Milestone: I'm recommending Chromebooks instead of Windows laptops for civilians

Summary:A process, that for Windows would have been fraught with all sorts of issues and fuss, was an instant no-brainer with the Chromebook.

Our second Chromebook

Last month, my wife needed to go out of town to tend to a 80-year-old sick relative who was starting to have difficulty managing her affairs. Part of the work Denise was going to do was help the relative catch up on financial affairs and make sure bills were being paid while in the hospital.

My wife didn't want to bring her favorite Ultrabook because she didn't want to expose it to the relatively rough-and-tumble environment of a hospital and care facility. She'd seen me with my Chromebook and wanted one for herself.

It was cheap enough, so we ordered one. When it came, my wife easily set it up. After all, it's just a matter of booting up, connecting to the network, and logging in.

Denise found the Chromebook very convenient to use, it connected to all the financial services she needed to work with, and Chrome was the Chrome she was familiar with at home.

Once again, it just worked.

Our third Chromebook

Last week, Denise took another trip to visit our relative. This time, the elderly woman was home from the hospital, which made everyone very happy. Unfortunately, something had happened to her Windows laptop and it wouldn't boot up.

While our relative wasn't up to managing financial affairs, she still wanted to keep in touch with family and friends, write, use her Gmail account, keep her calendar, and more.

Denise is a pretty sophisticated PC user, but she's not a technician. Although she's installed RAM and drives into machines, she doesn't really have the technical chops to field strip a broken laptop in the field and set it back to rights.

She thought about going out and buying our relative a new Windows laptop. Our relative was familiar with XP and Windows 7, but had never seen Windows 8. Denise didn't have the time to go through the Windows setup and update dance I described above, train our relative on Windows 8, buy and install Start8, and all the rest. It just wasn't practical.

On the other hand, Denise had her Chromebook. There was an easy answer. It took five minutes to power wash the thing, another five minutes to log our relative into her Google accounts, and they were up and running.

Denise left that Chromebook with our relative, and her replacement machine arrived on Monday. That's the third Chromebook I mentioned above. All told, transferring the machine to a new owner, configuring it to that owner, and setting up a replacement machine for Denise took 15 minutes. Total.

Chromebooks are for civilians

Now look, there's no way I'm going to stop using Windows machines. I'm writing this on one now. Tablets are also here to stay, but they're not laptops. Sure, you can add a keyboard and simulate a laptop, but that starts to both get pricey and fiddly.

By contrast, the Chromebook is drop-dead-simple. Five minutes and it's up and running. It's inexpensive. It's small, light, and easy to carry. It's the tried-and-true laptop form-factor with a keyboard and good-size display.

For people who don't need all that Windows has to offer, for those who live in their browsers, Gmail, Facebook, and such, for those who write simple documents and need simple spreadsheets or presentations, for those who just need to get something done quickly and easily, the Chromebook is an ideal choice.

But it wasn't until I realized how viable the suggestion of "just give her your Chromebook" was that it became clear. It was far more practical to recommend the Chromebook. A process, that for Windows, would have been fraught with all sorts of issues and fuss was an instant no-brainer with the Chromebook.

That brings us to this milestone. I am now recommending Chromebooks instead of Windows laptops for civilians. That's got to be a worry for Microsoft.

Topics: Windows, Google

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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