On Google’s Chromebook

David Pogue for the NYT:

How well does Google’s newfangled concept hold up in the real world?

Unfortunately, not very well.

The first assumption is that you’re online everywhere you go. That’s rather critical, because when it’s not online, a Chromebook can’t do much of anything. You can’t peruse your e-mail, read documents or books or listen to music. With very few exceptions, when the Chromebook isn’t online, it’s a 3.3-pound paperweight. (Google says that an upgrade this summer will at least permit you to read your e-mail, calendar and Google Docs when you’re offline, and that over time, more apps will be written to be offline-usable.)

Maybe in Silicon Valley, where Google’s engineers live, you can live your entire life online. But in the real world, you can use this laptop only where you can find, and afford, Wi-Fi hot spots. Or a Verizon cell signal, if you’ve bought the $500 Samsung model.

Verizon offers two years of free service with that model, but you’re capped at 100 megabytes of data a month — a laughably small quota for a laptop that can’t even scratch its nose without an Internet connection. You can upgrade: for example, 1 gigabyte of data for $20 a month, or 5 gigabytes for $50. At least no two-year contract is required.

I tried valiantly to use the Samsung as my main machine, but by the end of a week, I was about ready to toss it like a Frisbee.

Sounds like Google’s going to have to make a few changes to the OS to make it more real-world ready. Still, I love the direction they are pushing the operating system. At the same time, one has to wonder if the machine is essentially nothing more than a 16-GB flash drive, a little bit of ram and some other parts, why is god’s name does this machine cost $500 and weigh 3.3 lbs.?

That’s a serious question? If all this machine is is a browser, couldn’t Google and Samsung figure out a way to make this machine ultra-thing, ultra-light and somewhere in the $200-$350 range? But $500? No, thanks.

The other thing is that until the web apps become more robust, this is essentially a web browsing machine. Why pay $500 for a web browser when you can pay the same amount for an actual computer? Google will really need to step up their app offerings with third-party computer companies to make this truly viable.

What’s nice, however, is that Google can push updates to the OS without having to be a major upgrade like one would expect from Microsoft or Apple. So, if the company can get the computer’s price to drop to a more reasonable level, then they can continue to roll out improvements making these machines more useful and practical for everyday use.

Comments on this entry are closed.