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October 19, 2012

The Trouble With Chromebooks

Chromebooks are stripped-down Linux computers that only run Chrome, so people assume that they must be cheap. After all, you don't need a lot of resources for a single application, right?

It turns out that browsers actually use a lot of resources and include more and more features that used to require plugins, third-party apps or system APIs. Web apps become more advanced, it's easier to install extensions, browsers bundle Flash, file viewers and clever spell checkers, they sync your data and try to anticipate your actions.

Many people complained that the Atom Chromebooks were slow and couldn't display HD videos properly. Google switched to Intel Celeron CPUs, which are more powerful, but still low-end processors. Now Google experiments with premium ARM SoCs, which are cheaper, but still can't compete with Intel Core CPUs when it comes to performance.

The trouble with Chromebooks is that Google can't come up with a powerful ultrabook that costs $700 or $800 because people would think it's too expensive. Why not get an ultrabook that runs a full-fledged operating system and install Chrome?

To solve this issue, Google could try to change people's perception about Chrome OS and show that it's not just a browser. The latest Chrome OS releases made a lot of important changes: the browser can be minimized and resized, it's easier to open multiple windows, there's a desktop and a taskbar, you can change the wallpaper, there are cool applications like the media player, ScratchPad or Calculator that no longer open inside the browser. By including great applications that work offline (a dictionary, some games, a contact manager, a calendar app) and encouraging developers to build standalone apps that work outside the browser, Google could show that Chrome OS is more than just a browser and finally build a computer that can run the Chrome experiments, scroll long documents and still be able to load Google services like Gmail and Google Docs without stuttering.

This blog is not affiliated with Google.