Why there are at least two great reasons to buy a Chromebook

I manage a lot of gear, and it's nice once in a while to have a machine that doesn't automatically spawn to-do items.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I spend about a third of my work day living in a browser. I spend mornings alternating between managing incoming mail and doing my morning reading, which also often involves postings to various social networks.

My browser is Chrome. I moved to it back in January and haven't looked back. I've come to rely on a wide range of Chrome extensions, some of which I documented in one of my earlier Chrome articles and some of which I've since discovered and come to rely upon as much as the original set.

I'm telling you this in response to an article by my esteemed colleague Larry Seltzer, entitled "Why there's no good reason to buy a Chromebook". Having recently purchased Chromebook I find myself disagreeing with Larry. I wrote about some of my thoughts on this regard a few weeks ago in "The Chromebook, Windows RT, and the Officebook that might have been".

He makes good points, and there is no doubt the Chromebook is more of a niche product than, say, an iPad. But to say there are absolutely zero good reasons might mislead people who can, in fact, benefit from a Chromebook.

Larry draws a very cool Venn diagram in which he identifies two main vectors: the Windows/Mac vector (including Windows tablets) and the iOS/Android tablet vector.

His main premise is this: "There's nothing you can do with a Chromebook that you can't do with a Windows laptop running Chrome." And, in fact, he is correct.


Chromebooks are cheap. Really cheap. Mine cost $239. Sure, you can get cheap PCs for about $350, but they're very, very low-end and not nearly as svelte as my tiny MacBook Air-sized Chromebook. You can't get a MacBook Air-sized Ultrabook for anything near $239.

So, if you want a very small and light Windows laptop, be prepared to pay more. Quite a lot more.

Second, though, is this. Getting set up and running on my new Chromebook took five minutes. Period.

I turned it on, logged into my Google account, and all my bookmarks and Chrome extensions were there. I could go to work (and, in fact, did) in far less time than it's taking me to write this article.

My iPad and even my Nexus 7 couldn't do that. While both run Chrome, they run a mobile edition, so my extensions aren't available and my bookmarks aren't in the same place as my work machine.

Worse, because the iPad and Nexus don't run all the typical browser extensions (Flash comes to mind), I can't get into the learning management system for school and can't grade or correspond with students.

Tablets don't let me do my morning reading or grading nearly as smoothly as the Chromebook. Oh, and did I mention that even the Nexus 7 costs more than a Chromebook?

As for PCs, when have you ever been up and running perfectly on a PC in less than five minutes? More to the point, when has a PC just worked without a lot of futzing and setup. And don't you Mac people start mouthing off. I just wasted a weekend dealing with Mavericks and I'm far from the only cranky person on that score.

More to the point, inside PCs tablets are PCs. And as James Kendrick eloquently points out this morning, they are subject to the "Frowny Face of Death".

I haven't had to run Windows Update on my Chromebook. I haven't had to wait on a reboot. I haven't had to fight iOS. I haven't had to wonder why I can't access a Web site. I haven't had to try to reinvent my daily working pattern because all my browser are gone. I haven't had to tweak or modify or even install Chrome. And I haven't had to deal with a Frowny Face of Death.

Did I mention this thing cost $239?

In summary, there are definitely reasons to get a Chromebook. Price is certainly one reason. A second reason is compatible access to the PC or Mac browsing experience without the fuss of managing a PC or a Mac. I manage a lot of gear, and it's nice once in a while to have a machine that doesn't automatically spawn to-do items.

Does the Chromebook replace the PC? Of course not. I've been detailing my attempt to build a monster hybrid Mac/Windows machine and I need all of that capability for the rest of my work day.

Does the Chromebook replace my Nexus 7 or my iPad? Of course not. I'm not going to read the Chromebook while sitting in the throne room, and it won't fit under the teleprompter screen like the iPad. That said, I do use the Chromebook far more than I use the iPad -- but that makes sense because I live so much of my time in the browser.

So there you are. The Chromebook does fill a niche, but there are also good reasons to buy it compared to other devices.

P.S. My ZDNet colleague Andrew Brust points out that the Microsoft Office Web apps work great on his Chromebook, so you get one other very nice benefit in a very inexpensive and easy-to-maintain machine.

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