Switching to Chrome OS and Chromebook – A $250 Laptop from Samsung

Many of you know that Google has been developing an operating system for computers, Chrome OS. They have partnered with a few manufacturers to bring that OS to some very nice hardware, namely the Chromebooks from Samsung.

The $250 laptop is 11.6 inches and 2.4 pounds. The thing starts up in 10 seconds and resumes from sleep in the time it takes you to lift the display. The hardware is pretty good (I’d love a version with more than 2GB of ram). The software, the OS, is different and probably the future for most computer users. Google is way ahead of the curve on this one.

Chrome OS is a different type of operating system. Instead of creating a new framework that developers can create applications for, Google has used their browser as the core function of their OS. This means your primary use-case on this computer is browsing the web. Don’t expect to install Photoshop.

To be fair, Google added file organization and a music player but that’s about it. The method they offer to add more functionality is through their Chrome Web Store. This store is a place to find games, productivity apps and everything in between. This framework already exists and has a rich ecosystem of apps and developers (compared to an ecosystem for a new OS framework).

My wife and I are in the market for a new laptop and I really like the idea of Chrome OS (I really like the price of Chromebook). As a test-case, over the next few months I will attempt to move as much of my ‘home’ computing software to the internet with the Chrome Web Store as a resource for doing so.

One piece of software that my wife uses, almost daily, is photo software. A quick search on the Google Web Store revealed a nice web app called Pixlr. This software is amazing (for living on the web-only). I will encourage my wife to use this app moving forward. One feature I like better on Pixlr than our current software is the ability to read and save photos to and from various web services. I can open and save photos from/to Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, a proprietary Pixlr library and of course directly from/to my computer. One feature that is particularly important when thinking about switching to Chrome OS is the ability to have all my photos in the cloud. Opening and saving to Picasa is fantastic (I should mention that I currently save all my photos into a Pictures folder that is mapped to my Google Drive storage…my files live in the cloud).

Speaking of Google Drive storage, with each Chromebook purchase Google will give you 100GB of free online storage for 2 years. That’s enough space to move all of my files to the cloud (except for some video/movie files which I store on a local hard drive that’s connected to my WD TV Live set-top box for viewing on my TV). I already pay for 25GB of extra storage, on top of the 5GB they give you, which I use for pictures, documents, and many other types of files (I’m at 18.2GB usage). In fact, the only files I don’t store in Google Drive are music files. But Google has provided a solution for that too.

I currently use iTunes on my laptop but I will be switching to Google Play Music during this test period. I already have all my music stored in Google Play Music (for free). Basically, I just need to refresh my content and stop using iTunes (I use Pandora 75% of the time anyway).

Assuming Chrome OS will play various video file formats (I currently use VLC media player but usually just watch videos, Netflix or Hulu on my WD TV Live) the only software I don’t see a solution for is Torrents. Update: after some research, BitTorrent has offered an in-browser solution for downloading via Torrent files (it’s not quite finished but it’s in active development).

There you go. All of my ‘home’ usage is already or will be easy to switch to the browser/internet. I say ‘home’ usage because I’m a web developer and the online-only solutions for my industry haven’t been made usable yet (Koding is trying).

I can’t say this is a totally courageous move because I’m in the process of building a home, desktop, computer that will be quite powerful and very able to run all the desktop applications I currently enjoy. However, as a second primary, home computer Chromebook will be an excellent, inexpensive, solution.

Thoughts? Connect on Twitter @KeithMon

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