Why Do Chromebooks Worry Microsoft?
Have you seen Microsoft’s anti-Google bash ads collectively sneering 'You're Scroogled' at anyone dumb enough to use Google products or services, instead of those from your old buddies in Redmond, WA? The latest attack ad features visitors to a Las Vegas pawn shop saddened to be informed that their Chromebooks are not 'real computers.' But is it true? Read on...
Is Chromebook a Real Computer?
“When you’re not connected, it’s pretty much a brick,” says one of the pawnshop-owner/actors. Apparently, bricks can now perform calculations, play music, compose email, edit documents, play games, and do all the other things that Chromebooks can do even when offline. While we have been focused on electronic advances, the brick-making industry has broken Moore’s Law to smithereens!
Clearly the Chromebook is as "real" and functional as any other computer. Microsoft's dishonest smear of the Chromebook, which is competing against poorly selling Windows 8 laptops, makes them look a bit ridiculous, and leaves a smell of desperation in the air. So why is Microsoft so clearly worried about the Chromebook?
As recently as a year ago, the price/performance differences between laptops and Chromebooks was not much to get excited about. To buy a Chromebook for less than $300 one had to make performance sacrifices that many users found unacceptable. But things have changed dramatically; now $200 will buy you a Chromebook that any busy, impatient business or personal user would find quite acceptable. Well, “almost buy…” I’ll explain after describing the state of the art in Chromebooks.
Meet The Latest Chromebook Models
Acer’s new C720 Chromebook (starting at $199) weighs just 2.76 pounds and is only 0.7 inches thick. It sports an 11-inch, 1366-by-768 resolution display. Under its hood is a 1.4 GHz Celeron processor based on Intel‘s new Haswell architecture. Acer claims a remarkable 8.5 hour battery life thanks in part to Haswell. Additionally, the C720 comes with an ample 4GB of RAM and 16 GB of solid state file storage.
The $279 HP Chromebook 11, announced in partnership with Google just a week before Acer unveiled the C720, gets 2.5 hours less battery life (on marketing literature) than the C720. Its display is the same size and resolution. It comes with only 2GB of RAM but has the same solid state storage as the Acer C720. It runs an Intel Celeron processor rather than the more efficient Haswell.
The most amazing thing about these two latest, greatest Chromebooks is that they’re on sale already; Amazon, for instance, is taking orders for the C720 at $240. That’s amazing because you can’t yet actually buy one and take it home; multiple distributors of both the Acer and HP Chromebooks are “taking pre-orders.” What does that mean? Presumably, it's “Give us your money now and if we can ship this thing at some point in the future we promise we will.” Probably not a good idea to gamble on pre-Christmas delivery at this point.
But there are plenty of other Chromebooks you can buy today. The HP Chromebook 14 sports a 14-inch screen and starts at $299. Samsung's Chromebook ($249) and the Acer C7 ($199) both have 11.6-inch displays. You can browse and compare these and other models on Google's Chromebook devices page.
Is a Chromebook Right For You?
Make no mistake, a real Chromebook that I can type on right now looks pretty tempting. It’s light, it’s energy-conserving, it does 99% of what I do for a living, and it’s cheap. If you have Internet available constantly and reliably, like electricity, then a Chromebook is a great idea.
The caveat is that you must rely on Chrome-based apps and cloud services. Your old-school locally-installed Windows software won't run on a Chromebook. But more and more software is moving to the cloud. And Chromebooks can do lots of things offline, even when they're not connected to that series of tubes we call the Internet.
There's really no need to download, install (or even buy) software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, email, finances, graphics and photo editing, games or you name it. See my article Free Cloud Services You Should Know About.
Another benefit of running cloud-based software and files storage is that you never have to worry about patches, fixes or upgrades. There's no Windows registry to get fouled up, and a lot less data to back up. You can easily move from laptop to chromebook to desktop to tablet or smartphone; all your apps and data are available without having to copy, sync or maintain multiple software installations. Check out Google’s Chrome OS Help page to see if there are Chromebook alternatives to the software you're using now.
If you need to use software that only runs on Windows, and there's no good cloud alternative, then a Windows-based laptop with a local hard drive is the obvious choice. Some apps that fall into this category would be specialized image tools like Adobe CS5, games like World of Warcraft, and business tools. There are sub-$300 laptops that run Windows 8, but these are low-end machines that will probably make you wish you spent another $200.
Have you taken a Chromebook for a test drive? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 10 Dec 2013
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