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Why the Chromebook pundits are out of touch with reality (gigaom.com)
47 points by mikeevans on Nov 11, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments

My wife got to test-drive Chromebooks for work. She's not exactly a power user, but found the limited functionality and restrictive environment incredibly frustrating.

Her conclusion was that computers should do exactly what the user wants to, either because they are incredibly well designed withing specific constraints (iPad), or because they simply do as they're told (PC's, Macs).

The Chromebook is neither, it basically does what Google thinks people should do, without any of the depth and sophistication of Apple's opinionated user experience. They may hit the sweet spot for some, but it seems to me to be a very small niche.

The end result was that my wife was ready to throw the thing out the window, and handed it over to me with the words "see how long you last before you want to smash it".

My wife got to test-ride these new Ford Auto-Mobiles for work. She's not exactly a power equestrian, but found the limited off-road capabilities incredibly frustrating.

Her conclusion was that horses should do exactly what the rider wants to, either because they have been trained, or because the rider knows how to ride them well.

The auto-mobile is neither, it basically does what Mr. Ford thinks it should do, without any of the depth and sophistication of a purebred. They may hit the sweet spot for some, but it seems to me to be a very small niche.

The end result was that my wife was ready to drive the thing off a cliff, and handed the keys over to me with the words "see how long you last before you want to smash it."


The problem I think your wife had was that her work environment isn't designed for Chromebooks (like having the infrastructure like gas stations for cars). If someone uses Google Docs and GMail for all of their business communications, and Hangouts for chatting, and Chrome Remote Desktop to access remote machines, and Chrome Web Printing to print, etc... then the Chromebook is awesome.

And to be honest, many (if not most) workplaces will never make the switch.

The problem I think your wife had was that her work environment isn't designed for Chromebooks (like having the infrastructure like gas stations for cars). If someone uses Google Docs and GMail for all of their business communications, and Hangouts for chatting, and Chrome Remote Desktop to access remote machines, and Chrome Web Printing to print, etc... then the Chromebook is awesome.

You are making the same point as bowlofpetunias (albeit prepending it with a strained metaphor.) The vast majority of work environments aren't designed for Chromebooks, which means that Chromebooks aren't suitable for the vast majority of work environments (even if the Chromebook is exceedingly great at its narrow use cases.)

Once again, that's very much like saying "the vast majority of work environments aren't designed for Email, which means that Email isn't suitable for the vast majority of work environments."

It's flawed logic. Work environments changed, and Email became nearly ubiquitous. In my experience, moving to browser-based workflows has really improved my workplace, and my ability to get things done, well, quickly, with my team mates.

I think the logic is circular because popularity is circular. I.e. popularity is a positive feedback loop. In order for the Chromebook to earn widespread acceptance, its utility will have to marginally surpass not only the utility inherent to desktops, but also any advantages derived from the incumbents' maturity.

imho, I don't think the invention of the Chromebook was a bad idea. But gaining acceptance will naturally be an uphill battle.

Did your wife have to support a perpetual international war to support the fuel for her chromebook? Was the chromebook responsible for thousands of deaths per month? Was the Chromebook that much better than the horse? Was your analogy glib but off the mark?

no, no, no and yes. Arguing for Chromebook is arguing for limitation. If the Chromebook actually was as much of an improvement on web-surfing as the car was to the horses, your analogy might start to gain traction. The fact that it just barely holds its own, for a similar price, with much huger limitations doesn't appeal to a rational mind.

Chromebook is moving the goalposts for a machine. "Just forget about running any software that's not a web browser and you'll be fine! <waves hands> My grandfather only reads the web, so it's fine for him."

Here's a tip: every platform starts off lightweight and accrues cruft. Even Linux (cough ubuntu) and OSX (cough 10.6). If Chromebook grows in popularity, they'll hit the same issues other major OS vendors have hit. There's nothing magic about them, except they've lowered the goalposts of acceptability criteria.

If you want a lightweight machine, put linux on a laptop with an SSD and it will blow your socks off.

And by the way, no one ever won any prizes for pointing out that an analogy was flawed, if you took it too far.

I can have eight computers, and be working on the same document on all of them. Web-based document creation, for my workflows, is vastly superior to the old school way of doing things. And Google Docs is the best instance of it, for me, so far.

You'll try to destroy the analogy again, so I shouldn't bother, but once upon a time, you BOOTED your computer to a game disk. And people like you opined that people would never run their games from inside Windows, because the performance was BY DEFINITION worse, and why would you want to, anyway?

The cruft of a Chromebook is poorly designed web pages. And unlike other systems, which build their cruft in, Google has been keeping Chrome relatively clean - it's the minimum browser you need. The magic is they didn't build anything in.

I did put Linux on a laptop with an SSD, and I also switched my workflows to be either entirely online, or through Chrome Remote Desktop. That machine is a Chromebook.

The best parts for me is that my data is completely backed up, I have to use two-factor authentication to get into it, my machine updates itself, and I don't worry about viruses. Just switching to linux on a laptop doesn't do those things for me.

This is true, but at least when I buy into the M$ ecosystem I can still use my machine for whatever silly other things I'd like--Windows (for now, anyways) is still not solely devoted to content consumption and walled gardens.

You think "the web" is a walled garden? Or is solely devoted to content consumption?

I can create YouTube videos from my Chromebook, for instance.

I'm never getting rid of my Windows desktop machine. Like, never. But I'm never getting rid of my Kindles, either. They're totally, completely different from each other. My Chromebook fills its own niche, too.

I wouldn't use the term "walled garden", but Chromebooks are almost perfect for me. The only thing stopping me getting one is my terrible Internet. (Which will go in 2 or so months). Once I have no Internet I'm not sure I can do much with a Chromebook. Unless I've put some other Linux on it. But at that point I may as well screw an RPi to the back of my monitor.

You do appreciate that, by posting videos to YouTube, you are sharecropping someone else's walled garden?

We're debating the capabilities of a Chromebook. Using purely web APIs, I can upload a video to YouTube. Any other web page could use the same APIs, and then you're not in a walled garden.


Are you twelve?

(that was a joke for the clever reader)

(you'll note the dissonance between the nickname and the actual position of the company which is being admired)

(the company having gotten such ire [and that silly nickname] is actually quite open in all the relevant ways here, which is funny)

The problem I think your wife had was that her work environment isn't designed for Chromebooks

Which pretty much means the pundits are right.

Chromebooks are not suited to anyone who isn't letting Google own all their data for all their tasks. i.e: most people.

No, it doesn't mean that.

Most work environments weren't designed for email, but things changed.

And no, it doesn't need to be Google services to make a Chromebook useful. You don't even need a Google account to make a Chromebook very good at a lot of things.

My wife got to test-read your HN reply for work. She's not exactly a power viewer, but found your limited humour and restrictive mindset incredibly frustrating.

Her conclusion was that comments should state exactly what the user wants to state, either because they are incredibly well stated withing specific constraints (see other comments on this page), or because they simply do as they're told (see other comments on this page).

The comment is neither, it basically does what you think it should do, without any of the depth and sophistication of others' opinionated experience. It may hit the sweet spot for some, but it seems to me to be a very small niche.

The end result was that my wife was ready to delete the thing out the browser window, and handed it over to me with the words "see how long you last before you want to smash it".

Restrictive mindset?

Ha! I'm the one sharing the fact that I've creatively come up with ways to use a Chromebook that work great for me, and other people are saying that their world view will not change, and they won't even try.

I think you're pointing that stick in the wrong direction.

Just to add a competing anecdote - my mother absolutely loves hers. She spends 6+ hours a day on it. She runs an etsy shop, keeps up with email, keeps up with social networks. She hasn't had to worry about anti-virus software, printer drivers, OS updates or backups. It's a huge win for her, and for me.

Conversely and factually rather than merely anecdotal, my Brother laser printer, Canon dye sub and big HP laser printers don't work if you plug them into a chromebook. Nor will it print to my print server. Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and OSX work instantly.

As it's a sealed featureless box, how would one proceed here?

Chrome Cloud Printing.

You have a Desktop plugged in to the printer. You set up Cloud Printing, and now every time you're logged in to a Chrome Browser (or Chromebook), from anywhere on the planet, you can print to that printer.

Chromebooks don't replace desktops, not for most people. They enhance the crap out of them, in my opinion. Chrome Remote Desktop is awesome.

It doesn't work with my dye sub printer or HP network laser. I tried. Documents never arrive at the printer.

Windows has had remote desktop since 1997. It's had remote assistance since 2002.

I've spent 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5 years working over remote desktop sessions with shared sound, disks, printers and even recently USB devices. That's awesome.

Google has two-factor authentication and does the tunneling for Chrome Remote Desktop for you, so you don't have to set it up. From my Chromebook, I can remote control a Mac or a Linux box, too.

You've tried setting up Cloud printing on your desktop, printing to your HP network laser, and then using it remotely from another Chrome, and it never worked? Your experience is the opposite of mine - it works great.

Remote assistance requires no configuration. It doesn't do two factor authentication though. I have PuTTY which is pretty good at remotely controlling my OpenBSD machines. I don't use OSX.

That is correct. Nothing at all happened.

I can remote into my home desktop right now. I believe with Remote Assistance, someone has to set it up on both ends, correct?

I wouldn't be surprised if your workplace is blocking Cloud Printing. That's a bummer.

That is correct. I wouldn't want it any other way. Two-factor or not,a compromised google account is a lot of eggs in one basket. Normal remote desktop is available to my desktop machine via authenticating with the firewall first.

It doesn't. My workplace is home and I am the network administrator.

Definitely annoying. I'd tell her to buy another printer before buying another computer though.

I wouldn't. I'd expect it to work. This is 2013, not the pre-GDI printer fragmentation nightmare of the 80's.

Why wouldn't a tablet be suitable for this usecase?

Perhaps now. Prices are getting cheaper and tablet multitasking is getting better. Keep in mind my mom is a "non-technical producer" which means a large amount of typing and multitasking. A built in touchpad/keyboard and a tabbed OS is a bit more optimal than a touch interface with optional external keyboard.

>Her conclusion was that computers should do exactly what the user wants to, either because they are incredibly well designed withing specific constraints (iPad), or because they simply do as they're told (PC's, Macs).

The iPad and other Apple products are designed specifically to do what Apple wants, not the user.

Seems to be a big leap in this argument between the "Chromebook doesn't fulfill my needs" to "it only does what Google thinks people should do". Someone who is frustrated with the Kindle Fire or iPad could make the same argument. Throwing around flowery buzz words like "opinionated user experience" doesn't really make this argument hold more weight.

I purchased a chromebook with no intention of using ChromeOS on it, but tested ChromeOS on it for a weekend to get a feel for it and see if it were the sort of thing that I could recommend to family members. (Traditionally my go-to advice has been "Get a Mac", even though I do not use a Mac, but they never listen to me...)

Anyway, I knew going into this weekend experiment that it would not satisfy my needs, but I was surprised at just how shit it was. Typical tasks that my mother performs could mostly be done, but none of them could be done well. I could browse images from a camera flash card, but the image browser was absolute rubbish that anyone would hate. I could similarly view video files... most of the time, depending on the format and encoding. My mother uses VLC right now on windows, she doesn't know the difference between an encoding and a container (indeed probably doesn't even know that there is a difference), nor should she. Google has built software that can play local videos, has build hardware that can play arbitrary videos (Using Debian, mplayer or VLC run just fine), but have put together a product that has arbitrary technical limitations that my mother would not understand.

And no, the standard ChromeOS apologist shit of "You just don't understand the use case" does not apply here. Google has built a product that does provide the functionality I tested, it just does it poorly. If you are going to do it, do it well. If the OS had just flat out refused to provide me with ways to do those things, that would have been one thing, but that isn't the situation with ChromeOS.

Many of the problems with ChromeOS are not a result of limitations with the concept of ChromeOS, they are the result of a shoddy implementation of the concept of ChromeOS.

(Specifically, I purchased a Chromebook Pixel, and used the most recent ChromeOS sometime early in June of this year.)

I agree with your conclusion. I gave my wife my chrome book pixel that I got at Google I/O and she did not like it. Her needs were pretty basic most of the time (Spotify,gmail,Facebook) but the few times she needed to venture out of that it was a pain. And the Spotify "app" sucked and so did the battery life.

Switched her to 13inch Air after about 2 months of using the pixel, and she loves it.

I disagree and find this is just another gushing fanboy defending fandom.

Chromebooks are fine for the 80% case like normal PCs but that last 20% is impossible unlike normal PCs. There are certain things that you just cannot do. It is disingenuous to market them as PC alternatives or general purpose computers.

They are merely different and not better

I'm not sure they are ethically acceptable either as they are solely to promote and lock people into google's ecosystem. This is a dangerous line to tread. Vendor lock in has been made socially acceptable now through years of marketing in a typical us vs them fashion. If you're not taking a side, you are an outcast.

And no I don't think installing Ubuntu on them is a good solution either.

I genuinely have nothing positive to say about them. And yes I have owned one.

> There are certain things that you just cannot do.

Until you snag crouton and then all of a sudden you've got a plenty-fast linux laptop on top of a really nice SSD.

Crouton is a defeatist crutch, not a solution for every day use.

If you're using Crouton, you are denying yourself the flexibility of a proper computer artificially.

It's like buying a Prius and sticking a big exhaust and a spoiler on it. Just buy a different car.

Well, there's chrubuntu if you don't like Crouton.

There are also other, far superior laptops that run Ubuntu for the same money.

If there's something that can beat the Acer C720 in terms of performance/price w/SSD, I'd very much like to see it.

For example? I recently stepped on my ChroutonBook and am looking for a replacement.

Anything that isn't a ChromeBook that you can install either windows or Linux on be it new or second hand.

I'd suggest a second hand ThinkPad T series as that can definitely be stood on.

And if all you really need is a decent command prompt and build tools? :)

What $250 price point laptop is far superior?

you must be using the phrase "plenty fast" in a way i'm not familiar! They are as slow as mollases. if you just want to do web browsing fine, but as soon as you put linux on it and do anything else it's like watching snails.

Crouton is a pain in the ass, not least because you are stuck with much of ChromeOS when you go that route. You are better off just slapping Debian on it properly, unless you reeeaaally need to watch Netflix with it.

>And no I don't think installing Ubuntu on them is a good solution either.


Because you are promoting the product by contributing to sales figures and because far superior computers can be purchased for very little money. A cheap lenovo laptop can be had for the same price as a basic chromebook in the UK with a larger screen, 6Gb of RAM, 500Gb hard disk and DVD writer. You can choose to use windows that comes with it or install Ubuntu.

Cool, can you point me to a Lenovo that costs $250, weighs 1kg, has >6 hours of battery life, and preferably has no moving parts and runs totally silently?


I can point you to one that weighs 2.5x that, barely manages 4 hours, has a rotating disk and is fairly quiet for that price.

But my printer will work with it so that makes it infinitely more valuable.

And I don't have to sign in to a google account nor be connected to the Internet to use it effectively.

So the point is that a Lenovo laptop is far superior for you, but maybe not for everyone. Maybe the people who talk about how great chromebooks are have come to different conclusions, based on different requirements?

Yes they have. Marketing. Which doesn't fairly represent needs.

Lenovo laptops suffer from eyestabbingly bad screens. To my knowledge, traditional PC laptops with better screens than the Pixel have been announced, but are not yet available for purchase.

No. The screens are fine. Your expectation is exceedingly high.

It doesn't make much of a difference at 2 feet away.

This is marketing carry over from high PPI displays on mobile devices where it does make a difference.

I beg to differ. I can fit several more xterms side by side on a pixel screen than on any thinkpad.

High DPI only becomes pointless if you scale everything up correspondingly. I don't do that.

The expectation that a laptop have a screen with more pixels than a smartphone is not unreasonably high. Excepting less is absurd. I used a eeepc 1001px with a 1024x600 prior to getting a chromebook pixel, and I used a 1680x1050 T60p before that. I am done with that shit resolutions.

Yes but you can't read them without getting eyestrain. I have perhaps three terminal windows open max and use cwm.

I've had old Dell 15" 1600x1200 laptops which aren't even near to that and that was virtually unusable. I'm now using a 14" 1440x900 and it's about right.

Accepting less is fine. Eating all the burgers on the table because they are there is absurd.

> "Yes but you can't read them without getting eyestrain."

Maybe I'm working on borrowed time with young eyes, or maybe I work too close to my screen, but I certainly can.

I am sitting here at work on a company T420 with a 14" screen at 1600x900. Laptop on my lap, back of the laptop at my knees with the screen tilted away from me and my body reclined away from it. Feet kicked up on another chair. ...I find this anything but satisfactory.

I can get two decent vertical panes with tmux over putty, with three being possible for some tasks. At home I frequently do double this, or more.

> It doesn't make much of a difference at 2 feet away.

Which is about the distance that most people hold their mobile devices. So why in your opinion is it not valid for laptops to have similar PPI?

I agree completely with the article. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the netbook-class Chromebooks are probably the best machines in their class. You don't have to deal with the operating system very much, because all the important things (like updates and security) are taken care of for you. And, if you want to do a little light office-type work, you have the Google office apps.

Now, the Chromebook Pixel, OTOH, might just be mistargeted. I don't think it makes sense to spend $1300+ on a laptop that's only going to be accessed through a browser. (The article was right in the sense that the browser isn't the OS -- it's more like the window manager.) Most people whose needs mandate a $1300-$1500 laptop should be running Windows or OSX, simply because the app ecosystem is a lot richer.

Really appreciate this perspective. Reminds me of this quote from Steve Jobs:

"I'm trying to think of a good analogy. When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy... because the PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it changes. Vested interests are going to change. And, I think we've embarked on that change. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it be next year or five years? ... We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it's uncomfortable."

It's uncomfortable because it's wrong and there is big resistance. I am part of that resistance.

The transition from the fragmented computer market in the 80's brought relief via standardisation into the clone PC and the rise of the Internet. Now it's fragmenting again into separate walled gardens.

The post-PC era that everyone keeps rabbiting on about is a battle between the big players. We'll all lose and be back to separate non-connected ecosystems, just like the 80's when you had a BBC micro and everyone else had C64's so you couldn't play last ninja...

Its already happened in the mobile space which consists of three ecosystems and some "promoted as ridiculous and unfashionable" old fashioned telephones.

How is more choice and innovation a bad thing? What actual cross-system limitations are you worried about?

I switch from iOS to Android seamlessly, as my digital life is platform agnostic. I am more invested in Google's ecosystem in terms of where my data lives, but until they remove the ability to export/sync that data (e.g. I can download all Drive files at once, and simultaneously convert them to Office or PDF format), I don't feel all that "walled".

It's not more choice, as the only outcome is choosing which garden you are slowly walled into. Gaining market share is the desired outcome only as the shareholders need to see growth.

The innovation stops when you are captive. We all learned this in the 90's with Microsoft. People are quite young or have a short memory I'm sure.

I have no problem with limitations. I have a problem investing time and money in something that cannot be used under my terms. The computer is my minion, not my taskmaster not a convenient pipe to shove content down my throat (I already have a television thank you).

@lowkeykiwi (your comment is dead)

Witness the rise of "web services" that will only work when used with proprietary browsers run on a trusted OS on trusted hardware. Netflix on the Chromebook is a harbinger of things to come.

It's not a harbinger, it's a remnant. Netflix can keep imposing device limitations, but those devices are converging in capabilities and the transition between them is becoming more fluid.

It's in the best interest of companies like Netflix – or a disruptor – to design a service/business model that is in-line w/ the reality of device usage, not to try to change it.

> those devices are converging in capabilities and the transition between them is becoming more fluid.

Transition between authorized/trusted devices is fluid. A concept that did not exist in the recent past (or if it existed, existed only in very obscure niches, like custom test-taking software used in only a few niches of education). That is the point I am making.

I haven't seen anyone mention what I suspect is the target audience for Chromebooks - aging Americans. This is expected to be one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States thanks to the Post-World War II Baby Boom of the late 1940-1960's.

"The older population--persons 65 years or older--numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030." http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/

> I haven't seen anyone mention what I suspect is the target audience for Chromebooks - aging Americans.

Not just aging Americans, but kids of aging Americans buying computers for their parents. That's why "no viruses" and "no configuration" are such big deals: Chromebooks are a solution to the dreaded "home for the holidays, spending eight hours fixing Dad's horribly infested PC" problem.

These pundits are victims to a basic error in technology: they assume they themselves are typical users, and that their experiences and preferences can be projected onto the rest of the market. They rightfully observe that for them as consumers (which is shorthand for their financial preferences, product profile, experience, and demanded intensity of experience) the Chromebook doesn't seem like a particularly viable option.

Once you take yourself out of your own head, and consider people for whom price is important, who don't demand products outside what the browser provides, who don't have a tremendous amount of experience, and who don't demand a particularly intense experience from their computer, the Chromebook looks a lot more attractive.

The tl;dr of it is: don't assume the entire market is like you.

I've gone through two Chromebooks (first the Acer AC700, and now the HP Chromebook 11) and I will say that the first thing I did with both of them was install Ubuntu alongside them. I spend maybe <20% of my time in Chrome OS, and the majority of time in Ubuntu.

Important to note that I'm currently a student and using LaTeX a lot, and AFAIK I can't run pdflatex on Chrome OS.

However, I'm expecting my use case to change: the AC700 had an Intel Atom, and thus could run dropboxd, and there is apparently no port of dropboxd to ARM. We'll see how things change.

I bought a Chromebook, installed ubuntu and played with it. The machine heats up fast and lags too much. The Chromebook couldn't even handle a default office app in ubuntu.

These so-called pundits are getting huge sum of money from ASUS, Samsung, google, etc...

> The machine heats up fast

Chromebook Pixel? My Pixel is the hottest machine I have ever used...

I've recommended Chromebook separately to 2 individuals over the age of 40, and they both own & love it. Neither of these people are tech savy, and just wanted something to "work." The big sell for both of them was:

1) low cost for modern hardware (most windows laptops in the same price range were old or had bottom-barrel components.)

2) no more worrying about viruses & (more importantly) no anti-virus software.

3) if they would've stayed with windows they would've had to learn windows 8, so the advantage of staying in "familiar territory" was lost (one was upgrading from XP.)

Every platform has an escape hatch. For the iPad, when there's something you can't do, beyond it's limits, you would go use a real computer. For Macs, you use to run to the refuge of Bootcamp, or Parallels, to get to run something you can't run on OSX.

For Chromebooks, you run to Crouton.

There's no device that does everything without compromise, but for some people, 90% of the time, all they need is a browser with a full-sized keyboard and largish screen.

> all they need is a browser

How did we get so far from The Unix Way of "one tool does one job and does it well", to "just cram it into the browser"?

The Unix Way(tm) is great for developers, but ties you to enormous local client state. "Just cram it into the browser" has lots of advantages for many use cases:

1) actual computer local state irrelevent. If HD fails or computer falls into a river, it's no big deal.

2) Sharing your computer is a lot easier. Hand a ChromeBook to someone and they are instantly productive with it, as there is no need to "set up" their environment and all their apps.

3) Arguably more secure. Big decrease in surface area for private attackers to penetrate with viruses or malware. Arguably, increase in surface area for government surveillance. Depends on whether you find Eastern European hackers getting your financial info more damaging to you than the NSA/GCHQ.

Ask yourself this: Does Captain Picard carry around an entire copy of the Enterprise computer on him, or does his com-badge just talk to the ship computer? Cloud computing is the latest iteration in the pivot between mainframe and client, and for some usage models, it is far more convenient to cloud host all of your state, and make your client very thin and cheap.

> Oh, and those apps work outside of the browser, so “using a single web browser window with multiple tabs” simply isn’t accurate. Since May, for example, I’ve been playing a console-like game in its own window on my Chromebook using an Xbox 360 controller. Just a browser, indeed…

The Chrome browser has supported the XBox controller for a while now. It also supports fullscreen. (Firefox might support them, but I'm not sure.)

Simplicity does not mean the absence of features. ChromeOS is simple because it does not have the capability to include features we take for granted in desktop software. For example, in Google Docs you cannot merge two or more table cells. This is hardly an advanced feature, it's something Wordperfect 5.0 could do 20 years ago. How is this progress?

Some things are certainly not simpler on a Chromebook. For example, printing requires signing in via Google's cloud print service even if it's just to print to your desktop printer (which also means Google can record when and how often you print.)

More seriously, ChromeOS gives Google an unprecedented opportunity to track and record your online behaviour (since you must sign-in to ChromeOS with a Google account to use the operating system). This raises important questions about privacy, but Google gets away with little scrutiny of what they record and track.

You can definitely merge in Google Spreadsheets, is this a ChromeOS-specific limitation you're referencing? There are, of course, plenty of other limitations of the Drive suite.

It's a limitation of Google Documents. You can try it yourself. Create a Google Document, insert a table (Insert > Table) and, er, that's it. If you want to merge table cells, you're out of luck. There's no function that will allow you.

I bought a samsung chrome book at Walmart last week. I paid $250+ Florida sales tax. I bought it as an emergency backup device, as my MacBook Air was giving me problems. That being said, the device is still just ok. I was expecting it to do two thinsg really well: surf the web, and use google drive/gmail. Unfortunately the CPU in this device is a bit weak, so it struggled loading sites like Facebook, and using spreadsheets on google docs was not fun (suuuuper slow).

I just wanted those two things to work well, and they didn't. I didn't need any games, or great video rendering, just for chrome to work perfectly.

I am going to return it, and buy an external keyboard for my iPad mini. Using spreadsheets on the iPad is tough, but surfing the web and sending emails is more responsive.

My favourite current hacked up laptop is a Motorola Lapdock paired with a small collection of PC-on-a-stick thingies, an rPi, a couple Beagleboards .. all very plug and play. With an Ubuntu-on-a-stick, I'm even able to build work projects and use it as a production machine.

It'd be nice if the fanboix stopped arguing the trivialities of the software - which after all, by now - with all the variations out there - is proving to be not so hard as the one thing that matters in this race: sensible hardware.

An upgradable laptop is what I want. I'll keep the screen, the keys, etc. Just, unplug one CPU, stick in another as needed for various things .. I hope that happens soon.

I got a Chromebook as a supplementary computer. I'm a 3D Art student so I never expected it to replace my rig, but I thought it would be nice to take notes in GenEd classes and browse the internet between classes or on the couch at home. It works perfect for that.

What surprised me was some of my non-techie friends saw my Chromebook and decided to get one. They stream their music and the only thing they used their Windows laptops for was the internet and typing up essays and stuff up. It took them a while to get used to not being able to install anything but between their smartphone and their Chromebook they can pretty much do anything they need.

I'd say if you want a webby OS for the sake of webbiness, then try Firefox OS. Otherwise regular Linux distro will be much better for desktop use.

Can one not put Firefox OS on a Chromebook? Actually, that might be one of the better aftermarket modifications...

Regular Firefox OS is using Android graphics stack, so one will have to build it for regular Linux graphics stack such as X.org. Not sure if that's configurable out of the box.

I don't think there are any laptops comparable to the Acer C720 performance (Haswell) at a comparable price. It benchmarks at about half a 2013 Macbook Air (also Haswell). That said, I'd whack ubuntu on it, and love it as a netbook.

But I do doubt chromebooks will be big hit, they're neither fish nor foul, since tablets stole netbooks' market.

Yeah, there was another article about how developers are buying Chromebooks just to put Ubuntu on it: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/355875-four-of-top-six-lapto...

For my next laptop, I am more and more inclined to get a Chromebook and put Ubuntu on it using chrouton...

This is a very biased and weird article.

I think it speaks for itself that it is very common to put Chromebook in developer mode and use crouton to enable full Linux experience. I had to do it since there's so little to achieve using Chrome browser only. Sad but true.

I only know of a few people that have purchased a Chromebook, but it seems the only use it for a bit and then not use it. They tend to go back to their laptop or tablet.

They are not out of touch , they get paid to promote chromebooks, After getting paid to promote netbooks. The problem is people listening the narrative.

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