The company where I work is a mixed platform company. That means we have Windows PCs, both desktop and notebooks; Macs, both iMac and MacBook, and more recently a growing number of Google Chromebooks (not the ones that are Google branded).
Chromebook are inexpensive notebooks that run Chrome OS, a Linux-based operating system that primarily runs applications online, as opposed to installed apps like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Cloud. The most notable features of a Chromebook are these:
- Usually very inexpensive (available from $199)
- Very few applications (vs. Mac or Windows)
- Lightweight applications (despite Android apps on some)
- Easy setup and re-installation by account
- Highly secure (who hacks into Linux notebooks?)
- Internet connected (basically a requirement)
As a NoodleMac reader I will assume you’re already a Mac user but curious about what else is out there besides Windows PC notebooks or desktops, and you already know the Mac is the ultimate personal computer. Why? Macs run OS X (and soon macOS Sierra), Windows 10 (and other flavors of Windows from yesteryear), most flavors of the many Linux distributions, and the various and sundry versions of Linux.
All at the same time if you want. That makes the Mac the ultimate personal computer because it does nearly everything. But all that value doesn’t come cheap, especially when compared to a Chromebook.
There’s not much to a Chromebook. Think of it as a Chrome browser with various tabs that run online applications, vs. a Windows PC or Mac which run both online apps and native apps that have more capability.
From what I’ve seen of the Chromebooks floating around the office, two perspectives come to mind right away.
First, ‘it just works.’ Chromebook and Chrome OS are simplicity personified. The online, cloud-based apps work well, and a single Google account can have you up and running on a new Chromebook– complete with files and apps– within minutes. Chromebook are secure and Linux– the real operating system hiding under the playful logo– is stable and dependable. If you don’t need to do much, a Chromebook might do it for you, but the caveat is that there’s not much computational hardware capability so don’t think in terms of Photoshop or other apps which are powerful and require power to operate.
Second, ‘it just doesn’t do much.’ Even with the advent of Android apps (not available on every model of Chromebook), these inexpensive devices also personify ‘you get what you pay for‘ despite Google’s best efforts to provide free and usable applications that compete against Microsoft Office. There’s just not enough CPU horsepower to do the heavy lifting that higher end Windows PCs and Macs can provide.
That said, a Chromebook might be a perfect travel companion that can access the internet, handle basic documents and spreadsheets, play a few movies and simple games, play music, and even muck around with photos. Chromebook are decent social network citizens, too. Whatever you can do in a Safari web browser, you can do on a Chromebook.
Chrome OS is hardened, secure, auto updates, and features a sandbox environment not unsimilar to what you see in macOS and iOS devices. Google says that Chromebooks are merely a secondary product, more of a netbook than a real PC, but it’s Microsoft’s Windows and Office that are feeling the squeeze of the Chromebook’s growing popularity. Apple’s Mac owns the premium end of the PC product spectrum, and Chromebooks own the lower end, and that squeezes Microsoft in the middle.
The general perspective about Chromebooks is simple. They just work, but they don’t do much.