Chromebook: Understanding its benefits and limitations

Google has recently made their official release to the public on the Google Chromebook and Chrome OS operating system. With this release, there are many questions as to what exactly this laptop does.. And more importantly what it cannot do

To quickly summarize the Chromebook — it is very inexpensive alternative to typical desktop and laptop computers. Its main function is to access the web and it stays true to this. Everything you do on the Chromebook is web-based, or rather “browser-based”. Therefore everything is done in the “cloud”. The OS does not run like your typical home computer and nothing can be saved or accessed through the desktop. It’s like opening up your Chrome browser from your Macbook and never leaving it..

If this seems limiting to you, maybe that’s because it is. All of your downloaded applications like Photoshop and excel are not accessible from your Chromebook. The flip side is that Google’s vision for web based programs and cloud computing is taking stride and there are a myriad of wonderful web-based apps for you to work with. Cloud based computing is nothing new and most of us deal with it in some way or another everyday (think gmail, docs, facebook, flickr, etc…).

Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits to Chromebook:

  1. Instantly Connected: Turn on your Chromebook and access the Internet within 8 seconds! This incredibly fast load time is a result of the simplistic approach from Google. Additionally, as the book automatically updates itself it should theoretically only become faster as time goes on.
  2. Always Connected: With build in Wi-Fi and Verizon 3G mobile broadband, this thing is always ready to browse. This is no surprise as the laptop’s functionality is severely restricted without the Internet.
  3. Always the same experience: Being that everything is cloud based, you can simply sign into another Chromebook to retrieve any and every bit of information you have stored. Rather nifty if you happen to misplace or forget your laptop!
  4. Decent Web-Apps: This arena is sure to grow exponentially and for now there are a number of quality web-based apps to facilitate most computing needs.
  5. Security: Boasting the first computer operating system to be built from the ground up to defend against malware and viruses, Google’s notebook may prove to be more secure than even Macs.

The benefits are rather straightforward and easy to understand. If you want a fast, web-based operating system that is always connected, Chromebook has you covered. Now let’s take a look at some of the negatives as discussed by the industries early adopters:

  1. The most obvious is that of cloud storage. Many people are still quite uncomfortable hosting all of their information elsewhere. While the industry has yet to showcase its full capacity to prevent security breaches, cloud based applications are used by some of the world’s largest companies. Web-based maintenance management software is also used to handle delicate customer data all over the world.
  2. Compatibility with your other applications seems to prove quite difficult on the Chromebook. While Google maintains that virtualization is the solution, it is not clear how it will be handled at this point.
  3. Fast Internet connection is a must when operating your Chromebook. Without it, processor speed and memory won’t get you anywhere in the cloud based world.
  4. File compatibility is also a bit of a drag given that the operating system does not recognize all of the file extensions that a normal computer would. Ex: m4v, mov, wmv, etc.

To sum it all up — Chromebook is a valid alternative and great change of pace if you work mostly through the web. On the other hand, this laptop is likely never to replace your standard machine if you consider yourself a computer power-user. As with all innovative products in the tech field, it is up to the consumer to chose if the product provides sufficient functionality and value.

Anthony is most notably a freelance writer in the cloud-computing world. His daily tasks involve working with work order management providers to help streamline their software processes. This article was written by a guest author. Would you like to write for us?