So when I first heard of the “Chromebook” I honestly couldn’t think what it might be! I thought it was maybe a published document of research from Google. But doh! It’s a little netbook (small laptop) that doesn’t have anything else than a web browser on it.

No desktop (and so no desktop background photo!) No software (so no Microsoft Word or Photoshop) No software email client (so no Outlook or Mail). Just an Internet browser. The idea of course being, you can use Google docs instead of Word or Excel; you can use Gmail instead of Outlook; you can use Google Calendar instead of – well – any other calendar. And I have used all of those Google offerings for years so it sounds fine to me!

And the joy of just having an Internet Browser is that the machine can start up in 8 seconds.
Overall I love the fact that Google are emphasising how the web can be used for everything! We’ve been triumphing for years that you don’t need accounting software, you don’t need a computer based CRM – it can all just be done through your website. 

I was in a meeting the other day and everyone was talking about mobile apps – “soon we won’t need websites” someone said… well, besides the fact that lots of apps rely on a website (or online system anyway) to update / store info etc., I really do feel there’s only so much you can do on your phone. This might be famous last words, and we first made a website for a phone years and years ago, so I’m not reluctant to embrace the move forward to smart phones, but I just don’t get on so well with a tiny screen as I do on my main monitor. Looking at houses, looking at wedding venues (it’s a busy time in my life at the moment!), I always end up emailing myself a link from my phone so I can look on a big screen the next day. So, I drastically digress, but my convoluted point is that I like the fact that Google are investing so much in good ol’ fashioned websites 🙂

I guess my only hesitation is on things as interface lead as Microsoft Word… don’t get me wrong, MS Word bullet points frustrate me like nothing on earth. But I can get there eventually whereas I find Google Doc’s way of handling page breaks troublesome (last time I used it anyway) and I’ve never successfully used Google Docs for a business document – we use it for internal spreadsheets/records/schematics. So this leads me to consider the placement of the Chromebook?
It’s not going to be a replacement device for a business person. They will be able to communicate and update their own records, but they’ll still have to get to the office to write things up in full. I expect I’d use it like I am now – on a bus on the way back from a conference, writing up notes (as long as Google docs will work offline? Whatever happened to Google Gears anyway?). And I’d use it to more easily check my Gmail when I need to see an attachment more easily than on a phone, and update blogs etc.

A market identified by Google is education – and this might be a good point, because children in schools do now have laptops and it’s important that the Internet is involved in the education of tomorrow’s generation who will rely on it so heavily, as we already do. Next time I see a teacher-friend I’ll ask them for their comments on this.

I guess I think another audience is the evening browser – the young adult who wants to sit on the sofa of an evening and check Facebook and read the news; search for their next holiday or in my case, check out RightMove (and whilst they have, I think, a great mobile site, I want to do that little “draw a search” thing). BUT – what’s this evening browser going to choose? A Chromebook which looks like a netbook, or an ipad? Which is a tablet and so removed from the idea of the keyboard you’ve been typing away on all day in the office. The Chromebook that hasn’t got the “coolness” of the iPad. Although it will have flash 😉
Price point wise, it’s apparently going to be more expensive than a netbook but cheaper than an iPad. 

All in all, I like the idea of the Chromebook – and if anyone wanted to give me one I certainly wouldn’t say no and I know I’d use it a lot in my line of work – but I’m not sure where it will fit in most people’s lives alongside all the other devices that are now available. Afterall, how many computers does a girl need? But then – I thought iPads were a ridiculous fad until I had one.