Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

Summary: A couple days ago, I explained why I was passing my Google Chrome Notebook on to my wife. It was a grand experiment and also a way to make sure that when I used my computer I wasn't still logged in to her Facebook account.

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A couple days ago, I explained why I was passing my Google Chrome Notebook on to my wife. It was a grand experiment and also a way to make sure that when I used my computer I wasn't still logged in to her Facebook account. It's been less than a week, but my technophobic wife completely surprised me when, from day one, she genuinely liked her new computer.

"It's easy," she explained. "It does exactly what I need it to and it takes me exactly where I need to go. I like how you set up a little button for my email."

I can't take credit for the Gmail icon that appears in the default browser window. It's just a link to your default account with which most Chrome users will be familiar. However, for a person whose only reasons to get online are email, Facebook, and the occasional bit of research, shopping, or homework help for the kids, it's a nice approach.

For her, it was always a struggle just to find the browser. "What do I use again? Foxfire? Chrome?" It wasn't as if she was looking Adobe InDesign. She just wanted to get online. With Chrome OS, of course, you are online. That's the whole point. Open the notebook, enter your password if necessary, and you're there.

Although Chrome OS allows you to open multiple windows and Alt-Tab between them, it's far more subtle than in other full-featured operating systems. Never again will I hear my wife asking what happened to the Internet when she accidentally minimizes a browser window. There is no "minimize" in Chrome OS. Why would there be? It's not as if you need to close a few windows to get to your desktop and find the shortcut to Word.

My wife isn't stupid. She can organize a week's schedule for a family of 7 in 10 minutes, with every bill, appointment, and school assignment due date committed to memory. All of that utterly practical stuff upon which the kids and I completely rely to make sure we leave the house when we're supposed to and to keep anyone from turning off our electricity leaves little room for (as far as she is concerned) silly little things like what browser she should use or what the difference is between an operating system, an application, and the Internet.

She just needs to get online to check our banking, email the piano teacher, or email me a reminder that I have a haircut at 2:30. For her, the Chrome notebook is precisely the sort of appliance she needs. An actual operating system just gets in the way.

I have to say I was surprised. It's the rare bit of technology to which my wife adapts well. In fact, the only other device we have that she finds indispensable is our Roomba vacuuming robot. Like the Chrome Notebook, though, it does one thing and it does it remarkably well. Push a button on the robot and it vacuums your house. Simple as that (seriously, the little robots really do work - ours is finally dying after 2 years of hard, daily use and she's horrified).

She wasn't horrified, but she was at least distressed when I needed to use the Chromebook the other day. It's easy and intuitive enough that she not only likes it, but now wants nothing to do with the 10 other computers that float around our house.

I have to hand it to Google. The Chromebook is great for those of us who spend most of our time in the cloud. It's even better suited to people who spend most of their time in the cloud but have no idea what that means. Will it take off? I hope so, but most of the folks like my wife aren't married to tech bloggers who get early reference designs of Google hardware. Google will need to learn to reach them directly.

It can take some cues from the success of Android, but a computer is a different beast from a phone. Consumers don't associate phones with operating systems like they do with computers. There's a reason that your average Joe doesn't run to Best Buy and head for the Linux aisle. We'll see if Google can overcome that barrier to entry so that all those people like my wife can experience Chrome OS joy too.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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40 comments
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  • Would an iPad work as well for her use case?

    And thanks for making the point that technophobes arent stupid. We techies like to fiddle and dont mind complexity, but for the technophobes, they want it as simple as possible.
    otaddy
    • I think iPad is great for news, reading books, checking email, facebook,

      but, ONLY for times when you do not have to type very much, and the little screen is OK. Thin and light notebooks with a larger screen and keyboard will be needed if the computer is for all your uses, and especially if you write a lot. Of course a larger tablet with option folding keyboard might also fit the bill.
      DonnieBoy
  • i was looking for the same

    yep - i was looking for the same device which do all internet related work without OS complexity. once release i need to buy same for my Dad Mom. they know how to use internet but if something happen to browser windows- its disaster for them :) .
    i heard they going to cost less $100 bucks .
    i cant give them ipad -- its costly and useless.
    saagar9
    • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

      @saagar9 <br><br>iPads do everything described in this article, therefore they are not "useless".<br><br>Apple identified this market and delivered a product that meets these needs, hence it's success.
      alsobannedfromzdnet
      • iPads have a smaller screen, and no keyboard. True, you can put it on a

        stand, and use an external keyboard, and maybe many will go that way, especially when we can get larger, but still very thin and light tablets. I see a market for both types of devices.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

        The other factor is weight. The iPad is too heavy to use as a serious device. It does what's stated above, but Chrome OS is considerably more intuitive.

        I don't know if it will be a killer product. But give it a nice metal durable look and many non-tech savvy people will LOVE this product. At sub 100 or sub 150 price it will sell like hotcakes. Basically any kid under 12 would love it. and Many people who hate technology would see it as indispensable.
        Uralbas
      • Uralbas: I think that under $150 would be hard to hit. But, $250 for a

        slick, notebook sized device (> 11.5 inch screen), dual core Arm, 16 hours battery, would be a big seller.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

        @alsobannedfromzdnet
        have u heard something called FLASH ?
        also have u heard of webpages that need high speed javascript prossing ?

        if u are not tech savvy --> have u heard of dollar bills ?
        ipad -- need more of them.
        have u heard of business term called --> value for money ?
        ipad --> dont give V4$
        saagar9
  • I think that ChromeOS has the chance to be very popular with a broad swath

    of people. There are so many that ONLY do email, youtube, facebook, general surfing. The native client technology will catch everybody by surprise, as there will be a lot of little C/C++ programs that can be recompiled to run in a tab.
    DonnieBoy
  • Who wrote this, Henny Youngman?

    Um... "For her, it was always a struggle just to find the browser. 'What do I use again? Foxfire? Chrome?'" ... "Never again will I hear my wife asking what happened to the Internet when she accidentally minimizes a browser window." ... "I have to say I was surprised. It?s the rare bit of technology to which my wife adapts well. In fact, the only other device we have that she finds indispensable is our Roomba vacuuming robot."

    Do you really expect to be taken seriously with writing like that? Unless your wife is mentally handicapped or was just unfrozen from a block of ice after bobbing around the arctic circle since 1854, there is no possible way she's actually this clueless. It's obviously a lame attempt at humor, but this isn't the '80s any more and the old "hurr even my wife could use this" schtick is played out.
    InAComaDial999
    • There are a lot of very intelligent people that do NOT care to learn the

      esoteric details of an operating system. Sure, for a lot of you that use Windows all of the time, it is second nature and you take it for granted. But, there ARE many esoteric complicated things that can happen with Windows, and then you are left trying to figure out "what happened". If you do not run Win32 programs, and you can eliminate most of the complexity, why not???

      If you do not run legacy Win32 applications, Windows is pointless anyway.
      DonnieBoy
    • Another point, if we can have a very light weight, simple OS that does

      everything you need, you can get cheaper, lighter weight hardware, and longer battery life. Why not???
      DonnieBoy
    • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

      @InAComaDial999 Just another example of a person who has spent more than 10 years with computers and clearly doesn't understand how different generations and different people understand computers.
      BIGELLOW
    • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

      @InAComaDial999
      I think you're wrong, there a lot of people who are exactly like his wife. Mine is exactly the same as his, she's quite smart, but when it comes to technology she doesn't care for it much. I have the same problem with my wife using a PC or even a Mac (we have both). Once she minimizes the browser she can't figure out where it's gone. She also got an iPad as a gift, but finds it hard to use as well. She can't figure out the touch screen keyboard. I can't wait to get her this ChromeOS, I think she can finally really get some actual use out of it.
      fabioq@...
    • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

      @InAComaDial999

      Remember his wife has to deal with whatever piece of trailing edge junk Chris uses this week and probably believes all his patter about browsers.

      Next time try a Windows 7 notebook and show her where the big blue IE button is. I think any confusion was started by you Chris. Rescue your wife with Windows 7 and stop limiting her to a toy developed by an advertising company.
      tonymcs@...
      • tonymcs: If you do not use Win32 applications, Windows is pointless. It is

        more than "Knowing where the big blue IE button is". Windows is very complicated and things happen. Yes, people that have been using Windows for a long time can usually figure out "where the internet went", but do not insult the very intelligent people that do not spend all of their waking hours on comptuters. ChromeOS will be a big hit with some categories of people.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

        @tonymcs@...
        i think windows . ipad and even android prone to virus and mal wares

        with running in cloud chrome OS give most security
        it takes of pain of installing updating security software from ur parents PC
        saagar9
      • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

        First of all there are way too many intelligent people out there, who dont really care or know about technology. Like my boss, he is really smart and is good at his job but I'm sure he doesn't even know that there is a Chrome laptop or that there are actually different Linux builds and no OS actually called "linux"<br><br>@InAComaDial999 Also, why do people think Google is just an advertising company? Are the search and web technologies Google creates and maintains any different the way software companies like Oracle or MS create and maintain software? Are you fooled by the simple interface of google's homepage into thinking that producing search results is a simple affair?<br>Since CNN and Fox also make 99% of their revenue through advertising, does that make them advertising companies too and not news organizations? Google is way to diversified as of today and even if all it did was search, it would be wrong to call it a advertising company. <br><br>Maybe if Google sold you a 99$ piece of software which had a half gig 2 hour install which would allow you to search the web, you'd feel different.
        rgz175
    • RE: Go figure...My wife loves the Chrome Notebook!

      @InAComaDial999
      well u believe me or not
      lot of people i know who works on good places dont know much about computers.
      saagar9
    • Re: Who wrote this, Henny Youngman?

      @InAComaDial999

      What! you are kidding me right? lol ok - I work in the technology field and I am surrounded by all types of tech savy personalities. But I have to say I know pleanty of people who are not dependant on this stuff and have waaaaaay better things to do with their time then 'waste' it learning to do things not necessary. That is the beauty of technology, we don't have to conform to it's artificial life. It can easily be designed to suit us and our needs.
      MLR2010