] ] Chromebooks are coming of age
The article entitled “A fast-take on Chrome OS” on 18 June 2012 in this column in Daily Trust described the Chrome operating system (OS) as a work in progress, and so wasn’t worth your while and your hard-earned money. The Chrome OS was developed by Google to power its mini “web-computer” called Chromebooks. The 2012 article came in the form of Q and A, which seems to have worked best in bringing out the features of Chrome OS. I will follow the same format in today’s article, as I describe the evolution that has taken place in the world of Chrome OS/Chromebooks.
Q: So, what is Chrome OS in a nutshell?
A: Chrome OS is the engine that drives Chromebooks, which are light, inexpensive laptops specifically built for online computing. That is, these computers were intended solely as a convenient way for you to access the Internet, so that you can work with your data (movies, videos, pictures, etc.) that are stored on the cloud – specifically on Google Drive. Chromebooks are not suitable for intensive use, such as powerful computations or gaming. In the baseline Chromebooks, if you are offline, the computer is virtually useless! However, newer, improved versions are trying to add more offline capabilities so you wouldn’t feel like tossing the books out of the window when you lose Internet connection.
Q: Chrome OS is a bit of a confusing phrase, isn’t it?
A: Yes. To the user, it shares the same name with Google’s browser and has nothing to do with Google’s rather successful Android OS that powers smartphones and e-tablets.
Q: What is the difference between Chrome OS and Chrome browser, also developed by Google?
A: Unlike Chrome OS, which is the engine for the Chromebooks mini laptops, Chrome browser is an interface that allows you to connect to, and interact with, the web. It is Google’s answer to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Mozilla’s Firefox, for example. Note that the Chrome browser is routinely installed in MS Windows and Apple desktops and laptops.
Q: Can I install Chrome OS on my desktops or laptops running MS Windows or Apple desktops and laptops?
Q: So what computers use Chrome OS?
A: Only the specially designed, lowcapability, laptops called Chromebooks.
Q: How much storage (hard disk space) does a Chromebook have?
A: Not much! Chromebooks were originally designed to get you to the cloud where you can have all the storage space that you need. These small laptops have just 16 GB, or at best 32 GB, of internal storage. This size is tiny by today’s standards. The random-access memory (RAM) in Chromebooks is a meager 2 GB.
Q: What are some of the other features of Chromebooks?
A: Chromebooks typically have a (16 GB) solid-state drive, which helps the computer power up quicker than traditional laptops. Battery life is typically 6 hours. The smallest of the notebooks weighs only 2.5 pounds and is less than an inch in thickness. Screen sizes vary between 11 and 13 inches, and resolution can go up to 1280 x 800 picture elements (pixels), which gives you high-definition viewing.
Q: What kind of processor does Chromebook have?
A: Nothing spectacular. Wall Street journalist Walter Mossberg in an article on June 13, 2012 describes the processor in Chromebook as “a wimpy processor, one of Intel’s entry-level Celeron models.”
Q: What are some of the weaknesses of Chromebooks?
A: You can’t install and use your favorite programs such as the MS Office Suite or iTunes. So, you are stuck with whatever applications run on Chrome OS. Also, you can’t do much offline. Chrome OS needs a more advanced file management system. Although there are virtual private network tools for accessing your office intranet, most companies may not have one that works with Chrome OS. Chrome OS does not allow you to plug in a printer to print a document! The available wireless printing capability in the system works only with select printers.
Q: It seems as if Chromebook is very limited. Why would anyone be interested at all?
A: Chrome OS does have a few desirable attributes. This includes its simplicity and the fact that it integrates very intimately with the cloud. Mossberg says “because it is designed to fetch your apps and documents from the internet, you can replicate your entire computer by just logging in on any other Chrome OS PC.” Mossberg feels that “if you mainly use the web and live in the cloud, it may be the ticket for you, especially as a second computer.” Chromebooks are great for folks on low budgets.
Q: Which companies manufacture Chromebooks?
A: When we last wrote on Chromebooks, Samsung was the only device manufacturer. Today, Samsung is still manufacturing Chromebooks, with its recent Samsung 550, series 3, but we also now have Acer C7, Hewlett-Packard’s, HPQ-1, and Dell’s Chromebook 11.
Q: How cheap are Chromebooks?
A: Chromebooks are inexpensive; they sell for between $199 and $450.
Q: What does the future hold for Chrome OS?
A: Chromebooks may be coming of age after all. You should expect features that allow the interface to look and feel more like Windows PCs or the Mac, with the ability to do more things offline. You will be able to store files, play music and videos, view and edit photos, and view MS Office products.
Q: So what to do now?
A: For now, your primary desktop and/ or laptop is still going to be MS PC or Apple Mac. You could consider Chromebook as a “reach” platform for exploring the finer edges of technology. Of course, if Internet access is a challenge for you, don’t mess around, just stick with conventional desktops/laptops.