Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

Summary: It may have an Atom processor, it may be light, and Google says it will be cheap. But it's not a netbook.


I was struck by a headline earlier today that read "Google Chrome OS hopes to bring netbook sexy back." After a couple of days with my own Cr-48 notebook, I can absolutely say that this device is so not a netbook.

I don't actually have anything against netbooks. I have a couple review units from System76 on the way and I'm excited to give them a whirl. They definitely have their place, whether as student machines, travel machines, kid machines, disposable computers, or inexpensive devices that can bridge the digital divide. However, Microsoft certainly wouldn't consider the Chrome Notebook a netbook. It's 12" screen rules it out and, although no one is sure which Atom processor it's running, the likelihood of dual cores would ensure that Windows 7 Starter wouldn't be going on the machine (not that I could imagine an alternate reality in which I'd want Windows 7 Starter on my Cr-48.

To be honest, the only thing the Cr-48 shares with notebooks is it's form factor and some basic hardware. There's no BIOS screen when the computer fires up; it's just a browser. Quickly. So the details of this "basic hardware" are neither published nor accessible, either at startup, from OS utilities, or from Google's hardware documentation, which doesn't exist.

I would argue, in fact, that the Notebook is less a notebook or netbook, and more a Mobile Internet Device. Although MIDs, as originally envisioned by Intel, were more tablet-like in nature, the Chrome Notebook is unlike anything we've experienced before. Except, perhaps, mobile phones, which are similarly useless without a network connection. (I know, you can be in an utter dead zone and still play Angry Birds, but you know what I mean.)

Whether through its Verizon 3G connection or WiFi, the Chrome Notebook is made to be online. There are some offline tools like Diigo's Read Later Fast, but essentially, you're either online and working or you're not. This isn't a bad thing, but it isn't how most of us are used to working.

No, the Chrome notebook isn't a netbook. It's barely even a notebook. It's something that just might be better than either and it's certainly a new way of looking at the Web. It's far from perfect, but this little device is going to have me leaving my beloved MacBook Pro on my desk a lot more often.

Topics: Browser, Google, Hardware, Laptops, 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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  • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

    I really wonder what Google thought when they launched this. There is no valid usage scenario for Chrome Notebooks. If you only want to browse the web, you will be better with existing netbooks (or an iPad), because they do more. Saying that you can be productive with something that needs to be connected all the time, and working only in the browser, is an illusion. AppStore, or Android market, are there for a reason (and not only for games).

    Believing that the browser is the alpha and omega of all what you can do on a computer is an illusion, fueled by Google which makes its core money on that.<br><br>And about corporate usage, I really can't see companies happy to handle their internal datas like that. That would mean leaving all their control to google. Whatever you can think, creating datas on the web is not secure.
    • &quot;There is no valid usage scenario for Chrome Notebooks&quot;

      @atari_z <br><br>That is when I stopped reading. Who the hell are you to say what other people's usage scenarios may be.<br><br>Your smart phone does not work too well while not connected either. I guess you cannot see a valid usage scenario for cell phones either.
      • His smartphone works great when not connected

        because its not designed to be an online only device. your email connects for a few moments and its downloaded to your phone spreedsheets and all. With this if you don't have a connection its a paperweight.
        Ron Bergundy
      • ChromeOS.....

        @cyberspammer2 <br><br>will also have an off-line mode. Besides, many people use their notebooks at home only. My internet is available >99.99% of the time. For a LARGE number of users, it is simply a non-issue. I have absolutely no problem seeing "valid" usage scenarios, even though it may not be for everyone. <br><br>And what the heck does "valid" mean anyway. Approved by the writer?<br><br>Ridiculous
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

        @Economister Exactly. And how in the world can you do more with an iPad. A lot of the ipad apps have turned out to be HTML 5 apps anyway.
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

        @Economister [b]Besides, many people use their notebooks at home only. [/b] Do you have anything to back this up? I ask because I work for a large banking company at one of their regional headquarters buildings (and we also lease several areas to other tenants) and I see a very large number of people bringing in and taking out notebook computers on a daily basis...

        For me personally "valid" use means being able to access my data from anywhere at anytime and not being dependent on an internet connection to do so - there have been several times I've had to work on something where I have limited to no connectivity. This may or may not be the case for everyone else.
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

        How come you keep talking about Chrome's offline mode? There is no offline mode, all information is stored "in the cloud". You know this is true, so why do you keep spouting these lies? The only thing stored offline is the cache, and there's nothing that can be done with the cache when you're not connected.
    • But you forget about offline mode, and you forget that it comes with 3G!!

      You also conveniently forgot about built in utility applications and native client. Actually, this could just fulfil the use cases for about 90% of the people when they are on the run. Couple this with the ability to run legacy Win32/64 apps in a terminal during the transition, and you have a real winner.
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

        @DonnieBoy Where does it run win32 apps?
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook


        If what I've been reading is correct, it will be bundled with Citrix Receiver, so while not technically running Win32/64 apps natively, it will run them remotely. That's what I've been hearing, anyway, but then again I hear a lot of $h*t... ;-)
      • It doesn't...

        What it DOES require is a rather expensive Citrix server software package be hosted on top of a regular Windows Server box so you can run apps remotely.
    • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

      @atari_z OK, but what about if it IS always connected? Isn't it useful then? A desktop is useless without power, but as power is pretty much always available where there's a desk it's not really a problem.

      Isn't this the same? It has WiFi and 3G - where are you going to want to use it where it won't have Internet access?
      • Well, I think that offline mode is also important, and will also reduce the

        problems of slow and flaky Internet connections. Many remote vacation spots still do not have Internet. All flights will sooner or later have Internet, but, not for another 5 years.
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

        @DonnieBoy OK, perhaps it isn't the machine you'd want to take on holiday. But what about at work, where you have WiFi everywhere? I agree this system doesn't sound like much "fun" but I can see a place for it.

        Of course, you probably have to be committed to Google Apps...
      • jeremychappell: Yes, even right here, right now, without offline capable

        applications, there are many use cases. I just think to get mass adoption, we need local storage for web applications. That will enable applications to work offline, and smooth out flaky and slow internet connections.
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

        How about most of NH or Vermont, no 3G there except around the major cities of which there are approximately 6 of them in total in both states. WiFi is usually available if you're at work or at home, and the occasional hot spot but not very likely elsewhere.

        I can use a laptop/notebook anywhere as long as my battery lasts, and I can do pretty much anything necessary for work if I don't need network access. You can't say the same for the Chrome "OS", if you're offline, your data is inaccessible.
      • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

        @jeremychappell 3G is slow. You can't do any real work with it for the most part. And having no offline anything makes it a real POS.
    • RE: Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook


      <i>"Believing that the browser is the alpha and omega of all what you can do on a computer is an illusion, fueled by Google which makes its core money on that."</i>

      Exactly. This is just a product of Google's core business model of web search and advertising. Search advertising accounts for more than 90 percent of Google's revenue so not really surprised they're pushing on with this Chrome OS (Despite Android's rise). The web is the center of Google's world and they will do everything possible to keep us reliant in their world (web ads, web search, web app store, future web/cloud based music service...). Take a look at Google TV, the web is front and center. You search the web for content to watch with keyboard and a big mouse pointer, forget how clunky it may be for the average.

      I just don't see the need for Chrome OS and I just don't see it catching on. Users are loving their smart phones, their iPads and other tablets, and their apps today. Where does this alternative web OS with alternative app store fit in?
      • Agreed.


        Hell, look at YouTube, it's unusable without an adblocker.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • There is a huge swath of users that really only live in the browser when on

        the run, and want a cheaper and simpler device, but, want a bigger screen, and want a keyboard. This one has an Atom inside, but, in the future, we will see ChromeOS devices with dual core Arm chips that will reduce costs and increase battery life.

        So, think cheaper, simpler, better, replacement for Windows 7 when you do not need Win32/64. Also much longer battery life.