Now that Google has productized the Cr-48 and anounced the Chromebook, I wanted to write down some closing thoughts as a Cr-48 pilot user.
I'll start with the positives.
- Lightweight, nice form factor (obviously this could change with different hardware providers)
- Fast boot times and very fast wake from sleep
- Chrome runs well, but is not fast
- Long battery life even with WiFi on
- Accounts and settings sync seems to work well, but is essentially the same that you get with normal installs of Chrome
- Video sucks. This is 90% the fault of Flash and 10% the fault of Google. Any Linux system with low-powered CPUs will have problems with Flash and the Cr-48 is no exception. It will probably improve, but will likely not ever be a great experience. (At this moment, Netflix doesn't work, but supposedly they are working on a Chrome App.)
- Audio is meh. I guess it depends on where/how you get your music on the web. Web based streaming will work just fine, but you won't come anywhere close to the experience of a dedicated player or something iPod/iPad like.
- I haven't found Chrome Apps that make me care about the Chrome Web Store. Granted, I haven't spent all that much time looking, but, not even once, I have I found one recommended by someone else on the Web
- It's hard to get any work done on this computer. Of course, that's specific to me (when I say work, I'm talking about programming or other developement related tasks).
- The form factor, while nice, is not really different from what you could get with a proper laptop.
However, I think the biggest problem with ChromeOS is that I don't see how it will fit into an average consumer's life. If you want a lightweight, web browsing and content consuming device, I feel like a tablet is a better option. My iPad 2 feels about as fast as the Cr-48 in normal web browsing tasks. The media experience on the iPad is definitely better.
Looking up the other way in the computing spectrum, I feel like if I'm already going to use a notebook like device with a full keyboard, I might as well use a full notebook and have available all of the power of that platform.
So, to me, the Cr-48 and ChromeOS feels like its stuck in this valley where it doesn't make much sense given the other options on the market. Maybe they could compete on price, but for the announced price of $350 for Chromebooks, I feel like its probably a little too expensive. I'm also unsure that people will realize what they are buying if they were to pick up a Chromebook in stores. How many consumers would be comfortable not having access to anything outside of a web browser?
That leaves me wondering, is there any market where a Chromebook makes a lot of sense? Potentially, yes. I see the biggest benefit in markets that can take advantage of having everything stored "in the cloud". For example, businesses and education comes to mind. In both cases, there is benefit to giving the user a computer that is simply a terminal to a controlled environment (meaning a company's web portal or a school's eductation web app). These markets tend to be naturally moving toward completely web-based work flows, so a device like the Chromebook, where administrators don't have to worry about what software is installed locally, or what the user might do to screw it up (no more viruses!), could potentially be a great fit there.
Well, it's been fun using my Cr-48 and I'm glad that Google sent one my way. (How awesome is it that a company sends out such a significant piece of hardware for free?!?) However, I don't feel like the Cr-48 ever found its way into my life. It turns out, I don't need an underpowered laptop running Chrome when I have a very powerful laptop that also runs Chrome.