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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.


  1. What about apps that can be run using native client? Also, packaged apps? I think Google is heading towards a direction where more capable apps would be run outside the primary browser window. And all of them need not be web apps!

  2. Google are definitely looking towards a packaged apps future, i'm sure there long term goal is to include packaged apps in every version of Chrome including Android.

  3. I'm loving the future of chrome os and android, haven't had a chance to experience chrome os yet, but is there anything to be made from being a chrome app developer?

  4. Price this under £150 and I would pick one up.

  5. They should come up with a powerful Chromebook soon. Chrome OS is a great product. The performance is crappy. I would pay 45 a month instead of 25 now on a 3 year plan.

  6. Why not make the chromebook run android + chrome +playstore. That way it will have decent offline utility. .In the beginning google can ship its own apps optimized for desktop. Over time as more and more apps get optimized for desktop version , chromebook can be comparable or better than . Why introduce a handicap and then try to make cheap h/w. I would say google has its strategy wrong

  7. you guys could have avoided the wrong impression if had not called it Chromebook.

  8. Google will continue to innovate despite shares drop...


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