1:00 PM -- The Google Chromebooks are officially announced. The proclamation came Wednesday at Google I/O -- which, judging by Twitter Inc., is some kind of holy week for the trade press.
I've had the CR48, the Chromebook prototype, at home for five months now. So, what have I learned about it?
For one thing, I had trouble breaking my work habits in order to use it. Light Reading uses a Web platform similar to WordPress, but I prefer to type my stories on a word processor, storing the results on my hard drive. That's partly habit, but it's also faster (no waiting for the browser to redraw the screen every time I save, which is very often), and it allows me to boldface or color-code sections of my rough drafts.
Pictures and videos are likewise unclouded for me, but that's just because my devices aren't networked. I'm the only guy on the block without an iPhone (too lazy to go get one, mainly).
As a utility device, though, the CR48 has proven its worth. Personal email, Twitter, Facebook -- they all become a little bit easier on the go because the laptop is so light and boots so quickly (although I notice mine takes a lot longer to boot than the Google demo units did). And as I mentioned in a video blog, the security features -- such as an ability to revert to a previous configuration, in the event of a breach -- seem ideal for an IT crew that has to manage a fleet of these things. (See Google's Chrome Laptop.)
Two problems. First, I don't have a waterproof argument why you wouldn't buy a tablet instead. I happen to love a full-sized keyboard and a bigger-than-netbook screen, but if you don't care, then Chromebook loses a lot of luster.
Second, wireless Internet, while supposedly ubiquitous, is still an inconvenience. I don't use the Chromebook at Google in Mountain View, where the Wi-Fi signals shower you like rain. More likely, I'm at my kid's softball practice, a couple of miles from any public Wi-Fi signal. The built-in Verizon Wireless 3G connectivity helps, but it can be slow. It reminds me too much of dial-up.
For me, Chromebook isn't the answer, but it's a nice backup to have.
Everybody attending the launch at Google I/O will be getting a Samsung Corp. Chromebook, it turns out. Although mine, unlabeled and eerily blank black, is so much cooler.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading