Hardware, Tech News, Technology

Chromebooks: Nothing But the Web?

As announced at Google I/O Conference this week, Google has announced two netbooks built to the Chrome specification.

“Chromebooks are built and optimized for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time. So you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers.”

Order yours on June 15th…

I include the fluffy marketing text below. Essentially, it’s a net-book-minus. As long as you live your life in the Cloud, need no local storage and are happy with the bundled Verizon 3-G connection with it’s capped band-width (a lowly 100Mb per month free) and payment plan, this could be the one for you.

On the plus-side they both have excellent battery life – they should, there’s no moving parts inside – which we wait to verify in actual use with wireless networking pinging away 24/7.

There is currently no firm hardware pricing with independent vendors, but hints are $349 for the Acer. However, the rent-a-Chromebook scheme is the most interesting part of this announcement: for $28 per user per month, businesses will receive Chromebooks, Web-based administration controls, enterprise-level support, a warranty, and hardware replacement upon subscription renewal. Schools and governments have access to a similar subscription package for $20 per user per month. With some estimates that it costs around $3000 per year to set-up and maintain a normal networked computer, this looks attractive but does not yet add up to a total cost of ownership (TCO). AJS

Acer Chromebook ($349?):

  • 11.6-inch 1,366×768-pixel 16:9 screen
  • Intel Atom dual-core 1.66GHz CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB SSD drive
  • 1.3-mega-pixel Webcam
  • stereo speakers
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • HDMI port
  • 2.95 pounds

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook:

  • 11.6 inches by 8.6 inches, 0.79 inch thick
  • 3.3 pounds
  • A full-size keyboard
  • Multitouch touch pad
  • 1.66 GHz dual-core Intel Atom N570 processor
  • A 12.1-inch SuperBright display at 300 nits, with a 16:10 aspect (no pixel resolution given)
  • Instant-on from standby, and an 8-second boot time
  • 16GB SSD drive
  • 2GB RAM
  • HD Webcam
  • Two USB ports
  • 8.5 hours of battery life
  • SD/SDHC/MMC/SDXC card slot
  • stereo speakers

[From the Chromebooks home-page] Features include:

Instant-On: “Chromebooks boot in 8 seconds and resume instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe® Flash®. In fact, Chromebooks are designed to get faster over time as updates are released.”

Always connected: “All-day battery life means that you can connect anywhere and never miss a beat on the web… It’s easy to get connected anytime and anywhere with built-in Wi-Fi and 3G. As your Chromebook boots up, it quickly connects to your favorite wireless network so you’re on the web right from the start. 3G models include a free 100 MB per month of mobile data from Verizon Wireless so you can keep working around home and on the go.”

Same Experience Everywhere: “Upload photos and files to the cloud with one click, and get to them from anywhere. Your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log in to another Chromebook and get right back to work.

Amazing web apps: “Every Chromebook runs millions of web apps, from games to spreadsheets to photo editors. Thanks to the power of HTML5, many apps keep working even in those rare moments when you’re not connected. Visit the Chrome Web Store to try the latest apps, or just type in a URL. No CDs required. Learn more about the Chrome Web Store.”

Built to share: “Friends let friends log in: “Chromebooks are easy to share with family and friends. They can log in to experience all of their own Chrome settings, apps, and extensions, or use Guest Mode to browse privately. Either way, no one else using your Chromebook will have access to your email and personal data.”

‘Forever fresh’: “Forever Fresh (sic) feels like unwrapping a new computer everyday. Your Chromebook gets better and better over time, unlike a traditional PC. When you turn it on, it updates itself. Automatically. All of your apps stay up-to-date, and you get the latest and greatest version of the operating system without having to think about it. Annoying update prompts not included.

Security built in: “Security Hardware-backed security. Chromebooks run the first consumer operating system designed from the ground up to defend against the ongoing threat of malware and viruses. They employ the principle of “defense in depth” to provide multiple layers of protection, including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot. Learn more about security.”

A small note at the bottom of the Chromebooks page helpfully hints: “obviously, you’re going to need a wireless network, be willing to use it subject to the provider’s terms and conditions, and be ready to put up with its real life limitations including, for example, its speed and availability. When you do not have network access, functionality that depends on it will not be available.”

Obviously. Particularly if you’re stuck with Verizon.

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.


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