Saturday, May 14, 2011
Waiting for the Chromebook
Spent much of yesterday chasing the buzz around the imminent release of the Google Chromebook neatly hyped up here.
I've been looking to upgrade my almost obsolete android tablet and, naturally, had my eyes set on a Motorola Xoom, with a thinly disguised hankering to lift one over summer whilst north of the Rio Grande. At the same time, I've been broken-recording Michele for a year or more now asking out loud "When will Google release a computer running their own OS?".
For those with a bit of coding finese and a spare netbook or laptop lying around, there last been the option to copy the open source Chromium OS to a thumbdrive and install it -- maybe with a bit of instructional assistance. For a relative klutz like me that looks like a challenge I might be able to manage.
However, as one commenter on Reddit said, the easiest way to get the experience of contemporary cloud computing will be to pick up one of the Chromebook models available after June 15 in 7 countries -- including the US, but mostly in Europe. Basically, the Chromebook will be pretty much cloud computing -- as a British open source guru, Simon Phipps says the Chromebook is not a Linux laptop but, rather, what Oracle, Sun and others have tried previously and failed at: namely, the network computer -- everything in the cloud. There will be some necessary offline capability -- such as for gmail and document processing -- but to all intents and purposes it will all be on the internet. No anti virus, patches, etc. Pretty much like everything on the same kind of level as "doing google docs in a browser" and having it all "there" rather than "on the machine" -- warts and small print and all.
The Samsung Series 5 models will come with two options -- wifi only and with a 3G connector. The Acer model looks like it could be wifi only. With price tags between US$399 (Acer) and $479 (Samsung wifi + 3G), it is not surprising that some Reddit commenters are saying it's overpriced. At the same time, the live blog account of the official launch of the Chromebook concept makes me see a bit of potential history here -- something I am prepared to overpay a little for in order to experience it from the start.
I have a sneaking feeling that there is going to be something significantly different in the feel of this kind of computing from anything I have previously known as a latecomer (end of the 80s) to computing.
As luck would have it, we'll be in the US during the first few days of sale, en route to Canada, and hope there will be enough of a window to get one and muck around with it over the summer. Initially it won't be in Canada or Mexico, although the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy will join the US at the outset -- with the others following downstream. As Simon Phipps says, maybe the time of the network computer has arrived???