Google’s first attempt at a custom designed operating system and hardware to support it has caused a lot of chatter in the computer industry. Google Chrome was designed from the ground up as a mobile device OS with the plan to compete directly with Apple and Microsoft. For the last week we have had the opportunity to experience the Google Chromebook and our first impressions are that it lives up to much of the hype it has received in recent months. We have outlined the most interesting features and useful tips you will need to know if your next laptop purchase leads you in Google’s direction.

The Cloud:

This is the most unique aspect of Google’s Chromebook. The Chrome OS operates 100% on Google’s cloud network. This means that as soon as you power up the device, you will be prompted to log into your Gmail account. *It would be imperative to create one if you are not already a user*

Once signed in the desktop will open up to an interface window not unlike the Chrome internet browser. There is no traditional home screen, start menu, trash can, calculator or any of the other typical things users first see when they power up a laptop. Everything is on the cloud. Upon logging in you will be greeted to eight basic apps that come preinstalled and ready to use. They are; YouTube, Google docs, Calendar, Scratchpad, Gmail, Google talk (Google’s Skype equivalent), and the Web Store (to purchase more apps). The app store has an array of games, and task-related programs that allow you to do most of the things you are able to do on a traditional laptop. We were able to test out applications that let us type documents, use excel spreadsheets, do a PowerPoint, listen to music, and even edit photos. Many of these apps are free, however, some do require a purchase.

Security:

This is a major issue for consumers today. Different media sites have covered stories from several technology companies, including Google, about security breaches. The CR-48 Chromebook operates and stores all information on the cloud. The device hard drive is not accessible from a user standpoint and does not have the capacity for things like anti-virus or hard backups. In order to use the device you have to trust that Google will protect your data. Despite the very real threat of hackers early tests show that it would be extremely difficult to circumvent the Google Chrome OS. As we stated before, there is no hard drive, which means no backup and no data storage but also that it would not be possible to accidently download malware. To gain access a hacker would have to break into the cloud itself to retrieve your information. As of now, there is nothing like the Google Chromes OS, or even equivalent to it.

Wireless Linking, Costs, and Features:

Remember when we said the first thing you do when you power up the device is log into your Gmail account? Well, that is because all of your existing information will link with the Google Chrome browser’s applications. For instance, any documents you have in the Google Cloud will immediately transfer to your Google doc’s app that is already installed. Or if you write and save a document using Google docs, you will be able to access the same document on another computer, or vice versa. The same goes for the calendar and any of the other productivity applications contained on the device. The laptop does the work of data transfers for you and streamlines the experience.

The CR-48 Chromebook offers many of the features familiar to a laptop connoisseur as well as some new ones. The general look and feel as well as mouse input is very similar to the Mac book pro but the device has a custom keyboard layout. The caps lock button which is usually located under the tab key replaced by an hour glass. When you press this key, a new browser window will open up which takes time to get used to. The caps lock is instead restricted to the shift key, which is located below the hour glass key.

The cost of the Chromebook lineup is stellar, with the retail price of basic models as low as $350 and the high-end models top out around $500.00. What makes the price ever more of a bargain is it costs zero dollars to maintain. There are no software updates all thanks to the cloud, with all software upgrades handled by the Chrome OS. A hardware upgrade for any reason will just result in a brand new CR-48 shipped to you by Google.

Nice 🙂

Connectivity Requirements:

This was the only disappointment we found in the CR-48. Because the laptop is cloud based you will need an internet connection at all times to operate it. Without a connection, it wouldn’t make any sense to even power it on. All the features that you typically wouldn’t need a connection to utilize are nonexistent on the Chromebook. Even if you want to use Google docs to write and save your speech on the plane or while waiting in the airport, you simply can’t. That being said, it would be very handy to invest in a connect card through your cell phone or internet provider so you can stay connected at all times.

A few Extras:

There were a few features we tested that didn’t quite warrant their own section that we would like to share.

How do you upload pictures? Visit the app store and download a photo app like Aviary Image Editor. It will allow you first upload your pictures via a URL, or an external file, and then edit those photos. Sharing them is simple using the social networking apps that are available for Twitter, and Facebook. What about instant messaging? There is an app for that! Download the Chrome version of Trillian which allows you to log into all you existing instant messenger screen names using aim, yahoo, windows messenger, and even Facebook chat! All using one app.

Closing:

The CR-48 Chrome Notebook is an interesting product that shows a lot of promise. For us, the most compelling reasons are security, and costs. This laptop is an amazing value for its advanced operating system and capabilities. Furthermore, the Google Chrome operating system shows a glimpse of the future when all data is trusted to the cloud. We would recommend that you use caution if you have limited connectivity as it is vital in getting the most out of this device. The device is only as good as your connection.

As a mobile device the CR-48 Chromebook comes recommend as a supplement device for business professionals but this should not be looked at as a replacement for more reliable systems, yet. For all other consumers such as students, and techy’s this is a revolutionary and cost effective device to lead you into the future. Join the cloud!