Earlier this month I got a Samsung Chromebook because many of the schools we work with have adopted them in their one-to-one programs.  I just admit that I had some misperceptions that kept me off the Chromebook wagon for over a year, but now I think I can use it as my primary road-tool for giving presentations, creating documents (such as this blog) and doing other things (but not all things) I used to use my laptop for.

My original thinking was that this could be a very cool device.  From a historical point, it all started in 1984 when Sun’s John Gage said: “The network is the computer.”  When he said this many computers (including the brand new Macintosh) came without a modem or ethernet port – so this was a very bold statement.  About a decade later, when the first graphical web browser (Mosaic) was released, I said: “The browser is the operating system” and, just two years ago the Chromebook hit the market.  This ultralight laptop replacement uses the Chrome browser interface for all applications.  The browser is built on a Linux base (just like iOS, MacOS, and Android) thus leaving Microsoft out in the cold.

Because of the browser interface, I assumed (incorrectly) that all applications needed to be used when you were online.  This is not true.  Once you register with your Gmail account, you are able to create documents (such as this one) along with slideshows even if you have no internet connection at the time.  Once you go online, all your new documents and edits get synchronized to the cloud automatically.  This a great for kids who may only have good internet access from school.  They can still work on projects at home even though they are disconnected.

The automatic update feature applies to more than documents.  Applications reside in the cloud (unless you are running local versions on the Chromebook) so upgrades are automatic.  The Chrome operating system is virus proof.  If you completely mess up your system (hard to do), you can do a fresh restart and everything you were doing gets automatically put back in place as soon as you log in.  This means that if your Chromebook gets run over by a truck, you can turn on a fresh one, log in, and keeps working as if nothing happened.  Start-time (from cold start) is about eight seconds.  If you have the Chromebook sleeping, it wakes up immediately.

There are a few changes that need to be made.  Some of the applications (e.g., Geogebra) do not have all the features of the laptop version, and there seems to be a bug in the current release of ChromeOS that makes it hard to rename files in GoogleDrive.

Of course GoogleDocs is the home for word processing and other traditional mainstream applications.  Finished documents can be exported to a wide range of formats (.docx, for example) so you can share your work with others in the format they prefer.

As I continue to use this new device, I will post more insights on this blog.  In the meantime, if you want a reliable device with long battery life (I get over 8 hours) for the bulk of what you do that is web-based (and local to your machine when it is nowhere near the Internet), this can be a very good $250 investment.