The Chromebook – A Platform Gamechanger?
For many, many years now the Internet meant the PC. Since the arrival of smart-phones, that platform hegemony has started to erode rapidly. Then tablets such as the iPad followed. Now Google is opening up a new front in the form of the Chromebook. This is an intriguing idea that re-imagines the netbook, not as a PC that also runs Internet software, but as a web-browser powering a PC. The design-ethos is akin to what Google did which Chrome as a web-browser (and did well) where they re-imagined it as an extension of a search-engine (naturally!). This is a really interesting idea and if it works out, could erode the idea that the Internet=PC, as the Internet has eroded the idea that video=TV. Here’s how Google introduced it:
And how they describe it (from the official Google blog):
These are not typical notebooks. With a Chromebook you won’t wait minutes for your computer to boot and browser to start. You’ll be reading your email in seconds. Thanks to automatic updates the software on your Chromebook will get faster over time. Your apps, games, photos, music, movies and documents will be accessible wherever you are and you won’t need to worry about losing your computer or forgetting to back up files. Chromebooks will last a day of use on a single charge, so you don’t need to carry a power cord everywhere. And with optional 3G, just like your phone, you’ll have the web when you need it. Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy and maintain. Even more importantly, you won’t spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date.
Now I see the Chromebook as basically a web-browser running on a netbook. Its a simple approach and for many users, given that we are moving much of the functionality we use – games, documents, music, films, email – to the cloud (and often to Google systems) it makes sense. However you are then reliant on the cloud and connectivity to operate – and there are issues with this. I also see it as another direct march into Microsoft’s territory. For good or for ill, I think the re-purposing of a netbook as a web-book is a major step forward in the ongoing networking of our technologies.