Google's Chrome Notebook: Sooooo not a netbook

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.