In praise of Chrome OS

Generally I like Rui Carmo‘s take on things (at least what concerns computers, that’s all I know about him), but I couldn’t disagree more with this recent comment of his:

And it wouldn’t be a great loss if Chrome OS faded away, really.

I don’t know what he has got against Chrome OS, but for me personally it has been one of the most enjoyable discoveries of recent years. I have been using an HP Chromebook 14 (1st gen.) for the past two years, and I have only just acquired an Asus Chromebook Flip to be my dedicated reading and note-taking device. If anything, I wish that other OS’s would start up and operate as fast as Chrome OS does, and every time I’m in a Windows environment these days, I’m wishing I could be using my Chromebook instead. And I say that as a massive fan of lots of Windows apps (just check out my Favourite Tools list), and someone who has just bought a Windows mobile workstation, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

I also own an Android tablet (a Hudl 2), but if I had to choose between the two platforms, I’d rather have Chrome OS survive as a tablet OS than Android, for the simple reason that you get a full desktop browser with all the extensions that you want. In fact, the Asus Flip is a step in that direction. If Chrome OS and Android ever merge (I hope they don’t), I hope it will be Chrome OS running some Android apps, rather than the other way round.

But putting aside the fact that Chrome OS is an absolute pleasure to use (and since I bought my first Chrome OS device two years ago I have been slowly converting members of my family, young and old, to use Chromebooks, and without exception they love them), why would you wish that in the rarified olygopolistic market of operating systems we would lose one of the players, especially the one that is challenging the established order? I remember the days when Microsoft had 90+% market share. What was so great about that? I don’t see who could benefit from the reduction of diversity in the operating system market other than the duo of Microsoft and Apple–certainly not the consumer. In fact Chrome OS being a Linux-based system, it even works as a ‘gateway-drug’ for curious people to dip their toes into Chrouton and then Linux, thus increasing diversity in the market further.

By the way, the notion that Chromebooks are only for children and grandparents is also completely misplaced. As you can see at the Chrome OS Reddit,there are some very sophisticated users of Chrome OS out there who know far more about computing than I do, such as computer programmers.

So what is so great about a Chromebook? Besides the fact that it boots in a few seconds, it is instantly on when you wake it from sleep, ready for note-taking or blazingly-fast web surfing and work in the cloud. Add to that the minimal maintenance (you don’t even need to know or notice when you are updating the OS), and the lack of viruses, what is there not to love? And if you are worried about your computer spying on you, just log on as an anonymous user. Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget about the 6-12 hours of battery life, depending on the model you own, so you can say good-bye to lugging your charger around. And if we are talking about lugging things around, Chromebooks also tend to be thinner and lighter, thanks to the lightness of the OS. Some of them don’t even have fans, so they are perfectly silent.

But I can understand the initial skepticism of people who have never tried a Chromebook. A computer whose operating system and main interface is effectively a browser indeed does not sound like a terribly exciting proposition. I was one of those doubters myself: here is the evidence. In the case of Chromebooks you really need to try one for a while to fully experience the benefits which otherwise are not that easy to convey, such as how it affects your computing, note-taking and browsing habits when your computer is instantly on, is highly portable (just check the size of the Asus Flip), and when web pages load in an instant. It is a new way of experiencing the web.

OK, Google, you should really send me a complimentary Pixel 2 LS for standing up for you like this! :)