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Is the Chromebook the New Android Tablet? (computerworld.com) 182

An anonymous reader shares a report from Computerworld, where JR Raphael makes the case for why it's time to call the Chromebook the new Android tablet: What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn't? No matter how long you mull, it's tough to come up with much. Nowadays, a Chromebook runs the same apps from the same Google Play Store. It has an increasingly similar user interface, with a new touch-friendly and Android-reminiscent app launcher rolling out as we speak. It's likely to have an Android-like way of getting around the system before long, too, not to mention native integration of the Google Assistant (which is launching with the newly announced Pixelbook and then presumably spreading to other devices from there). But on top of all of that, a Chromebook offers meaningful advantages a traditional Android tablet simply can't match. It operates within the fast-booting, inherently secure, and free from manufacturer- or carrier-meddling Chrome OS environment. The operating system is updated every two to three weeks, directly by Google, for a minimum of five years. That's a sharp contrast to the software realities we see on Android -- and if you think the updates on Android phones are bad, let me tell you: The situation with Android tablets is worse.

In addition to the regular selection of Android apps, a Chromebook also gives you a desktop-caliber browser experience along with a laptop-level keyboard and capable trackpad. (And, as a side perk, that means you've got a built-in multi-mode stand for your tablet, too.) It's the best of both worlds, as I've put it before -- a whole new kind of platform-defying, all-purpose productivity and entertainment machine. And while it won't immediately lead to the outright extinction of traditional Android tablets, it certainly makes them seem like a watered-down and obsolete version of the same basic experience.

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Is the Chromebook the New Android Tablet?

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  • I'm about to switch. I've got a Galaxy Note Pro 12.2" that I've been using for several years. However, I'm going to switch to the ASUS C302CA. I'm just waiting for the Android app support to be a bit more stable.
    • by acroyear ( 5882 )

      indeed. biggest problem i have with android app support is scrolling. they don't respond to mouse wheel or two-finger on the touchpad, so half of the apps (like email clients) are useless.

  • What on earth does "laptop-level keyboard" even mean?

    Also, the only specific Chromebook mentioned is the new Pixelbook. Aren't those in a slightly higher price class than most Android tablets?

    • Indeed, I use a keyboard with my android tablet at times for certain tasks for convenience, no problem

    • Since laptops are in your lap, presumably it's a keyboard situated approximately in that height level (may depend on the geometry of your chair).
  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @06:15PM (#55353011)

    My wife's $99 Android tablet is thinner and doesn't have a keyboard. That makes it great for watch a movie while she knits, or listen to music or read an e-book.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      How about a laptop that folds right around for watching video? Then you have a built in stand and a real keyboard when you want to use social media.

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        How about a laptop that folds right around for watching video?

        $12 folding "leather" case cover that doubles as a prop.

        Then you have a built in stand and a real keyboard when you want to use social media.

        She does FB and email on her iPhone, and doesn't have Twitter or Instagram accounts.

      • Sounds expensive, fragile, and heavy.
  • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @06:16PM (#55353021)

    Can I use it without it ever having to talk to Google's servers? If not, then it's no replacement for Android.

  • by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @06:18PM (#55353033)
    If Google could make a proper app ecosystem for Chromebooks, like native apps, I could see them as the permanent of Microsoft in any remaining consumer space. Not that this would be the best for anyone, Google is evil as hell. But at this point I'd take evil as hell over slothful and expensive. I can go out and get an I-Pad pro that's as fast as a good windows laptop, with a much better screen, for $200+ less than the windows laptop. Or an awesome, convertible tablet like Chromebook for $400 less than the equivalent Windows laptop.

    If either had even close to the same app ecosystem I'd do so instantly. Or if Linux did (and had the price of a Chromebook/etc.) same thing there. As it is I like to play games and end up using Lightroom, Photoshop, and etc. a lot. But damn am I tired of vastly overpaying for what feels like ever worse tech.
    • But at this point I'd take evil as hell over slothful and expensive.

      That's not the choice, really. Microsoft is also evil as hell.

  • "What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn't?"

    Be just a tablet. It does less than a Chromebook. Perfect for some people. Throw the Chromebook stuff in there and you'll have to start explaining stuff, it won't be as idiot proof. I mean it's already too complex as-is for some people I know.

  • by HalWasRight ( 857007 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @06:37PM (#55353113) Journal
    The cheapest Chromebook is twice the price of a low cost brand name Android tablet. But why anyone would pay Chromebook prices for one of the so-called "premium" Android tablet is beyond me.
  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <[ge.ten.atadet] [ta] [reteps]> on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @06:43PM (#55353135) Journal

    and if you think the updates on Android phones are bad, let me tell you: The situation with Android tablets is worse.

    100% absolutely true.

    Four years ago, our school district decided to pilot devices. And when I say device, it seemed like nothing under $400 was off the table. We bought an iPad, an iPad mini, a Chromebook, a Nook, a Kindle Fire, an iPod touch, a Dell Latitude 10 Windows 8 tablet, and four different Android tablets, a Samsung Galaxy 10, an Asus Nexus tablet, and two white-box $100 Android tablets from Amazon. We gave each one to whoever wanted to try it out, we got feedback, and we choose Chromebooks.

    Last May, I dug the unused tablets out of the drawer, looking for one that I could use to use as a Wi-Fi analyzer. Updated every tablet to its highest-supported version. One Amazon tablet could only run Android Honeycomb (3.2), the other got to Jelly Bean (4.3), the Samsung Galaxy went up to Lollipop (5.1), and only the Asus Nexus tablet could run Marshmallow (6.0). (That Nexus was great for the job...modern OS, still fast, perfect size & portability...needed a new battery, though.)

    Four Android devices, all purchased at the same time, and four different levels of Android. None of us would have had any clue at the time how far each would last in terms of a functional cloud-based OS.

    But our Chromebook? Samsung 303c. Still works, still can browse the web with it w/o any issues (except for slowness). Updates guaranteed through next March, which means it will still work through the remainder of our school year. And it cost $239 at the time. I'd call that value.

    • None of us would have had any clue at the time how far each would last in terms of a functional cloud-based OS.

      You failed to demonstrate that they don't have a functional cloud based OS, or won't continue to have the same in the future.

      But our Chromebook? Samsung 303c. Still works, still can browse the web with it w/o any issues (except for slowness).

      Interesting that you criticize the other equipment based on their OS - but you praise the Chromebook based on it's performance.

      Apples and oranges much?

      • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <[ge.ten.atadet] [ta] [reteps]> on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @09:40PM (#55353801) Journal

        You failed to demonstrate that they don't have a functional cloud based OS, or won't continue to have the same in the future.

        Then let me elaborate. It's all about anticipated value.

        The key variable here on each device is its web browser. Web browsers are critical for any schools dependent on Google Apps for Education. That Honeycomb tablet can't even run Chrome browser, and Ice Cream Sandwich only supported Chrome up through v.42, which lost its support around the end of 2016. All the websites teachers depend on daily would, bit-by-bit, lose their ability to function in these old browsers. At the time of purchase, did we know the software limitations of these devices? Absolutely not. There was nothing in any documentation telling us how long Android would remain current with these tablets, making it impossible to gauge an anticipated value at purchase.

        With Chromebooks, Google clearly communicates to the world that the software on a Chromebook was guaranteed to stay updated for five years. Therefore, our anticipated lifespan of four years was only physically limited by the wear and tear our students would put on it. We could anticipate its value and budget accordingly. But with Android, half the devices we tried had OS's that would not have lasted us four years, without our knowing which of them would. That makes it impossible to plan a device's anticipated value, and our district already experienced devices that fail sooner than they should, and didn't want to go through that again. (That experience involved LearnPads [learnpad.com], but that's a whole different story.)

        And I didn't praise the Chromebook at all for its performance. That 303c was slow as molasses out of the box, and it only got worse with time. But its browser still works, making it still useful for its intended purpose. If you like using older Android tablets because it still serves its intended purpose for you, then good for you, you're getting good value out of it. I'm praising the Chromebook because it's delivering our district good value.

        • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

          Sounds to me like you also had two Android tablets whose browser still works too, and possibly at least a third that still works, but may slowly start to develop problems. Considering that tablet has to be AT LEAST 4 YEARS OLD (Jellybean was the latest release from mid 2012 to October 2013), that isn't bad at all. Even your sainted Chromebook won't necessarily support OS updates much past that point.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's like the early days of home computing all over again. Rapid product updates, and if you had the old hardware you were probably stuffed... At least now there is mostly backwards compatibility though, so your older hardware isn't unusable for most modern applications.

  • After that, a real computer plus specialty devices like the Kindle Fire.
  • Chromebooks (I have one) run one browser (three guesses which one). It doesn't run Thunderbird, NetBeans or anything else that's not a browser extension. I have a Nexus 7 Android pad-form device that runs a TBird-like email client and a few other things that aren't browser-based, And I have a Win-7 laptop (that'll boot Linux Mint) that does about everything I need on either platform, albeit with reduced screen real estate compared to my (Win-7) desktop.

    Chromebooks are being issued to my grandchildren in 7t

    • It's like trying to do fluid dynamics on a TRS-80.

      I wrote a potential flow solver for NACA 0012 airfoil with 50x20 C Grid in an IBM PC-XT you insensitive clod!

  • A 10-or-above device is too damned unwieldy to be a "tablet" in my book. My beloved Nexus 7 seems just the right size, and I might stretch that to 8 inches when it goes to heaven, but above that, forget it.
  • Easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @08:45PM (#55353615)

    >"What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn't?

    Let's see how easy that is:

    1) It is not as light as a tablet.
    2) It is not as thin as a tablet.
    3) It typically (but not always) costs more than a tablet.
    4) It doesn't have an upside-down keyboard I have to worry about getting damaged, dirty, wet, etc.
    5) It isn't typically available as small, like 10", which means even further weight savings, thinness, battery life, and portability.

    And when the idea is portability, those matter a lot. Some of us want a tablet because we have no desire to use the tablet as a laptop. I have never, not even once, wanted to type on my tablet or use a trackpad with it. I use it to play games mostly, with some weather checking, music listening, watching video, and photo browsing.

    Now, if it has a completely REMOVABLE keyboard and then was exactly as thin and light as a typical tablet, and available in several sizes/prices from 7" to 12", then yeah, it could replace a tablet for practically everyone. Until then, the concept of a "tablet" isn't moot.

  • Here's Mine.

    In today's world of $20 smartphones and $50 android tablets, lets indoctrinate our children into the chromebook's cloudbased world of for profit data mining, lack user control, and corporate ownership of personal data! Gotta spend this budget on something!

    BONUS! This puts a state/Alphabet controlled computer system in every family home in America, and
    BONUS! makes the sucker parents accept responsibility for the hardware, and
    BONUS! they have no control over the hardware they are responsible for!

    • how many students honestly don't have access to a smartphone, personal computer, or a public library? I'm guessing maybe 1 in 10?

      I'm guessing that the number goes up sharply on weekends, when public libraries have reduced hours or are closed entirely. (Source: acpl.info)

      • by kenh ( 9056 )

        I'm guessing that the number goes up sharply on weekends, when public libraries have reduced hours or are closed entirely.

        Shorter hours for the public library is the result of taxpayer choices - if the community wanted the libraries open all weekend, they would simply raise taxes and do it.

        • if the community wanted the libraries open all weekend, they would simply raise taxes and do it.

          Those who cannot afford a home computer and home Internet access nor a smartphone and cellular Internet access probably cannot afford campaign contributions to candidates who promise to fund library service expansion by raising the tax rate on other constituents.

    • 100% correct. These "anonymous" stories about Chromebooks are just shills for Google. Same with stories about Alexa. Slashdot needs to stop. Chromebooks are just spy devices.
  • So my kids can lose or break a $99 tablet or a $500 chromebook. I'll go with the tablet. In fact, I'm almost as likely to break it as they are.
  • I have an Android-based 2-in-1, which for some reason (specifically, because the manufacturer also sells a Windows version) uses an Intel processor. So yes, it has a keyboard, trackpad, and touchscreen (not all Chromebooks do). So what is it that your Chromebook is supposed to do that my Android 2-in-1 doesn't already?
  • Google does not respect your privacy. Integreation does give minor benefits to the consumer, but it ensures massive information benefits for the company

  • "What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn't? "

    Not hurt my arm after a few hour of holding it in 1 hand.

  • Can I completely disable Google Assistant? I can't think of a moment where I ever would prefer talking to my computer over typing. At public transport people would think I was a psycho talking to myself. At home, my partner would come 10 seconds later asking "excuse me, what did you say?" thinking I said something to her. In an office space, people would think I should shut up and just use the keyboard like a normal person.
  • They're both just about the same thing anyway. Yeah, Android is built around the JVM and has some low-level stuff concerning cellular connectivity and such, but I expect such things to be covered with in an afternoon of recompiling kernel modules for whatever OS (read: customised cross-platform FOSS *nix variant) Google has lying around, be it Chrome, Android or something else

    As for the Chromebooks getting Android: That's a nice thing and of course will push back an android tablet if you have money to spare

  • by rklrkl ( 554527 ) on Thursday October 12, 2017 @04:19AM (#55354505) Homepage

    I suspect the Computerworld article author has assumed that a typical Chromebook has the same specs as a tablet and *then* has a (hopefully detachable) keyboard on top of that. I just spent $230 on a 10.1" Android 7 tablet that has 4GB RAM, 64GB of local storage (that's rare for a Chromebook because of its cloud leanings), a 2560x1600 touchscreen (again, very rare for a Chromebook to have that res and not all Chromebooks have touchscreens either) and the usual GPS/accelerometer stuff too. I suspect you're talking *big* money to match those specs with a Chromebook.

    Yes, I have a bluetooth mouse and keyboard I can optionally use with the new tablet (which will give a better experience than most Chromebooks' trackpads and keyboards) - it has mini-HDMI too if I wanted to hook it to a bigger screen. The tablet form factor is so much better for media consumption, particularly when you're on the move and don't have anywhere to rest your device on.

  • by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Thursday October 12, 2017 @04:31AM (#55354523)
  • if google can keep such a tight control over its chromebook range, which is also produced by different brands and use different arch's like intel & i don't know how many different arm cpu's, WHY CAN'T IT DO THE SAME FOR ANDROID?

  • All it needs is a terminal and Eclipse working offline, and a large screen for old farts. I'd be ditching my Macbook Pro in a heartbeat.
  • by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Thursday October 12, 2017 @07:11AM (#55354807) Journal

    > if you think the updates on Android phones are bad, let me tell you: The situation with Android tablets is worse.

    Oh yes, I bought a few years ago the $$$ top of the line Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro tablet, it came with Android 4.4, it never had any update.

  • What does a traditional Android tablet do that a convertible Chromebook doesn't?

    Fit in my pocket.

  • I see a lot of demand for Android tablets for use in automotive applications .... custom projects to put one in the dashboard in place of a double-DIN car stereo.

    I think some are also surely getting used as single-purpose kiosks or remote controllers for things. You can, for example, dedicate one as the controller for videoconferencing systems built around the Zoom software (http://www.zoom.us).

    For general purpose use? It's really the same argument you get on the Apple side of things. Why buy an expensive

  • I have a Galaxy Tab S2. A Chromebook cannot replace it. I don't hate it or anything like that, but it's all about the formfactor and usage.

    First of all, it's extremely disingenuous to brush off something like "Nowadays, a Chromebook runs the same apps from the same Google Play Store". Sure, if you consider the fact that most apps don't work well, several of them crashes, have weird bugs, etc etc. No, a Chromebook does not run the same apps from the same Google Play Store. Far far faaaar from it. It might ev

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