Google unveils Chrome-powered netbook – Should you care?

One of the top stories in the tech blogosphere today: Google is planning to send to a select group of guinea pigs a netbook computer powered by its Chrome operating system.

Seventeen months ago Google announced it would build a lightweight OS based on its Chrome browser as an alternative to machines powered by Windows and the Mac OS. With the Chrome OS, the Internet is essentially the operating system, and all apps will be Web-based.

You can apply to be one of the testers of the Cr-48. No word yet on when we’ll see Chrome netbooks for sale.

Cr-48.jpg

Features of the Cr-48 include:

-12.1-inch screen

-Full size keyboard

-3G chip for Verizon data in the US, your carrier of choice internationally

-802.11n dual-band WiFi

-8+ hours of active use, 8+ days of standby

-Webcam

-Flash storage

News Cut just conducted a Web-based chat on a Chrome browser with Houston Chronicle tech expert Dwight Silverman. Here’s a transcript:

News Cut: Why should we care about the Cr-48?

Silverman: It’s just one more attempt to create what techies have been wanting for years: A network computer. Only this time, it’s got the King of Clouds behind it: Google. So, it may actually succeed where others have failed. The problem has been both one of available bandwidth and “real user” apathy. Techies love the idea. Real people may or may not.

News Cut: Cr-48, eh?  What a poetic name.

Silverman: Cr is the atomic symbol for Chromium. Google calls its browser and this operating system Chrome. Chromium is the open-source version of both. Hey, it reminds me of Sony’s naming convention, only with fewer letters & numbers.

News Cut: It’s a stinky name.  I don’t care what you say. The pictures I’ve seen make it look as bland as its name, too.  Why not a sexier design?

 

Silverman: It’s a prototype, not really designed for commercial marketing. Eventually, you’ll be able to buy Chrome OS netbooks from companies like Samsung and Acer, and those will be sexier. Hopefully. This really is a trial product. Google’s getting the basic design into users’ hands and asking, “What do you think?” It could end up being different if the feedback warrants changes.

News Cut: What will a Chrome-based netbook have going for it that I cannot get anywhere else?  What is its reason for being, ultimately?

Silverman: If you’re a heavy user of Google products, it should make it easier to access them. It will have built-in support for Google Docs, Gmail and a lot of Web apps being designed for it. These mostly live in the cloud, along with your data. There’s not much storage on it and you’ll work primarily when you’re connected – which, with 3G connectivity from Verizon, could be all the time. But there’s a downside to that, too. You really will need to be online to access your data. You probably can work offline to a certain extent, but it will be heavily reliant on Internet access. That may not sit well with a lot of people.

News Cut: Final question: On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your lust factor?

Silverman: I don’t know that this invokes lust. More curiosity, I think. I don’t know if I can compute in the cloud all the time – I like having native apps, they’re far more powerful. I like the relative security of having control of my own data. But I’m open to new ways of doing things, so I’ll give it a try . . . that is, if I’m picked as one of the applicants to receive this.

  • jon

    I signed up for a chance to get one…

    Just think of the wonderful possibilities of never loosing data again cause it’s hosted some where by Google… no more “my computer died I can’t turn in my term paper” no more “I lost all the picture of my nephew when he was a baby cause my hard drive crashed”

    Sure the possibilities to host this stuff else were exists right now, but this will force things to exist off the computer.

    I’m looking forward to the tablet versions of chrome OS, with slightly more stationary kiosks for things that require massive amounts of data entry… check your email quick, send some messages, whip out your tablet, serious work, or long emails, head over to any desk with a computer, log in with your Google info, and start using it with all the same data.

  • John P.

    “look as bland as its name”

    I respectfully disagree with that. You call it bland, I call it “Stealth”. I kind of like it. Too many things look like Apple products these days.

    As for less powerful apps, I have an expensive, giant office suite on my personal computer, and what do I do with it? A little uncomplicated word processing, and simple spreadsheets. I have done a few things with Google’s “Apps” and found them okay. Not great, but okay and constantly improving. I use GMail’s web interface almost exclusively.

    This machine is going to excel at web browsing. That’s 95% of what I use my personal computer for. I’ll trade local apps for excellent battery life and small size.

    It would be nice if it can accept a USB stick or SD card so I can put a bit of music on it. or otherwise augment the on-board storage.

    I would be interested if this thing had WI-FI and did not require another carrier contract. I can live with using it at home, library, coffee shops, and other places that have WI-FI.

    Yeah … sign me up, probably.

  • John P.

    Doh! I see it does have WI-FI. Now, if I can get it without the Verizon contract, I’m pretty much there.

  • JackU

    For real geek cache they should have named it Cr-52. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out why. ;-)