Chromebook arrives as Netbook checks out (news.cnet.com)