Chromebooks: Sneaking into a home near you

Chromebooks: Sneaking into a home near you

Summary: Google's Chromebook is not a household term yet, but they are appearing in households for a simple reason and finding a receptive audience.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Google, Laptops
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Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Chromebooks: you either love them or hate them based on the constant flood of correspondence I get almost daily. They are either an expensive web browser, even at $200, or they are good hardware done cheaply with lots of utility.

My thoughts of the utility of Chromebooks are all over ZDNet, but it's the regular folks' take on the laptops running Google's OS that I find interesting.

I hear over and over again something along the lines of this (aggregated from many folks' comments):

We use Macs and Windows PCs in our household, but my kids were always fighting for time on them. I saw your review of the [insert Chromebook model here] so I picked one up for the kids since it was only ~$200.

What a great purchase! Now the kids are fighting over the Chromebook as they love the laptop and how it does everything they need. It's fast and since it's designed for the web, which is what the kids do with laptops, they love it!

I have to admit that I started picking it up when the kids aren't here, the only time I get to use it, and have been surprised to find that I can use it for lots of stuff. I couldn't use this for work since I need to run some Windows/Mac apps, but it handles everything else with ease.

This scenario is described to me in correspondence almost daily. People are buying a Chromebook for the household to use since it's so cheap, and then everyone who uses it really likes it. It often becomes the laptop/computer they grab first, even fight over.

The more they use it, even the adults, the more they realize they can do virtually everything they do on a regular basis using the Chromebook. They discover Chrome OS is far more than just a web browser due to the Chrome ecosystem, which includes a lot of web apps and extensions to the browser. It's a full system, which they didn't know until they started using one.

Chromebooks are indeed cheap, but the hardware is surprisingly good. Most of the models I've tried are very durable and well-suited for family systems. They offer good value, which is leading people to pick them up as extra computers, only to discover they do most everything the family needs.

I hear from so many folks that it's apparent to me that Chromebooks are sneaking into households, and quickly assuming a valuable role in the family's needs. They don't miss other alternatives, and they appreciate how fast and easy the Chromebook handles their tasks. Google's plan for household domination is well under way.

Chromebook coverage:

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops

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36 comments
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  • Google fanboy hype

    The headline is a falsehood. Google and its fanboys desperately want it to be true, but even they know it's not.

    This is remeniscent of the annual proclamations by Ubuntu fanboys every year for the past decade that "this will be the year of Ubuntu" -- perhaps because they're generally the same people as Chromebook fanboys.

    It's insightful that there are no other comments on this article yet. People don't care about "Chromebook". Most people haven't heard of it and don't need one.

    Chromebook is a flop. Google and vocal fanboys like Kendrick are flogging a dead horse. The corporation, which has barely innovated anything for the real world since search, needs to focus on the real work at hand.
    Tim Acheson
    • You MS/windows fanboys

      are the ones getting desparate, as indicated by the tone of your post. James is presenting facts and honest opinion as always. Google is doing fabulous. Windows RT is yet another clear flop like the Kin. James doesn't even bother to flog that its so dead. I never see google fans with such over the top troll nonsense as the windows fans. Look at loverock, owllllllllnet and others.
      deathjazz
      • Google apologist

        Nothing you wrote in your reply alters anything I wrote in my original comment. So what's your point?
        Tim Acheson
    • Tim you're funny

      you almost sound convincing. True is, CB's are selling everywhere, from Thailand to American households. Please, don't come here with a straight face trying to convince us that at Redmond's headquarters they haven't heard about Chromebooks!

      I predict Chromebooks will get a bigger market share than Microsoft Surfaces (all categories) by the end of the year.
      theo_durcan
      • Google fanboy

        "CB's are selling everywhere, from Thailand to American households"

        Chromebook's market share is approximately zero. Talk about sales as much as you like, if it helps to sustain the flawed paradigm to which you are clinging.

        "I predict Chromebooks will get a bigger market share than Microsoft Surfaces" [sic]

        Unlikely, but even if true Surface's market share is not something to aspire to, so what's your point?
        Tim Acheson
    • Don't get me wrong

      This is very much a different tools for different people sort of thing.
      Michael Alan Goff
    • Oh Tim

      Oh Tim, why are you so mad bro? Google has had some hits since search... Youtube, Android, and Chrome are probably their most successful innovations. Chromebooks are quite an incredible idea, they focus on the most important part of today's computer, the web browser, and they put that front and center and make that the focus of the whole computer. It's smart because it makes the computer very fast. And even in the case of high end machines, like the Chromebook Pixel, which I am typing to you on now, it creates an amazing user experience. The best I have had on any laptop. As the web becomes more important, chromebooks will become more relevant. How you can deny this is actually happening is beyond me. Please, don't be mad. :)
      Darren Hollander
    • Its a pointless disgrace.

      Chromebooks are an overpriced toy for rich folk who can afford to have a cheap do nothing notebook for their under ten year olds.

      Articles like this must almost make the less fortunate folk in the world cry when they realize how hard it can be just to keep the true computer/laptop that can actually do EVERYTHING they need done up and running. The thought of being able to even afford a piece of junk like a do nothing notebook like a Chromebook just for your little kids is a luxury, for some even at $200 considering they may have purchased an entire used Windows computer system or laptop for not much more.

      What the world would like to see is some genuine competition to Windows. Ever see what a Segway cost? Like about 5 grand! Sure, way less than a new car and in some instances it can do what you need to do in some respects better than a whole new car. But most people need at least one real car. You can get a decent usable second hand car for $5000. We all would like a couple of "Segways" kicking around for the fun or it, you know, for when you don't need a whole car. But we just cant afford a crappy little Segway even at a fraction of the cost of a new car, we don't actually NEED a Segway. And we sure as hell don't come close to wanting one instead of a car.

      A Segway, like a Chromebook is the solution to a 'well off' families problem.

      Is a Chromebook some horrible awful thing we should avoid? No, of course not. Its like an electric swizzle stick. Its a luxury with little purpose, but its not a terrible thing.

      If you have more money than brains, go ahead and buy one. They are not too badly priced. After all, Im starting to notice that most tablets cost at least as much or more and a huge percentage of those I also notice get used for nothing more than what a Chromebook could do. Surf about for a bit, then a paperweight until the next time. They sit on the coffee table beside the magazines.

      But lets not pretend for even a second that Chromebooks are any kind of suitable replacement for anyone who actually needs a computer.
      Cayble
      • Works for me...

        My experience so far with the new Asus Chromebox is that I love it. I realized some time ago that I was doing 75% of my desktop computing in the Chrome browser, and was deeply entrenched in the cloud, Google services, and other webapps. Most of the other stuff I was doing in Windows could be done online in some form or fashion, or offline in Chrome OS. No, I am not doing video work. I edit lots of photos, but don't need Photoshop. Paint.NET was usually the most capable app I used, but generally Picasa was more than sufficient. I can do most of what Picasa does with the built in Chrome editor and Pixlr Touchup - and yes, offline. Pixlr Editor's webapp will do most of what Paint.NET can do, or at least most of all I ever needed it to do. Writing - not a problem, and I don't need Word, or even OpenOffice.

        Right now, what do I need Windows for? To finish up a photo scanning project I have been working on for a long time and am nearly finished with. To interface with my gps that I use for hiking, for adding new maps, waypoints, and tracks, and downloading the latter. If I get a newer gps that can use .kmz files, I won't even need Windows for that. Other than that, there will be almost nothing I need to do with any regularity that I can't do with Chrome OS and perhaps Android - which play well together.

        My Chromebox boots up in 7 seconds flat, and is ready to use as soon as I enter my password. Turn it on and start working immediately. The other day, when I booted up Windows after a week, it was literally an hour before I could start really scanning pics. I know it would not have been that bad if it had been on the entire time, but after a two or three minute boot up, I was confronted with nagging Windows updates, and anti-virus program that needed to update to a newer version and was nagging me to extend my subscription, and a nagging backup program that had missed its schedule. I have always spent lots of time on Windows tweaking this and that, and doing maintenance type stuff to keep it running halfway decently. Not so with Chrome OS, and unlike a cheap Windows machine bundled with crapware and underpowered, a cheap Chrome OS device works pretty well. Is it good for everyone? Of course not! Is it good for a lot of people? Definitely! My two cents..
        crshortt
    • Microsoft fanboys, so predictible:

      I need to do real work meaning people using google wares don't do real work! So me, like many others, are paid to do unreal work, is not funny?

      I understand Tim your frustration, less and less money to Microsoft coffers, you must not be sleeping well at night. Talking about flops maybe you should try to sell your shinny Surface at eBay, if you hurry you still can get a few dollars!
      theo_durcan
  • 0.06% US web share since Dec 2010.

    There is no way of calling ChromeOS a success. It is as big a tech failure as the Nexus Q. Worldwide, ChromeOS has a 0.02% web share. Dude, this is an OS that is marginally more than a web browser.

    And yes, I have used one recently. They are partially practical if you are centered on using 100% Google services but otherwise, they are clumsy.
    Bruizer
  • So why are they selling so well ?

    Chromebooks have exposed the fact that some of us always knew; you don't need an overpriced, overpowered Windows machine to do 99% of what people were doing.

    On top of this Chromebooks are fast, quiet, and problem free.

    Bought one for my wife and she loves it.
    Chipesh
    • There is no indication they are selling well.

      Since Dec 2010, they have captured 0.06% of the US web browser market (it peaked in mid Feb at 0.07% and has been falling slowly since). World wide, ChromeOS represents 0.02% of the web share.

      This would, IMO, represent a top end estimate 800,000 total units in use world wide. Since Dec 2010.
      Bruizer
    • Well no! Now thats dead friggin wrong and you know it.

      99%! What??? OMG.

      What a joke. Sure, a Chromebook can do 100% of what some people do with their computer. But that's not the point, not at all. Not even close.

      "you don't need an overpriced, overpowered Windows machine to do 99% of what people were doing"

      99% is a wicked exaggeration, for many people in the severe extreme.

      You don't need an actual car to do what many people are doing with their car. But most people need a car to do a lot of what they do with it. That dosnt mean everyone should even think about owning a car and a Segway or two.

      I laugh when people say"you can get one for $200!"

      Why do you think people are not replacing their old 5 or 6 year old computers...or older? Because they don't want to and don't need to. Many hardly feel they should afford the $200 expense of a crummy laptop with an odd OS that's only much good for websurfing. I know I could go out and by a school kid a serviceable used Windows laptop for little more than that.

      99%. Wow.

      No sir, talk about the whole house and what the computer gets used for, a Chromebook will never do. Its just one more additional toy piece of crap for people who have so much money they can afford to get something that trades off doing a full job for handiness. And that's the definition of a toy for the well off.
      Cayble
  • Takes a while for a thing like Chromebook to establish its market

    I bought my first one this weekend. I don't think it's going to be my last. I love it. If they start making a decent selection of larger Chromebooks, I can't see ever buying another Windows machine after our not so old one gives it up (hopefully not for several years, though.) I researched the hell out of the Chromebook before buying and it's exceeded my expectations so far. I'm in my sixties, and while I was in Best Buy trying it out, the person sharing the Chromebook space with me was a teenage girl who'd also done her homework. We chose different ones, based on our different needs, but we both walked out with a Chromebook.
    posny
    • Finally took the plunge

      And bought one of the Samsung series 3 today. Love it already.
      With the packaged apps available in the dev channel, you can really see the way chrome OS will develop over the next year or so.
      So light and fast, good screen excellent machine. Speaker quality seems to be the only negative.
      I still have my galaxy tabs, and carrying the CB and the tab is still lighter than the Windows laptop.
      Still can't leave windows behind, either for work, or intensive needs at home, but for travel and general tasks, it's great!
      Boothy_p
      • It's surprisingly nice, right?

        I had the same reaction, except for the developer channel which I haven't tried and probably won't mess with. Or maybe I will. Don't know. I got the Acer because other than booting it's supposed to be a tiny bit faster and...well...cheaper. Not a huge price difference having just bought a tablet I didn't love, I wanted to be cheap about it. Now, I might see what's available around the holidays. Might have the family chip in and get me something with a little bit larger screen. I haven't been so taken with a new device in a while.
        posny
        • Yeah, love the little thing

          Did some practice in the week or so before, and just tried using chrome apps and chrome for as much as I possibly could. Not to hard actually.
          The various remote collection apps available means I can use it for work if roaming, and trying to use a computer these days with no network connection is already a frustrating experience at times, and there's easily enough offline support for the basics.
          And the Cortex ARM chip is a major surprise, very smooth.
          As soon as skype comes to the platform, I'm getting one for my Mum. Just what she needs! :)
          Boothy_p
  • For a household, $400 U.S.

    can buy both a Chromebook and a decent 7-inch tablet. If a household already has a desktop/laptop PC running Windows, this pretty much covers all bases.

    And If a household does not already have a desktop/laptop PC running Windows, the Chromebook and 7-inch tablet may be all that's needed.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • I fixed this for you: "For a household, $400 U.S

      can buy both a windows computer that runs chrome and everything else that a Chromebook can run and a decent 7-inch tablet. If a household already has a desktop/laptop PC running Windows, this pretty much covers all bases."
      mrefuman