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ChromeOS and the Cr-48

I was lucky enough to be included in the Cr-48 Pilot program.  I really dig beta testing and seeing where the future of technology may be going.  I’m a little late in the game writing up a review of the Cr-48, as any Google search will show, but I seem to feel a bit differently than the majority of other reviewers out there.  I’m not going to say some of their claims about the flaky trackpad, horrible flash performance, and mediocre processing power aren’t true; I just going to tell you why what they say doesn’t matter in the long run…

1.  It’s beta.

2. It’s beta.

3.  Ok, really, it’s beta!  Then entire purpose of this machine is to find out what sucks, report it to Google, get updates, report more bugs, ad infinitum.

For those of you that haven’t read another review and want the specs on this machine, go here (them come back!).  To me they don’t matter much and this is why…

This computer is about the OS, not the damn hardware. Branded hardware will be better.  It just will, I promise.

I opened the case and I was greeted with a Chrome logo before I could get the screen fully opened.  As instructed, I “gently” pressed the power button, went through 4 quick steps (including a self-portrait) and was logged in using my Gmail credentials.   Without any annoying prompts or fuss all of my Chrome options automatically synced with the computer.  I was at an immediate advantage since I use Chrome as my primary browser — all of my plugins, bookmarks, options and history were included.  No annyoing login prompts for Gmail, Google Docs or any other Google services.  One of the coolest features of this is that I could go login to any other computer running ChromeOS with my Gmail credentials and it would do the same thing.  ANY ChromeOS is YOUR OS.  Some people may be put off by this ubiqutious mesh of all your data from any location but what you should keep in mind is that (best estimate) 95% of the data you access is “in the cloud” and not stored on the actual laptop anyway.  This thing only has a 16GB SSD inside.  Sure, lots of room for plenty of personal information, but from everything I’ve seen, it’s purpose is simply to keep only what is needed to run the OS on the laptop.  Your security really goes as far as how secure your password is and how much you trust Google with your data.

ChromeOS is a different experience.  You’ll actually feel right at home if you have already used the Chrome browser, but if not, you might be in for a rude awakening.  There is no Start button akin to Windows nor a comforting Apple logo in the top left corner.  The browser is the OS and the OS is the browser.  Everything is accessed from a single interface – no desktop, no icons, no wallpaper.    You start with one tab open.  With the unibar you can type in a web address, search term or you can use it to access a myriad of other features using special keywords that let to get into guts of the OS and tweak features.  So far, the available apps are lackluster but if Android Market has been any mark of  future success these will improve  in quality and in number quickly as well.  Do I have to remind you this is all still in beta?!

So far, I’ve had a lot of fun using the unit.  My son spent a large amount of time watching episodes of the Simpsons in Flash and he found it perfectly acceptable.  I can keep the unit on the coffe table as a general purpose machine.  It awakes from sleep faster than you can get the screen open so anytime you feel like reading a book or checking the weather, it’s right there.  The battery lasts around 10 hours and I have found I can use it for almost any task.  I can even get an ssh connection on a different screen and use a predefined key on the keyboard to switch between the shell and the OS.  Outside of video/picture editing and gaming — the latter I don’t do on a computer anyway — I really can see a slighly more powerful version of this computer with a release version OS as something I would use as a primary computer.  Becuase of my job, I’ll likely need a full desktop OS for some time but when I’m not working  I can chat, surf, word process, do spreadsheets, listen to music, watch streaming movies/tv/videos and 99% of the other tasks I do on a computer these days, all on a laptop expected to cost under $400.  Hardware is overrated and specs mean shit for almost all computer users.  My grandma doesn’t care how fast her CPU is or if her video card drivers are up-to-date, she just wants to look at pictures of her grandkids or videos on YouTube with as little hassle as possible.  Most people do I think.

I see a bright future for this new type of ubiquitous computing.  Imagine it: one login, any computer, anywhere and you have instant access to all of your everything.  That last sentence screams SECURITY ISSUES but I also have (a probably misguded) trust in the security systems that will be in place by the time this type of scenario actually is a reality.  Whatever the real future, from my perspective, it’s off to an exciting start.

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