Google Chrome OS is a new played on the field, and the first mobile computing devices running it, known as Chromebooks, have been produced by Acer and Samsung and are on the market now. But with limited capabilities when not connected to the Cloud, will these hybrids between cloud client and laptop be able to fill your needs as a user?
Google Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel, and the idea is perhaps more reminiscent of the iPhone than of a conventional computer. Apps can be downloaded and installed from an app store, and the interface takes a form that’s closely akin to the Chrome web browser’s now-familiar one. The kicker lies in the fact that the entire device contains a single true application: a web browser which contains a media player as well as a file browser, allowing you to do everything you supposedly need within the context of a browser window.
The worry is that the Chromebook will remain a clumsy Halfling, offering insufficient versatility for the average user to truly enjoy it. At the same time, more hardcore users will be irritated by the fact that they can’t access full shell capabilities unless they’re in developer mode; the Chrome shell or crosh allows the most common and inert commands such as ping and ssh, but won’t go much further.
As Chrome OS is dependent on the Cloud for the majority of its capabilities, it won’t be a great deal of good to you without internet access, which is a distinct concern as plenty of us remain bound to places where the Cloud simply can’t be reached. This makes it difficult to use on the go as you can’t always be sure you’ll be able to guarantee reception throughout your travels. I for one enjoy working on the train, but it’s never a surprise when the signal drops for extended stretches along the Pennines.
All in all, I’m quite intrigued by this device. I may even look at getting one. But personally, I’m going to be waiting a couple of years before I get my own. Let more intrepid spenders iron out all the difficulties that will undoubtedly come up, and when the end product is more polished and, perhaps, the Cloud more pervasive, I’ll see about giving it a go. Definitely one to keep an eye on, though!