Is 2015 The Year You Buy A Chromebook?
I’m going to put on my Carnac the Magnificent hat and predict that if you buy a new computer this year it will be a Google Chromebook -- not an iPad or even a “normal” laptop running Windows or Mac OS X. Here are my reasons why...
A Chromebook in Your Future?
Amazon’s three best-selling computers during the recent holiday season (November 1 to December 25) were Chromebooks. Chromebooks are outselling iPads in the education market that Apple has traditionally owned. Even in the enterprise, where Microsoft dominates, Chromebooks accounted for 35% of laptops purchased during the first half of 2014.
Chromebooks are finally getting big enough. Acer unveiled the biggest Chromebook yet at CES 2015. The Acer Chromebook 15 sports a 15.6 inch screen that can be ordered in 1920 x 1080 or 1366 x 768 resolution, either an Intel Core i3 or a Celeron CPU, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, and either 16GB or 32GB of SSD storage. Prices start at $249.
Consumers now expect to pay less than $250 for a laptop, and there’s plenty of Chromebook competition at that price. None of Amazon’s top three sellers cost more than $230. The best-sellers were, by the way, the Acer C720 Chromebook; the Asus C300 Chromebook 13-inch with Gigabit WiFi; and the HP 11-2010nr 11.6-inch Chromebook.
Sub-$250 Windows laptops are starting to appear, mainly because Microsoft made Windows 8.1 free for PC vendors to install on such low-cost machines. But the Windows ecosystem has a lot of evolution to do before it catches up to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. So does Windows itself.
Location, Location, Location
The critical difference between Windows PCs and Chromebooks is where the application software and user data reside. The Windows paradigm has always been “locally,” on a customer’s computer that has to keep getting bigger, faster, and more expensive to keep pace with upgrades of Windows. The increasingly complicated operating system also requires more user care and maintenance, and provides more “surface area” for hackers and malware to attack.
Chrome OS, on the other hand, expects apps and data to reside in the cloud. Locally, a customer needs only enough hardware to run a browser and connect to the Internet, although amenities like bigger screens and SSD storage are in demand. The operating system can be small, running faster and presenting fewer targets to bad guys. The fact that it's not Windows-based makes it even less attractive to hackers, because they target by the numbers. It doesn’t hurt that Google makes Chrome OS available for free to everyone.
Bang For the Buck
So, while Acer rolls out a 15-inch, $249 Chromebook, HP has its Stream 11-inch Windows 8.1 laptop for $200. It comes with a year’s subscription to Microsoft Office 365, which otherwise costs $70, a year’s worth of McAfee antivirus protection (about $60 thereafter), and a Terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage space, normally $7/month but the TB plan includes Office 365. But as is typical of sub-$250 Windows laptops, it has a tiny 11-inch screen, and a wimpy Celeron processor under the hood.
Apple doesn't play the low-cost computing game at all. The iPad Air 2 starts at $500 and the cheapest MacBook Air models range from $900 to $1100. I'm not trying to compare features, or equate the hardware in low-end PC laptops with the MacBook Air's specs. Just pointing out that Apple has nothing in the laptop or tablet space that's even close to the $250 price point.
Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has clearly declared war on upstart Chromebooks with his “mobile-first, cloud-first” mantra. Future editions of Windows will probably act more like Chrome OS. But for now, if you want a lightweight, inexpensive, portable device with a real keyboard and adequate screen, your best choice will be a Chromebook.
What About Software?
Of course, the downside of a Chromebook is that you won't be able to run your favorite Windows software. (There are some exceptions. See Windows Apps on a Chromebook.) However, there are excellent web-based alternatives for most everything you need: email, calendar, word processing, spreadsheet, finances, music, games, and photo editing. There's even a free online version of Microsoft Office. You can get lots more apps for Google Chrome OS at the Chrome Web Store.
The beauty of the Chromebook model is there's nothing to download, install or constantly update. As long as you have an Internet connection, you're good to go. Chrome OS and Android (which powers a majority of smartphones and tablets) are becoming more tightly integrated, and that will further boost the adoption of Chromebooks. In fact, some Android apps have been ported to Chrome, and more will be coming this year.
Is this the year you’ll be ready for a Chromebook? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Jan 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is 2015 The Year You Buy A Chromebook? (Posted: 7 Jan 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved