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! :)


7 thoughts on “In praise of Chrome OS

  1. Short answer: I haven’t really got the time to do that, and as he doesn’t allow comments on his blog, I just posted my thoughts above. Maybe you can ;)

    But this wasn’t so much about him. I just took it as an occasion to express my appreciation of Chrome OS. I come across people on the internet making glib comments about Chrome OS all the time, and eventually it often turns out that they’ve never tried it. I’m not saying Carmo is one of them, but his above comment got me going :)

    • Sorry, I haven’t got time for it either, but I appreciate your comments about Chrome OS. My take on it is that it is a Google products, and like all Google products, it is yet another way of getting more info about you. Logging on as an anonymous user does not cut it for me. Another thing I don’t like is that you cannot install on it nor save anything locally.
      I agree with your comments re more competition in the market, and Google does everything it can to make its apps sooooooooo easy to use, it is almost impossible to resist. For now I can.

      • >yet another way of getting more info about you

        Yes, but a) at least they are upfront about it, b) all other major providers seem to be at it (see e.g. Microsoft’s Windows 10), and c) you can use adblockers and never see an advert. But it’s a trade-off the user needs to be willing to accept, which I am.

        Also, you can save locally, it’s just that the local storage tends to be small (16-32 GB), as it’s a cloud device after all. And you can install apps, as long as they come from the Google Web Store.

        BTW, there are people who just wipe the entire Chrome OS and install full Linux instead, as Chromebooks make the perfect Linux machines (as it’s already Linux-based). But I’m quite happy to stick with Chrome OS; though I might dip my toe in with Chrouton, once I got the time.

  2. I am using Chrome all the time. And I am not using ConnectedText as much. Are you still using connected text? Is there a way to run ConnectedText on Chrome? Are you comfortable with Drive as a storage device? Thanks.

    • I only use Chrome on my Chromebook (and Android tablet), I prefer Firefox on Windows (for the way it’s rendered, mainly).

      Yes, ConnectedText continues to be my external brain, project management solution, and many other things. Unfortunately there is no way to run it on a Chromebook, other than perhaps installing it in an emulator like Wine if you have Linux installed as well (but that’s beyond my current skills and patience). I just bought a Windows laptop primarily so that I can have CT with me everywhere.

      As for Google Drive, I don’t put everything on there but sure it’s convenient as a cloud storage with Chromebooks and across platforms. But I didn’t find its Windows client 100% reliable (the syncing didn’t seem to be perfect), so on Windows I prefer Dropbox.

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