Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Cr-48 and Chrome OS

I feel so lucky right about now.  I came home today to find that I'd gotten a Cr-48.  I have, of course, followed Chrome OS from the beginning, so I'm glad to have the chance to try out the first real Chrome OS laptop.

What surprised me about it, really, was the overall polish of it.  I'd compiled my own copy of Chromium OS about a week before the announcement to run on my netbook, and while it was much more complete than it had been when I first started testing these builds, it was still nowhere near the level it's at now.  The animations are smooth and everything just feels snappy.  Of course, the Cr-48 was designed with Chrome OS in mind, so that's to be expected... but even so, it's always nice to see that things work better than you thought they would.

Would I replace my desktop computer and netbook?  No, of course not.  There are things I do on my computer that Chrome OS simply can't do.  For me, this laptop is a quick web browser with the ability to connect remotely to my rack server and desktop at home.  But then again, people like me aren't really the target market for these sorts of devices.

At school today, I realized just how helpful a laptop like this could be for someone who isn't quite as tech-savvy as most people who would be reading this blog.  My guidance counselor was in the room preparing to talk to the class.  She had a presentation that she wanted to display, so she signed into the laptop and checked her "My Documents" folder.  It wasn't there.  She then proceeded to open up Outlook because she had emailed it.  The Outlook setup screen popped up.

She was on a shared school laptop.

It's things like this that remind me of the huge gap between the tech-savvy and the tech-clueless.  Believe me, most people fall into the latter category.  Maybe a purely cloud-based setup could benefit them.  There will always be people who need local storage, so Google's vision of a world completely in the cloud is a bit off, but that doesn't mean Chrome OS is a complete failure.

That said, I don't think the OS will catch on as quickly as Google would like.  For one thing, people have a tendency to resist change and complain when things aren't exactly as expected.  The poor sales of Linux netbooks reflect this - they didn't have a start menu and a big blue bar at the bottom, so they were brought back to stores at an alarming rate because people just couldn't figure them out..  Maybe Google's marketing will be able to overcome this.  We'll just have to see what happens.

Before you techies bash it, though, step back and think about this: does everyone you know have a basic understanding of how computers work?  Do the people in your life understand the difference between local storage and web storage?  Is the big blue "e" synonymous with the internet for them?  Ask around sometime.  You might be surprised.