Today I received a Google Cr-48, a lightweight laptop running Chrome OS, as a part of their pilot program. It was a surprise since Google doesn't inform you of your acceptance into the program. The only way you know you got in is when the laptop is in your hands.
Here's some of my initial thoughts after a few hours of playing around with it.
The build and quality of the hardware is pretty high for what is most likely an inexpensive laptop. Much nicer than earlier netbooks, such as the Eee PC that I've had for two years. The keyboard is pretty nice (I'm typing this on the Cr-48), higher quality than I'd probably expect on a laptop of this caliber. I also like the rubberized feel to the machine. Seems like it would be harder to drop this thing than if it had a glossy finish. The biggest flaw that I've noticed so far is with the operation of the trackpad. It isn't honestly that bad, but it does stand out as something that should work better. I've been spoiled by Apple trackpads for some time, but even basic scroll gestures can be tough on this pad. I feel like it's something that will probably be addressed in a software update.
Right off the bat, I wanted to get into the Linux system that this machine is built on. The default configuration allows you to press Ctrl+Alt+T to open a very minimal terminal. The only familiar things that seem to work are minimal access to ssh and top. There what look like some developer/debug commands and that's it. Thankfully, Google builds a Developer Mode into the machine. Accessing this is as easy as flipping a switch located under the batter of the device. Here are instructions for how to do that. Once you do, the machine will do its thing as it boots and wipe all local storage in the process. After it's up and running, here's a list of some of the things you can do. Most useful to me is full shell access on a virtual terminal. At least with this, I could conceivably get some work done using this machine. Without dev mode, I don't think that'd be possible.
I'm really glad to have one of these to play around with. I think it will make a fun companion for the upcoming holiday. Also, free Verizon 3G service is awesome. Thank you, Google! While I'm definitely excited to have my hands on this thing, I'm not convinced that Google needed to develop an entirely new (well, halfway new) operating system for Chrome. I imagine most of the pain points and issues that they get feedback on will be OS level things that have already been solved well in other operating systems. Linux is a great platform to build on, but its hard to catch up years of usability efforts put into other consumer OSes. Chrome is a great browser and I love using it, but I'm not sold on the idea that it should be the only thing my computer is capable of doing. Still, I'm going to keep using this device and put it through its paces. Off the bat, it seems to be a good netbook.