Where Does The Chromebook Fit In The Cloud Computing World?

Where Does The Chromebook Fit In The Cloud Computing World?

If you are a technophile, you must have heard about Google’s Chromebook launch on June 15 this year. Even if you haven’t, here’s the lowdown:

On June 15, 2011, search engine giant Google will attempt to revolutionize the personal computing world through the launch of its mobile device called the Chromebook running on Google’s Chrome Operating System (OS). The Chromebook is a netbook that will occupy a niche between a pure cloud client and a traditional laptop, and represents a vision of doing away with traditional software for personal use in favor of doing everything on the cloud.

Google had presented a prototype called the Cr-48 for testing purposes, and reactions have been mixed. While many praise the utility and appearance of the device, some believe that a netbook which essentially surfs the Net and does nothing else has little value as compared to tablets like the iPad. Feedback from testers has been used to improve the machine that will be available from manufacturers Acer and Samsung come June 15.

Now, here are my thoughts on the Chromebook. While it does represent a significant shift in the idea of personal computing in that every application is used online, there are certain issues to be addressed as well. For example, the simple task of printing. While using Google Cloud Print is definitely a viable option, it is considerably complicated if compared to vanilla printing through a laptop.

Secondly, there is the obvious issue of being unable to operate the Chromebook unless you are online. Although Google has developed technology that allows websites and services to operate offline, there are not many working options at the moment. Even Google’s own Gmail, calendar, and document-editing Web apps won’t work in offline mode until later this summer.

Thirdly, there is the issue with the price. The various options that will be available on June 15 are all priced between $400 and $500; the question is, is this price reasonable? While some believe it is, there are others who point out that existing netbooks with Windows 7, similar functionality and similar battery-life of 8.5 hours are available for half that price.

Even the Apple iPad, the hottest selling electronic device at the moment and having flash memory just like the Chromebook, is available at a similar price, and offers pre-installed native software in addition to the ability to go online and access the cloud-based applications the Chromebook will run.

Now that I have enumerated the possible problems, let me talk about the Chromebook’s advantages. Firstly, there is the obvious advantage of a machine that is not resource-hungry, unlike Windows-equipped machines. Consequently, the Chromebook boots up much faster – within 10 seconds from a cold start, and immediately from hibernation.

Secondly, there is the security aspect – all data on a Chromebook is encrypted by default. Thirdly, there is the issue of continuous performance improvement as outlined by Google’s product manager for Chrome OS, Sundar Pichai. Since all the software is cloud-based, all improvements benefit the users without the need for explicit updates to be installed. “Computers are normally great when you first install, but then performance degrades over time,” he said. “But because a Chromebook upgrades itself automatically, in a few months your Chromebook will be even faster.”

In conclusion, I would say that the Chromebook offers an interesting cloud-based alternative to traditional laptops. However, I believe it will have to reduce its price level to effectively complete with the laptops, netbooks and tablets available in the market today.

By Sourya Biswas

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