Friday, December 24, 2010

Cr-48 Day 4 - General Musings

A lot of folks on the internet are speculating about the reasons behind Google's push of the "Browser as an OS" idea.  Especially now that a more sizeable userbase is actually experiencing ChromeOS for themselves, questions have certainly begun to fly.  Many question whether the concept is only for the lowest subset of user, and of no use to the power user.  As I happily continue with my Cr-48 on day four, I'd like to address these concerns.
My new tab screen, displaying apps "Installed."

I have used netbooks before.  I have been the unsatisfied user of an Asus EeePC, an HP MiniNote, and a Dell Mini 10v for moderately extended periods.  In each case, within hours I went running back to my full laptop.  I have not yet wished that I'd brought along another notebook, or thought that I should only use ChromeOS as a supplement to my main machine.  In fact, excluding my work computer, I have not used a full PC for any extended period of time since Monday.

A notebook running a standard operating system, by default, punishes you for using it on the go.  Microsoft Windows has been designed for a workstation, a system that is dedicated to tasks that take time.  While one can make it mobile, at least in my experience, suffering awaits every step of the way.  Sleep mode and hibernation go a long way, but they simply aren't good enough.  My commute to work is approximately 2.5 hours each way.  There are several connections, bus switches, layovers, etc, that I experience during these trips.  With a Windows laptop, boot-up times ate away at my usable time period, and I spent most of my time checking the clock to make sure I started a shutdown or suspend operation in time to catch my next connection.  The classic netbook suffers from the same issues, but in many cases the issues are magnified by the hardware that the machine runs.  Bringing up my former EeePC, for example, took a good 5 minutes - from sleep mode.  Suspending was often flaky as well, with random apps preventing the system from correctly completing the operation, leaving me with a very warm portable, and a very dead battery upon later retrieval.  This type of punishment has left folks like myself to rely on a smartphone, or other ultra mobile, quick resuming device, to fill the void during long commutes, for fear of damaging valuable PC equipment or data by powering it on or off incorrectly.

EA's Lord Of Ultima - Web based MMORTS.
The Cr-48 removes these concerns from the user's path.  Open the lid, and it knows what it's doing.  Before I even finish typing my password, it's checked for my memorized WiFi connections.  If it has not found one, it logs me on to Verizon's 3g service.  My screen is exactly as I left it - games and chat clients running in the browser, and even my SSH sessions via the terminal resume without a hitch.  Closing the lid immediately suspends the unit, with no local running applications to hang up the system.  The experience doesn't punish me for being mobile, in fact, it encourages me to use it on the go.  It's almost like my smartphone, except I can actually use it to get something done.

The standard netbook experience takes the laptop experience and makes it worse.  Having a full OS will encourage a power user to use it like a full OS - what begins as simply logging on to check email can quickly turn to frustration as a power user like myself attempts to run some software that the system simply isn't built for.  The ChromeOS model takes away that temptation, instead providing you with a perfect experience for the web.  While the experience could live in a netbook form factor, I think that placing the entire experience in a platform the size of an ultralight notebook gives it a degree of usability that no other competing platform can boast - tablets and netbooks simply can't do mobile, the way I want to be mobile, as well as ChromeOS.

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