It seems everyone is posting their review after a few days of working with the laptop. I decided to take a different perspective with the initial review. When I first started playing with ChromeOS betas a few months ago I came to the realization that this was not for me. Two things were apparent:
- This machine is to provide a cloud-based Thin Client. I live off servers around the world, not necessarily in the cloud.
- As a geek, the Walled Garden drives me crazy. “What do you mean I can’t install a SSH server?!?!?”
My girlfriend on the other hand could care less about a SSH server. She finds the Mac Mini a little overwhelming at times and really just wants the internet. “Show me where the Safari icon is.” For that reason alone I found ChromeOS to be built for her. Instant On and just a web browser.
- The box is artsy and fun
- I like the rubber feel of the exterior
- Keyboard feels nice
- Trackpad is yucky
The setup was super easy. I made sure Becca drove and the only info she needed was the WPA passwords for the Wifi and off she went. It was that easy and off she was off to Etsy and Amazon. It was impressive how little input I had and I have to admit I was somewhat jealous to see her on her way surfing the internet. I am not sure what else to say. It is Chrome on Linux and runs great. We did some video chatting over Gtalk and it was equally as simple. Not once have I had to assist Becca in using this machine. It is an appliance for her and provides a gateway to what she cares about online. That simplicity I believe would be shared by many as the need for full-time computing disappears. As mentioned on many other reviews though, FLASH KILLS THIS MACHINE. Simple flash objects too like Facebook widgets stuff kills it. I am so tired of Adobe and hope the continued rise of HTML5 will slowly kill it.
Where is my Google Gears?
Why did Google include the Verizon data plan? Because the laptop is useless without it. The lack of offline resourcing means that the machine is a big paperweight without Internet connectivity. In Washington DC thats not a big problem, in Arab Alabama or Standish Michigan its dead on arrival. The big question is where is my offline? Google had a great platform in Google Gears that I would argue they prematurely killed off. HTML5 supports offline storage, but as it stands today there is no usage of it within Google. Utter Fail…
For reasons unknown to me the trackpad is utter crap. I was going to hold off on talking about it since this is development hardware platform, but its that bad. Imagine the worst trackpad and then cut your hands off and try to navigate with nubs. I can’t put into words how horrendus the damn thing is. Weirdest thing is that two finger scrolling ONLY works for my hands. Becca can’t get the thing to scroll, but has no problems on any other laptop in the house. It is a big pile of poo…sheesh
Where it would sit at work…
As an Enterprise guy I can’t help but think where this would fit at work. My port scans and pen tests show that the machine is in a default secure mode and offers very few entry points for hackers, but it does so by disallowing local authentication and network access. Need AD access? CIFS/SMB shares? Ain’t happening. Where as on the iOS devices there has sprung up applications that bridge that divide it simply isn’t there in the ChromeOS ecosystem. There is a Native Client which will possibly allow for those type of applications, Google has not shared the roadmap or vision. I feel like I am back in 2007 having to jailbreak my iphones to get non-web based apps. So at work I can only see this as a kiosk which doesn’t seem like a big power play for Google in the enterprise.
Where it sits in the house…
We use it in the livingroom and bedroom. Battery life means we hardly ever charge the thing and its great for syncing to my Chrome desktop installs. The roaming profiles of the internet! Its really a great tool for that. When I left Boeing and had to give back my iPad we were feeling naked with no surfing device. The CR-48 fills that role and I’d argue better than the iPad. I am writing this post on the CR-48 which I would NEVER do on the iPad. It fails at ergonomics like any other notebook which is why the iPad was great. Laying in bed trying to surf is painful where as an iPad was easier to surf while horizontal. Its in a tough spot for what niche it fills which brings me to my next point…
Niche is an overstatement
My biggest fear is that Google will pull a Kin and kill the device on pricing. The problem will be price and marketing. In my humble opinion here is what Google will need to do in order to sell these things:
- Price point will need to be under 250 dollars. The coming abundance of Android tablets on the market will make this a tough sell
- Must include 3G data plans that are affordable and non-contract
- Google will need to not only market this thing, but rather give it away. Go to colleges with a truck and dump them off in the cafeteria with a sign that says “Free Pizza and Laptop.”
- HTML5 offline storage needs to be done before it ships
- Convince us geeks why Grams and Girlfriend needs this. Why would I buy this over an iPad for the family? Today I am not sure I would recommend this to the above folks because it is what 90% of people need a computer for. The other 10% are total and complete hell to deal with. Today it is positioned to be a third machine, not a second. Not many people have 3 machines outside us weird people that giggle at binary and hex jokes
** Update: I was going to upload pictures from my phone when I realized I couldn’t. How do you get them off the phone? Just an interesting note as I run up to a Real Computer to complete this post **
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- Nick Schmidt lives passionately in the digital world advising and advancing technology everywhere he goes. He has served in the US Air Force, been a self-employed consultant, a senior manager and chief engineer at Boeing, and now co-founding and running Spec Ops Technology. Decorated in his military and professional career you can find his work in the nations networks and across the web.