This is one of those articles that almost hurts to write. There's a twinge, a bit of sadness, an almost-poignancy that reflects sudden attachment and then necessary abandonment.
This is a story of what might have been. In fact, I was planning on writing this story very differently.
Larry Seltzer, Ed Bott, James Kendrick, SJVN, Matt Baxter-Reynolds, and I have all written recently about the value and future of Chromebooks. At one end was Larry, who believes Chromebooks have no future. At the other end was my own opinion, having become rather enamored by the inexpensive, tiny, yet surprisingly useful devices.
I originally bought last year's model, the very nice Samsung Chromebook 11-inch. Shortly after I bought it, I took it on a weekend trip, and realized — like with most laptops and netbooks — the power brick was a large pain in the bag.
Right after I bought the Samsung Chromebook, HP came out with its Chromebook 11, and its really big claim to fame was the elimination of the power brick.
The HP Chromebook 11 could be charged using a typical micro USB smartphone charger. Even though the HP Chromebook was forty bucks more ($279 vs. $239), the extra cash was more than worth it if I never had to use a power brick with the device. The HP also had a much nicer screen, which added to my enjoyment of the device, even after spending an extra four Hamiltons. So I returned the more cumbersome Samsung (it was within the 14-day period) and bought the happy, little HP.
I was planning on writing an article to that effect. I even took a picture of the Samsung brick with the plan to mock how old school heavy bricks are:
I also took a picture of the micro USB slot on the HP to showcase the wonders of modern technology:
I never got a chance to run the article.
On Wednesday, ZDNet editors started buzzing about a mystery: HP Chromebook 11s were vanishing from shelves. It didn't take long to find out the whole story: the device had been pulled from the sales channel because of an overheating problem with the device's charger. Oops.
As it turns out, while HP and Google pulled the product form sale, they did NOT recall the device from consumers. The reasoning was that you could plug the device into someone else's UL-approved charging dongle and all would be just hunky-dory.
I deluded myself with that for a few days. I really liked this device, and I had a wide range of USB charging plugs.
Sitting on the couch the other night, I stared at my friendly little Chromebook.
I hadn't charged it since the news of the overload, and even though I had good UL-approved charging plugs, I just wasn't absolutely sure. Was that white one really from Apple, or was it one we ordered from Amazon through a third party a year or so ago? Was that black one really from one of my other devices, or was it just one of the many spares that have found their ways into my parts bin over the years?
Then I thought about my house and my family. I love my family and I really like my house. Was I really, really willing to take a chance that one night, after a long day, was there a chance, even the tiniest chance in the world, that I might plug in an unsafe charger?
Was I willing to risk my family and home on it? Was I willing to take a risk when staying in a hotel or lodge overnight?
Did I feel lucky? Well, did I?
The fact is, I do feel lucky most of the time, but I make my own luck. One of the ways I make my own luck is by not taking unnecessary risks. After thinking on it for a few days, I realized that hanging onto the HP Chromebook, no matter how much I liked it, would be an unnecessary risk.
I returned it. Best Buy was actually cool about the return. They understood the problem and credited my account.
So, while I still most definitely think there are uses for Chromebooks, right now, I don't have one. I'm really hung up on the charging feature, so I'm going to wait awhile and see what comes out. And, heck, if I'm in a real bind, a similarly svelte MacBook Air is only about seven or eight hundred bucks more. Of course, that would prove Larry's point and we can't let that happen, can we?
I already miss my little HP Chromebook 11. It was a friend. I hope when HP welcomes it home, they treat it with love and care. After all, just because it got a little hot under the charger, that wasn't really its fault.
It used to blink its lights at me when I opened its lid.