The Pros and Cons of Me on a Chromebook

Chromebook.

No, it’s not some sort of crazy laptop computer that is made by a disinterested Williamsburg hipster out of spare rims from retro bicycles.

A Chromebook is Google’s answer to … well, to just about everything that is wrong with personal and consumer computing nowadays. It’s a “3/4-fledged” computer that “just works”. You know – like a Mac. 😉 (Not that a Mac is not “full-fledged”, but from what I hear it is typical for a Mac to “just work”.)

Specifically, it’s a laptop, fairly trimmed down spec-wise and optimized for its primary purpose (which is to run Google’s Chrome browser software). Reportedly, it updates itself automatically and starts-up pretty much instantly. And it is completely disposable: If it breaks or dies, you just buy a new one, login, and keep working where you left off. Kind of like how Google’s Android phones work. The idea is that you don’t really store anything important locally (i.e., on the hard drive), and you assume you have easy access to a high-speed network wherever you go.

Easy access to a high-speed network is quite a bold assumption, and that’s the main reason that my list below has both pros and cons.

My Pros of Me on a Chromebook

  • According to the ads, it should start-up as quickly as, say, I hear a Mac laptop does, which to me means “as quick as my phone”.
  • It’s a cool gadget, and I like to have the latest stuff, if it is cool enough.
  • If I have a good high-speed network available most of the time, things could work pretty well.

My Cons of Me on a Chromebook

  • It won’t run Quicken. And no, Mint.com is not a good enough alternative.
  • It costs $500, and my guess is that it will be dramatically cheaper in a year or two. I have a habit of buying first-gen devices (e.g., the Kindle and the Google phone – T-Mobile’s G1), and then seeing a much improved second-generation device released at a significantly lower price.
  • It won’t run Evernote. One of the most important features of the Evernote service is that the company provides a full-fledged and optimized client for whatever hardware you are using. So, you can use their web app, but you can get a better experience with their Windows app. But a Chromebook can’t run a Windows app…
  • It also won’t run some of my other daily-use apps: the New York Times Reader, Dropbox, Quicken. I understand these are compromises that some people may be willing to accept, but I’m not sure if I want to.
  • I would really want full-fledged offline versions of the following web apps: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Docs, WordPress. Please note: I’m not just being picky. My Google Android phone has all these apps available to run offline, so I’m really just looking for the Chromebook to do at least as much as my phone already does, but on a larger screen. Apple folks get that with the move from iPhone to iPad, and I think it’s fair to ask for Google folks to get that if they move some of their computing environment from Android phone to Chromebook.

The Verdict?

It’s probably too early for me to make the switch. But I’m definitely chomping at the bit. I’ll probably buy one as soon as I get up the courage to set fire to my current netbook, which I have never really liked, right from the start, because it never really starts up when I need it. But as you can see from the list above, there are still a lot of cons, for me.

Ack!