Looking at the Google Chromebook, coming up with more questions than answers

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Today Google announced their long awaited Chromebook. It's based on ChromeOS, an operating system where the only user interface is the Chrome web browser. That web browser is well regarded and FWIW is the one I'm using right now to write this post. The Chromebook appears to be targeted at the market space between the iPad and Netbooks, except there isn't exactly a space in the market between them. That is it's not a tablet computer so it doesn't directly compete with the iPad, and it's not a regular notebook because it doesn't run a desktop operating system. Still it's a pretty interesting gizmo and worth a few considerations.

Their website has a long list of videos (on youtube of course) that attempt to sell you on the gizmo.

This first one stresses how it has fast startup because it doesn't use a traditional operating system. Supposedly operating systems designed before the web don't do well with the web? Really? Also, I thought the gizmo had Linux as the base of its operating system?

Created for those who live on the web and are "always connected". Sounds great but .. for example "cross country flight" doesn't offer Internet connection. It offers 3G connectivity, but only with Verizon's network which means that taking the thing overseas means you'll be unable to use non-US wireless carriers because Verizon's CDMA network is incompatible with the rest of the world.

Other video's talk about Chrome features

Built-in App Store and downloadable applications that run inside the web browser: Sounds like an interesting idea. I've been using Chrome for a few months and have yet to actually use any of the applications. I've been using Chrome extensions, but the Applications are a different thing. In the Desktop Chrome it's not entirely intuitive to run any of the applications.

Another issue I have with Chrome is it very easily gets into a nonresponsive state where it's popping up windows saying this or that window has become unresponsive and offering to kill the window. An especially egregious bit of behavior happens upon visiting twitter.com where there are several long pauses while bits of the page is loading, and the browser is completely unresponsive during those long pauses. Because the Chromebook uses Chrome I'd be worried the Chromebook will have similar inexplicable slowdowns and unresponsiveness.

Another feature is you log in using a "Google Account" and there's a gizmo for letting "friends" to "log in" and use the device. Everything you do with the device is automatically stored on the "Cloud" where it's held "safely" for you. Hurm, that may be. But I wonder what kind of "Google Account" can be used, and will the Google Accounts I have due to Google Apps for Domains will count as an account which can use the Chromebook? Or will the only Google Accounts be ones tied to a gmail.com account?

In any case it does sound cool that the device can be easily used by "anybody" for some definition of "anybody".

Cloud storage won't come without problems, no matter what the spin job Google puts on it.

Forever fresh: Rather than get notified about software updates the Chromebook automatically refreshes itself. This is a feature of Chrome that's rather interesting. It automatically downloads and installs most updates without any user interaction, without notifying the user, without the user being aware their software version has been updated, etc. I just checked though and currently there is an update (to Chrome version 11) which will require me to reboot the browser. It raises a question - why do I need to know the system is automatically updating itself. On the other hand, isn't it kind of big brotherish? I dunno. It is convenient.

There are two models available .. Google, not being a hardware manufacturer, has arranged with two manufacturers to provide Chromebooks.

Acer Specifications
11.6" HD Widescreen CineCrystalTM LED-backlit LCD
2.95 lbs. | 1.34 kg.
6 hours of continuous usage 1
Intel® AtomTM Dual-Core Processor
Built in dual-band Wi-Fi and World-mode 3G (optional)
HD Webcam with noise cancelling microphone
High-Definition Audio Support
2 USB 2.0 ports
4-in-1 memory card slot
HDMI port
Fullsize Chrome keyboard
Oversize fully-clickable trackpad

Samsung Specifications
12.1" (1280x800) 300 nit Display
3.26 lbs / 1.48 kg
8.5 hours of continuous usage 1
Intel® AtomTM Dual-Core Processor
Built in dual-band Wi-Fi and World-mode 3G (optional)
HD Webcam with noise cancelling microphone
2 USB 2.0 ports
4-in-1 memory card slot
Mini-VGA port
Fullsize Chrome keyboard
Oversize fully-clickable trackpad