Posted by Daniel Jauk, 13 Nov, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Chromebooks and their operating systems — Google Chrome OS — have been the talk of town since Chromebooks were first launched by Google in 2011. At Enigma Digital, we’ve been experimenting with a Toshiba Chromebook and we’re excited to show what we’ve found. Below are some explanations about the features and drawbacks of these nifty devices (each costing around AU$250-AU$400), and some initial thoughts on using Chromebooks.
A Chromebook is a small, lightweight laptop, requiring the use of a Google Account, that focuses on “speed, simplicity, and security”. Each Chromebook is run by Google Chrome OS, an operating system that is almost completely browser-based, prioritising the use of web applications over software requiring installation. This means that Google Chrome OS doesn’t have some of the features, apps, and software found in other operating systems — but it does mean that it runs notably faster (picture Road Runner vs. Coyote). So where do all of your files get saved and where can you access them? The answer is: the cloud. All of your files are accessible through Google Drive. So what does this mean for your security? Well, turns out that in order to protect you, each Chromebook is installed with tonnes of security features. And, because its features are so lightweight, the battery life of a Chromebook is quite long, averaging at 8-11 hours, and they boot up instantly. Neat, right?
Google Chrome OS uses browser-based (Chrome) apps, which means that you can only run web apps on your Chromebook; however, there are still a few offline features you can access. Each Chromebook comes loaded with Google’s small selection of business apps, like Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, and its main office suite (Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets). You can also get more (usually free or cheap) from the Chrome Web Store, which are made available by a huge range of developers, just like regular software.
Some of you might be put off by Google Chrome OS limiting you to web apps, but there are ways around this. If you don’t like Google’s main office suite, then you can always try Microsoft Web Apps. You won’t be able to use Adobe Indesign and Photoshop to cater for your basic WordPress design needs, but you might be able to use online software like Pixlr. Some of you may also find the Chromebook’s small screen and cramped keyboard frustrating to use; if that’s the case, we suggest you attach an external monitor and/or external keyboard to the Chromebook. Another potential drawback is Google Chrome OS’s strong reliance on internet connectivity, which might prove a problem if your Wi-Fi signal is weak; however, some Chromebooks do have Ethernet ports for wired internet connectivity.
It depends… Google Chrome OS might not have that many features, but, when you think about it, these features might be all you need. Do you need a cheap device that gives you all the business apps you need to run your business, write your blog, view your finances, or manage your studies? Then, yes! But, if you’re an architect, designer, or accountant that needs to install a lot of specialist software, then you should probably think twice before jumping ahead of yourself. What do you guys think? Would you consider a Chromebook for your business? Leave us a comment below.
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