1. Chromebook critical requirements
A Chromebook has to stay connected online to work. If Chromebook is not connected online then most of the web apps do not work. It means, for anybody to use a Chromebook effectively there are 3 crucial factors
(A) Availability of a web app to do the required task
Chromebook runs on Chrome OS which is nothing but a chrome web browser.You do all your tasks through wep apps or web applications. That means there should be a suitable web app in Google store for any task that you want to do on Chromebook. It also essentially means that if you use X software from Y company then that Y company has to release a web app for software X to make it usable on Chromebook. For example, there is no web app currently for Skype so you can not use Skype on Chromebook.
(B) Availability of high speed internet or 3G
This requirement is the base of Chromebook working model. Chromebook is almost dead without a high speed internet connection or high speed 3G network. Internet availability and stability are key factors in this regard.This certainly makes Chromebook a less attractive option for people in major parts of the world where uninterrupted 24×7 internet is a far fetched dream. The situation is even worse for frequent travellers who will not be able to use their Chromebook whenever they are in an internet dead zone. Quality of 3G services also needs to improve a lot to make it a preferred alternative. Some web apps like ‘NewYork Times’ may work with offline data but the capability is really limited.
(C) Availability of Reliable Cloud Services
All your data is stored in the cloud. So, availability of your data anywhere and anytime simply depends on the quality of services provided by your cloud services provider. An ordinary windows Laptop can guarantee that “anywhere and anytime” availability but not a cloud service provider however tall their claims are. For example, Google cloud services are good but you must have heard of hours long blogger and gmail outages!! Point is – Can you really rely on cloud services to provide you data “whenever” you need it without fail?
I doubt that !!
2. Chromebook Updates are silent – Potentially dangerous
Silent updates are good as per Google as silent updates don’t ‘annoy’ the users and ‘protect’ her from worrying about updating her software etc. But say you like a particular web app and one fine day you find that your Chromebook has been updated and that web app does not work now. What then? This is a scenario which you can face when you don’t have a choice to postpone your Chromebook update until all your web apps are declared compatible with the updated version of your Chrome OS and nothing crashes. An example in the case is a facebook related bug that crashed facebook after a Chrome browser upgrade. If there is such a thing you will have to live with it untill all the bugs are fixed.
3. Chromebook – Can it really DO all your TASKS ??
Now lets take a look at what it can accomplish task wise and what not. Check the following table to know what a Chromebook can really do for you and you will find that it is marginally better than working on your iPhone or iPad or other smartphone.
Can you really live with such a limited feature set?
I can not for sure!!
4. Chromebook is an “Addon” not a “Replacement”
As said earlier all your data generated on Chromebook resides in cloud. It means you can access that data anywhere on your Chromebook or on any other device using chrome browser and connected to internet. But if you work on some other computers as well then data stored locally has to be uploaded to cloud to make it usable on Chromebook. Moreover, you may need to download data from cloud to work locally or in offline mode. This means you will have to keep shuttling between two altogether different work spaces which can become tiring over a period of time. Then you will really want to take sides with either your all-in-one do-all laptop or with Chromebook. Given the present limited capability of Chromebook it can hardly replace your desktop or laptop. So the choice is yours!!
5. Chromebook Security
Last but not the least, security of your data generated on Chromebook is highly dubious. Malware and phishing attacks are common place on the web where a Chromebook works. Also, Cloud is a service maintained by humans only, who are vulnerable and can compromise your data security. How many professionals will like to park their half finished unprotected intellectual property in the cloud. The security record of web based systems doesn’t help either. Recent Sony PSN hacking attack is an example. Chromebook is not the device of choice to do work where intellectual property theft is a concern. You will also not like your personal data like personal finance spreadsheet to reside in cloud. You may not like your personal photographs to live in cloud which can be compromised. A laptop is a better choice if you want to access your personal data anywhere offline.Now loosing your laptop has a great risk of loosing data but it is a known risk and can be avoided. If your data is hacked in cloud all your data will be stolen without you even knowing it and without having any means to avoid it. This ceratainly makes a Chromebook less desirable.
Having said all that, still Chromebook is a step in the new direction of computing and I welcome that. However, until all Chromebook dependencies are addressed properly and all questions regarding security and availability of data are answered, I will happily carry my windows laptop around.
What’s your take?