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The Chromebook Pixel, proving the Internet Tech Press doesn’t have a clue..

google-chromebook-pixel

This week Google announced a new “mainly Google built” Chromebook which has generated a huge amount of buzz in the tech press. Most of it not about ChromeOS but about the cost of the thing..

At a tickle over £1000 in the UK

Checking the Google Play Store the price in the UK is £1047 for the Wifi variant with no obvious price in the UK for the LTE version yet. I’d suggest of the two versions the LTE would be the better one maybe if you travel around a lot however the Wifi device can tether to your mobile phone in most cases.

chromebookliddoenSo what do I get for my £1000? Well the spec’s are indeed pretty stunning on the Chromebook with from an aesthetic point of view the look and feel of this device has Google aiming fiar and square at the Apple Macbook Pro’s An integrated HD webcam, microphone array, and active noise cancellation help ensure that video and audio are lifelike. Multi-finger touch, natural scrolling, and all the other gestures you would expect are smooth and precise on the etched glass touchpad.which by all accounts is far better than the one on the aforementioned Macbook Pro.

However key to any device is not just the look and feel but what is under the hood, how will this laptop be faring in 3 years time when other devices will have been launched and you are still the early adopter with a Chromebook?

So the specs are:

Base Unit

  • Intel Core i5-3427U processor (Dual Core 1.8GHz)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000 (Integrated)
  • 4GB DDR3 1600Mhz RAM
  • 32GB solid state drive (64GB on LTE model)
  • Up to 5 hours of active use (59 Wh battery)
  • 297.7 x 224.6 x 16.2 mm
  • 3.35 lbs / 1.52 kg

Screen

  • 12.85″ display with a 3:2 aspect ratio
  • 2560 x 1700 at 239 PPI
  • 400 nit screen brightness
  • 178° extra-wide viewing angle

this makes the unit a decent spec which will last a while, even more so when you consider it’s not running the huge OS base of Windows 8 or OSX on itself and that’s VERY important to remember.

Is this a high cost?

The biggest headlines on the popular tech press are about the cost of this device and at first glance yes that is a lot of cash. Chromebooks have been pitched as low cost, second screen devices maybe an alternative to a netbooks. They have never been pitched as rivals to the top end rivals and more establish brands or systems.

openhalpfphotoSo why now the £1000 device? Well on initial inspection this does seem to be a well built machine, with features not available on it’s current crop of competition the biggest of which is the touch sensitive screen, something seen on many Tablets and Tablet keyboard combinations. Considering how the OS works, and its cross platform popularity something which could ignite a change to how the Internet is used. There is another item you get with the Chromebook is hidden down there but something which may explain some of the cost (to a point) 1Tb of Google Drive storage for 2 years which if bought on its own in the UK would cost you  £787.35

There is possibly another reason for the bumper price, simply perception. As i’ve written above ChromeOS is (because of Google’s pitching of low cost devices) as cheap OS, cheap suggests something you’d not take seriously against the big boys. Putting a higher cost device out there could change the perception of the OS?

Of course there is always the age old suggestion which up until recently has been true, £1000 is what you spend on decent hardware. It’s only in the last few years we have started getting decent usable low cost Laptops and Tablets.

So what about ChromeOS?

As well as the ooh, and gosh over the price of the unit, there was the moans and groans about ChromeOS and how its not really an OS, it’s got no apps etc etc. Its painfully obvious that the vast majority of people who moan about ChromeOS have never used it. Thankfully I do because I get it.

Put quite simple when in Pubs and cafe’s and out and about in London what i see if people using web browsers and checking mail, opening files and using the browser more than local apps. And this is what ChromeOS is all about, Google’s Chrome has a huge number of Web based Applications which open in the browser or enhance the experience of sites. The concept imple suggests that we spend so much time in the browser why do you need desktop Applications?

cloudbuttonFor a lot of people this will mean a change in Workflow and THAT is the problem many will have with ChromeOS not that the OS doesn’t run traditional desktop Applications. Once you’ve got your workflow changed using this lightweight OS makes perfect sense. there is another popular misconception that ChromeOS will only run Google’s WebApps, again this is wrong Just like its sibling Desktop browser ChromeOS will run anything which is web based so I can run Outlook.com, OWA, Plex, SkyDrive, Evernote and all the other great web services on the laptop.

I’d even go so far as to say yes, there will alswyas be a need for Desktop Operating systems, you’re not going to be rendering movies on this (although you can go a lot of photo editing) and if your a died in the wool Photoshop nut then right now (but not for long) this might not be the option for you. However with all of these things it is only a matter of time before more and more Desktop Applications go web based. With Internet speeds improving, mobile internet getting 40mb speeds over LTE and advances in browser technology, when you start to see even Microsoft pushing Office via Office365 as a usable collaboration tool you start to realise that maybe, just maybe a browser based OS isn’t such a bad idea.

But what happens if you are Offline?

The other common concern is the “What happens if you are offline” issue? Well if you are a Google advocate then gMail works offline Google Drive sync’s files offline, Google Docs, Calendars and Contacts still all works offline.

However I’d put to you how much work doe you do on an iPad, smartphone or even a Windows PC these days when you are offline? Even the most hardened desktop applications on most platforms require some sort of Internet connection and some even won’t start up unless they can get one.

With most phones offering the facility to connect to them over Wifi and use the 3G data plan (tethering) I’d also suggest that this will become more common. While the offline argument is a valid one, in most cases i believe you can with workflow change overcome it.

Linux Ultrabook

Now something positive I have read about this device is about its Bootloader, on my little Acer C7 i can run ChromeOS and Ubuntu 12.04 because some fine individual figured out a few commands to switch between the two OS’s once installed (which i’ve scripted using zenity on the Ubuntu OS site) so i’ve got the best of both worlds if somewhat fiddly. On this new Chrome book however Google packed a copy of SeaBIOS into the Pixel, making it easier to boot an alternate operating system on this machine than on any other Chromebook released to date.

As liliputing have noted

The Chromebook Pixel is designed to run Chrome OS, so not all hardware will be supported out of the box by other operating systems. The touchpad doesn’t work in Linux Mint yet, for instance. But Google is contributing upstream patches to the Linux kernel which means that soon you may be able to run any number of Linux-based operating systems on this premium notebook.

This is great, being able to boot up and choose which OS, the superfast ChromeOS boot or for some heavier lifting a copy of Ubuntu or Sabayon. Now this is starting to sound like a very nice device.

Merging of Android and ChromeOS

cloudheaderThe last great winge i’ve read on many sites is the moan that ChromeOS and Android have not been merged. I’m sorry if this doesn’t prove just how little the people making these statements understand about the direction consumer computing is taking then nothing else above will. It seems to baffle these people that Google could possibly have multiple Operating systems running. I’m guessing that these same people don’t understand that IOS just wouldn’t work as a concept on a Macbook Pro. the two OS’s ChromeOs and Android server tow very different purposes and both have an equally valid place. I’m not sure why i’d install for example the LinkedIn Android App on my ChromeBook if i could because its terrible, as many apps really are, they lack the full feature set of the web system and are intrinsically just a fudge because for a long time Websites just didn’t scale properly onto smaller smart phone screens. If you remember back to the iPhone launch Apple didn’t have apps, it didn’t take them long to figure out however that the web was a nasty experience.and they needed a way to make it look better on a phone.

Conclusion

Yes this is an expensive laptop, that is what you get when you have touch screens, good build quality, a good spec on a device. Take a look at the Android or top end IOS devices they are not cheap either. Yes ChromeOS means you’ll need to change how you work, probably for the better (stuff might be backed up for example) as an OS you won’t be plagued by Firewalls, Malware, Spyware or any of that other nasty stuff, there is no need to worry about drivers and every web application i’ve used on it works perfectly. 2Gb is more than enough for this OS to be great.

The Tech community need to loosen up a little and realize that IT is in a period of HUGE change, consumers want to do more, do it differently and want a bigger choice than just Apple or Microsoft on a PC.

Having just spent over this cost for a Samsung Series 7 Win 8 tablet at work which is slow, plastic and generally poor build quality, if that’s the future of Windows 8, i’m out..

This looks like a great bit of kit, good on Google for having the balls to release it in a recession, good on them for being innovators and trying something different. I’d recommend this OS to anyone and now we have a complete spectrum of price…

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