Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chromebooks: The Worst of Both Worlds

2016 Update: I got a Chromebook last year and I love it. You can't game on it but it's great for pretty much everything else. Please disregard this post that was written in ignorance. I will however leave the post here for posterity's sake.

(I originally started this as just a random Google+ post, but I think it got long-winded enough to warrant an actual blog post. And yes, the irony of complaining about a Google product on both Google+ and Blogspot does not escape me.)

A Chromebook with its tablet-like interface.

So I came to a startling conclusion yesterday. A Chromebook is basically tablet software on laptop hardware, which makes no sense to me. I love pretty much everything Google does, but Chromebooks never really made sense to me to begin with, and now the more I think about it the less sense it makes, and the angrier I get.

Perhaps the most well-known tablet of all time. Notice how similar the user interface is to the Chromebook.

The main reason we use tablets is for the hardware; i.e. the thinness, the portability, the touch interface, and the general "wow, that's awesome!" factor when you whip it out in front of your friends and family (which comes mostly from the hardware). You can do some cool things on them, but the software is not as versatile as that of a full laptop or other PC. You can't just find a new program online and install it. Webpages don't always load right or look right (although this is getting better with time). Although I think it's slowly dying anyway, most tablets can't run Flash (Adobe dropped support for Android as of version 4.0). Depending on what type of tablet you have, you're usually limited to a preset store which is the only place you can "officially" buy and install programs (or "apps" in this case) from. Like the App Store on iOS or Google Play on Android, for instance. Which leads me to my next point.

A normal laptop with Windows 7. Physically it looks very similar to the Chromebook, but you get a full OS/software experience only with this one.

The reason we use laptops is mostly for the software. With the exception of perhaps the silver MacBooks, most laptops (Dell, HP, Acer, etc.) aren't anything special hardware-wise. But we use them because you get a richer and fuller software experience, like using a full version of Windows 7 (or XP on older models, or Vista if you're an idiot). It's not cool or flashly, but you know that you'll have all your normal programs, you know you'll be able to use them in the full manner you're accustomed to, and if you happen to stumble upon a new program you want you can most likely install and run it fairly easily. Thus, people mainly use laptops for the full PC (or Mac/Linux) software experience that they're used to from the days when there were only computers and no smartphones or tablets.

So, if overall you accept the general premise of my two previous arguments (and I'd appreciate it if you did), then it seems to me that a Chromebook is the worst of both worlds. It takes tablet-like software, which is limited at best and really designed to go along with tablet hardware, and combines it with laptop hardware, which without a full OS/software experience is superfluous, unnecessary, and unneeded (just like using all of those adjectives at the end of this sentence).

Now, in the interest of full disclousure, I've never actually used a Chromebook. But I've seen enough demos and YouTube videos online of how they work to believe that I've done my research and that my opinion is well-founded. If anyone who reads this actually has hands-on experience with a Chromebook(s) and would like to correct me, I'm all ears. Like I said before, I pretty much love everything else Google does (my whole life basically runs through Google and I'm a huge Android fan), so I'm willing to listen to someone with actual Chromebook experience, whether they agree with me or not.

Also, let's see what Dave Chappelle as Rick James thinks:

1 comment:

Robert Reeder said...

we got chromebooks for our school. i am on the chromebook right now. i prefer PC, but honestly, id rather have the chrome than an ipad, because of the full keyboard, and the lower price tag.