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Chrome Google Portables Hardware IT

At $250, New Chromebook Means Competition For Tablets, Netbooks, Ultrabooks 283

Posted by timothy
from the very-cute dept.
Google's new ARM-powered Chromebook isn't a lot of things: it isn't a full-fledged laptop, it's not a tablet (doesn't even have a touch screen); and by design it's not very good as a stand-alone device. Eric Lai at ZDNet, though, thinks Chromebooks are (with the price drop that accompanies the newest version) a good fit for business customers, at least "for white-collar employees and other workers who rarely stray away from their corporate campus and its Wi-Fi network." Lai lists some interesting large-scale rollouts with Chromebooks, including 19,000 of them in a South Carolina school district. Schools probably especially like the control that ChromeOS means for the laptops they administer. For those who'd like to have a more conventional but still lightweight ARM laptop, I wonder how quickly the ARM variant of Ubuntu will land on the new version. (Looks like I'm not the only one to leap to that thought.)
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At $250, New Chromebook Means Competition For Tablets, Netbooks, Ultrabooks

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  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tommeke100 (755660) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @07:53PM (#41724671)
    so what?!
    How is this different from any generic netbook that comes out around the same price range (with a x86 processor may I add)?
  • by thatkid_2002 (1529917) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @07:55PM (#41724677)
    A real Linux distro is where it is at.
    The big advantage over other ARM based netbook hacks is that this one has a driver accelerated X (since ChromeOS is just a Linux distro) and not just some Android graphics driver.
    Too bad it looks like they won't be selling them in Australia.
  • 1st thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WillyWanker (1502057) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:00PM (#41724699)

    1st thing I thought when reading about these was "will I be able to put another OS on it". I have very little interest in ChromeOS, but Android, linux, or even Windows RT, and now you've got my attention.

  • Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:12PM (#41724751)
    call me when it's $100. At $250 I can wait for Black Friday and get a 15.6" i3 with Win 7 Home. Heck, I can buy one of those right no for another $100. Maybe if the packaging was sleeker I could get behind it (e.g. all titanium and whatnot).
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tough Love (215404) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:13PM (#41724755)

    How is this different from any generic netbook that comes out around the same price range (with a x86 processor may I add)?

    Power-efficient ARM setup with modest sized SSD and crippled OS. Just needs a proper Linux install to make a cheap and useful geek trophy. Subsized by Google, what's not to like about that. I wonder if it requires prorietary modules or firmware.

    And I wonder how long Google will continue beating this dead horse.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The MAZZTer (911996) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [tzzagem]> on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:16PM (#41724771) Homepage

    It's all about Chrome OS.

    1. No need for anti-malware... it runs a super-locked down variant of Linux. OS partition is mounted read-only and hash checks are done on every boot so it would be much more difficult for malware to get a foothold.
    2. Setup is fast and easy, with few more steps than Google Chrome's setup itself on other OSs. Even if you somehow break everything recovery is as easy as you would expect (get SD card/USB drive, run a Google tool on it, then boot the Chromebook from it to flash the system.
    3. Updates are as seamless and as easy as the Chrome browser does them.
    4. Everything is stored in the cloud so backups and data loss isn't a concern.
    5. It's just a browser with a minimal OS shell around it, so things are speedy, so the hardware can be on the light side and save a few dollars without sacrificing as much performance as if you loaded Ubuntu or Windows on it (I can personally confirm for the Cr48 that Chrome OS is much speedier than Ubuntu 12.04).
    6. Profile and settings sync means your settings, bookmarks, tabs, etc are synced between desktop, mobile (Chrome for Android), and laptop. If your Chromebook dies for some reason and you get a new one you will be quickly synced.

    In short this is likely the ideal computer for someone who just uses their PC for the internet and a few things like word processing that they could be using the internet for. And it's great for someone who isn't technically inclined, no need for anti-malware and less opportunities for things to break and having to get a relative to fix it.

    More improvements are coming in newer versions of Chrome/Chrome OS, including a set of APIs that allow for creating "native"-like applications that manage their own windows etc (still all HTML/JavaScript based of course).

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:19PM (#41724781) Homepage Journal
    They are not netbooks, that is the difference. Increasingly we have a workforce that simply needs to connect to a database, do email. Firms are buying expensive computers, repairing them, reimaging them after virus attacks, basically paying for functionality that is not needed. A *nix machine can provide only needed functionality, but can be more expensive to implement.

    With this machine you are looking at $300 per workstation, google apps included. For certain uses, you are talking about a a complete cubicle farm for what one could put on a credit card. And if a computer breaks, just swap it out.

    I can see these used in call centers. I can see these use in certain school situations. I can see this for use in the home for small kids. I can't see a laptop matching this price point, at least not one that is going to last a few years.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:22PM (#41724795)

    So when Microsoft locks down the bootloader, it's bad. But when Google does it, it's good.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:30PM (#41724835)

    I thought the same thing. "I have no use for this, in my life." Then someone pointed out where this fits: in the hands of every person that has ever asked me for tech support. This is perfect for the non geeks in my life. I'd love to never be asked to figure x a laptop again and this may just fit that mold.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion (114072) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:31PM (#41724841)

    Yes, and that laptop will be heavier, more bulky, less secure, have much worse battery life, start up much slower, resume from sleep much slower, etc. etc.

    Chromeboks are brilliant machines for people who value price, convenience, and security over versatility.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pnot (96038) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:33PM (#41724861)

    At $250 I can wait for Black Friday and get a 15.6" i3 with Win 7 Home.

    As far as I'm concerned, an extra 4" of screen (with attendant bulk, weight, and battery life reduction) would be a liability rather than an asset. Same goes for Windows. I realize that my needs are not everyone's, but I suspect there are a lot of people out there who don't want to lug a 15.6" machine around.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:45PM (#41724915)

    as long as you have a good network link and you better hope it's cap free and don't even think of roaming as it can cost $10 or more pre MEG!!

  • by sk999 (846068) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:54PM (#41724943)

    Given that a Chromebook works best when on a network, at least it should get the network stuff right. Right?

    VPN - does it support, say, Cisco AnyConnect? No.
    Kerberos? Not that I can tell.
    Printing? Sure, if my organization is willing to install "Google Cloud Print Connector".

    Baslcally, this thing might work fine if your entire business runs in the Google universe. Otherwise, get a netbook.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by obarthelemy (160321) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:54PM (#41724945)

    "Everything is stored in the cloud so backups and data loss isn't a concern."

    Say again ? How many examples of people losing access to some or all of their data definitively (the MS Sidekick fiasco for example) do we need for people to finally realize that the only safe place for your data is.... several backups that you physically have and have spread in different locations. If "the cloud" is so safe, why do each and every cloud license agreement state and restate end rerestate and rererere.. that the cloud provider is liable for *NOTHING* if they lose, mangle, destroy, distribute... your data. Same as no bank ever lost all your money... except at least banks offer a guarantee, and that guarantee is federally-backed.

    Also, on top of the risk of definitive loss, you also
    - may lose access to your data everytime there is a 'net outage (never climb into a fast train or a plane, unless you're willing to pay through the nose),
    - don't have any guarantee that your data is confidential (no clue as to who has access to it, including your subcontractor's subcontractor's trainee in some 3rd world country.

    So, stop it with the "the cloud is safe" mantra. It is not, and only idiots believe that.

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:03PM (#41724993)

    its arm so it wont run the applications I want
    its slow and light on ram
    it requires me to be attached to the internet to access my storage
    its got a shit camera (640x480? really? my 5 year old free phone has a 1.2mp camera douche)
    its not even all that good on battery life

    why is this compelling?

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:18PM (#41725075)

    Cloud is way safer than your typical malware ridden PC.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:22PM (#41725093)

    And given the same Watt-sucking screen as any other netbook, you'll see at most a 10% improvement in battery life. FAIL.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:48PM (#41725221)

    Increasingly we have a workforce that simply needs to connect to a database, do email.

    ... and has $250 to waste on a device that is a brick without a net connection, purely because of crippled software. Good luck with that.

    Many offices are already dead without a 'net connection - no connection to financial systems, email at the corporate office, etc. If they are lucky they have a local fileserver, but can't do much without the network. Which is why they tend to have redundant connections (i.e. a leased line back to the corporate office and VPN over public internet as a backup).

  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:05PM (#41725295)

    It's a race to the bottom.

    They make the revenue by giving up your location and what you do. After all: this is Google we're talking about. Between Adsense and Google apps you use, there are no secrets. At.All.

    People pay for your secrets, so buyers get a nebbishy netbook wannabe, and think they're getting a deal. Yeeeesh.

    Like smartphones, they can sell it at or under cost and make money on the back-end.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @10:41PM (#41725433)

    Woah... did you just compare a $1700, 7 pound laptop to a $250, 2.5 pound laptop and conclude that the technology hasn't advanced?

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Y-Crate (540566) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @11:21PM (#41725579)

    You get the CLOUD, son. The CLOUD. All your data can be stored in the CLOUD. The processor is not relevant. Cycles per second doesn't matter when you data is instantly accessible in the CLOUD. At our fingertips. We can scan, parse, and not store any data. Promise.

    SOLD!

    Because when Google decides to do something like stop supporting .doc export in GoogleDocs, I want to be absolutely certain that feature is unavailable to me that very instant!

    No legacy cruft in the CLOUD!

    (sorry if you've been asked to submit that resumé in .doc not .docx - but... the CLOUD!!!!)

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <[aussie_bob] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:48AM (#41725923) Journal

    Vehicle analogy time:

    You change from a car to a train. The infrastructure is different and less flexible, but while the vehicle doesn't let you go as many places, it's much more efficient, less prone to breakage and less stressful at getting you to your workplace day in, day out.

     

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:27AM (#41726041)

    Just needs a proper Linux install to make a cheap and useful geek trophy... I wonder if it requires prorietary modules or firmware.

    The procedure for getting an arbitrary linux distro to run on the original cr48 was a lot of fun. You had to take the laptop halfway apart, flip a "hay let me flash my BIOS" switch, which would allow you to flash a user-provided BIOS image from the internet, and from there you could treat it like any other atom netbook.

    Given that the quoted 6.5 battery life is in line with what I got out of my cr48, having an ARM platform seems like more of a drawback than a feature.

  • by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:12AM (#41726183)

    "but I really don't understand why people don't just install Ubuntu or something."

    According to the usual random Google sources, the new Chromebook appears to be running a Samsung-branded System-on-a-Chip called "Exynos 5 Dual Processor" (http://www.chromestory.com/2012/10/googles-new-249-chromebook-complete-specs/).

    A quick check at Wikipedia showed that Exynos is composed of a 1.7 GHz Dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU and ARM Mali-T604 GPU (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exynos#List_of_Exynos_SoC). If I remember correctly, opensource support for the Mail GPU is a work-in-progress. So unless Ubuntu has the same OEM-level access to the binary drivers, running Unity on the Chromebook will be a painfully slow, framebuffer-only experience.

    However if your idea of a window manager consists of terminal sessions running Links, Mutt, and Bash, this would make a mighty fine Emacsbook.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bemymonkey (1244086) on Monday October 22, 2012 @03:05AM (#41726323)

    It's easy to use - if you know how to use a browser, you can use this. No fiddling with drivers or apt-get or anything else to make the input devices work properly/better, make battery life acceptable or get performance up to par - just open it and start working...

    As an example as to the problems regular notebook users face, I've been noticing an alarming trend lately: The German language Thinkpad forum (thinkpad-forum.de), which is actually full of intelligent people - lots of engineers, IT guys, sound guys and so on - is starting to show that Windows 7 is too complicated and difficult to set up in a way that maximizes potential battery life. As I sit here and type this on a big 15.6" Thinkpad with the power-sucking FullHD screen, I'm seeing a power draw of, oh, 6.5W - I'm seeing 12+ hours of real-world use with the big 9-cell, usually leaving my power supply at home and coming home with 30% to spare even though the damned thing was on all day.

    Other users with the same internal hardware (Sandy Bridge i3/i5/i7 on the same chipset, no dedicated graphics) and often smaller, more efficient displays, are reporting *much* higher battery usage. They're only getting 3-4 hours out of a 55Wh 6-cell battery, so 15-20W of average power draw, while surfing the web without Flash or just using Office applications... how does this happen?

    Easy:

    Forget to install a driver? Power consumption skyrockets.
    Let Windows update update a device driver to a non-manufacturer-optimized version? Power consumption skyrockets.
    Use the device manufacturer's update utility, which then proceeds to crash in the middle of a driver update? Power consumption skyrockets (if you're lucky enough to be left with a booting system).
    Forget to close CPU-hogging program X or a program with moving graphical elements (i.e. an animation of some kind that constantly repeats itself)? Power consumption skyrockets.
    Don't realize a program has crashed and has pegged a core of the CPU at 100%? Power consumption skyrockets.
    Device driver crashed? P C S!

    And that's just the power usage aspect... there are all sorts of other finicky little traps when it comes to running a full-blown Windows or Linux machine. You and I are probably used to it, so we really don't notice all the little optimizations we use to make our machines run properly: NoScript, Adblock, Click-to-Flash, no background tasks that hog CPU or I/O, restarting browsers and other processes that are using more and more memory over the last week of uptime... we notice when our machines are running more slowly than usual, and can use tools like the task manager and resource monitor to determine what's causing the slowness...

    And let's be honest: Which normal person wants to fuck with all that?

    Even cut down Linuxes like Android exhibit some of the same symptoms - Even excluding third-party non-system-apps there are too many software components that can crash or misbehave, keeping the device awake during standby or draining the battery faster than usual during regular use. It's all too complicated for a regular user, and in the case of Android and Linux in general, I myself have trouble pinpointing many issues... often, the only thing I can do is just reboot the device.

    That's why Chrome OS's approach is so awesome - bare-metal OS, browser, done. Nothing to fuck up, minimal processes to crash, hardly anything that can misbehave and suck down power... Of course, not being able to work offline means it's also completely useless for actual day-to-day use unless you get a version with a mobile data connection and never take it out of the country, but the concept is freakin awesome.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Monday October 22, 2012 @03:39AM (#41726429) Homepage

    To be fair they have always warned people in good time. You are still ultimately screwed if people continue to demand your CV in MS Word formats of course, although I'd be worried about any place that can't accept a .docx these days.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Monday October 22, 2012 @04:38AM (#41726609) Homepage

    Wake me up when the platform doesn't favor a bunch of binary blobs that moot the ability to change the firmware.

    At least with the Intel platform you don't have that issue.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Monday October 22, 2012 @04:57AM (#41726671)

    If a company requres that you submit your resumé as a .doc then you don't want to work there! Google is just helping you improve your quality of life.

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