Don't get me wrong - I think Chromebooks are a great idea. Just marginally ahead of their time, which makes them pretty useless.
This may all represent the bleeding obvious, but I feel I'm in a pretty good place to comment - I want to move as much to the cloud as possible, but am being held back.
Chromebooks are laptops running Chrome (the browser you're probably using to read this, according to my stats) and nothing else. The apps live in the cloud, more or less, on the assumption that you spend most of your time in the browser anyway, so don't really need the rest of an operating system. This is mostly true - I spend at least 90% of my time in the browser:
- Facebook and Google+ keep me in contact with others
- Google+ hangouts suffice for those occasional face-to-face meeting, assuming that Brunel's internet connection doesn't add a couple of seconds of latency
- Gmail works not only to keep on top of my emails, but also as a reminder of things to do - important things to follow up get a star. (Although at the time of writing I've got 21, so apologies if you're waiting for something)
- Google Calendar tells me where are when to be, in conjunction with my phone
- Google Drive/docs is useful for writing documents and spreadsheets before taking them into InDesign, if necessary. To clarify how well Google docs works for me, I don't own a copy of Microsoft Office
- Youtube keeps me entertained between doing everything else
- iPlayer keeps me entertained for more than 10 minutes
- Google Play Music gives me something to listen to (although I've moved back to VLC since being in halls, as streaming is a bit tricky)
- Feedly keeps me on top of everything new (although I tend to use my phone)
- I can even review Adobe files in creative cloud
- Autodesk 360 probably does something...
However, the other 10% tends to be the really important stuff - design work. And this requires a set of programs that haven't quite made it into the cloud properly yet:
- Autodesk Inventor for CAD work (3D modelling) - the web's nearly ready for this to move into the cloud, but realistically professional CAD tools in the cloud are a couple of years off still.
- Photoshop for picture editing. Sure, there are online photo editors, but they're no match for the power of Photoshop
- Illustrator and InDesign for vector and print work. There's a fair amount of overlap between them, which makes it hard to decide which to use sometimes, but I generally base it on whether I want to use a grid - if the grid's the most important bit, or it's text-heavy (in which case it's probably griddy anyway), then it's InDesign, otherwise Illustrator's a bit easier to use.
I could conceivably run two computers: a Chromebook for general day-to-day use and my proper laptop for design work - the laptop would get all my Chromebook date through magic anyway. And with the anouncement of the £220 HP Chromebook 11
, it became very tempting. But then comes the problem with Chromebooks:
The web's getting pretty resource-intensive these days - with at least 5 or 6 pinned tabs, averaging a hundred or so MB of RAM each and a load of other tabs open ("research" sessions often end up with a dozen or two tabs open) spare RAM becomes like gold dust, and the processor's starting to have a hard time keeping up with the whims of the web pages coders.
But the HP's specs are pretty close to my Nexus 4 - I struggle to see how it's going to keep up with my browser usage. The Chromebooks are cool because they're cheap, so it doesn't matter that they only run (*are) a browser, but to make them cheap they have to have the specs of a cheap computer. And I don't want to buy a computer with rubbish specs.
So maybe I should bite the bullet and buy a more upmarket Chromebook Pixel
- essentially Google's answer to the Macbook. It's pretty sexy, but at £1049, cheap doesn't even factor into it. For that price, it's almost got a good spec, any gaps in it being supposedly taken up by how nice the screen is. And then comes the big problem.
If I'm spending that much on a laptop, with a touchscreen that's that nice, I expect it to run creative suite. And it can't.
So there's the problem - a low end Chromebook isn't good enough for the level of browser use I need, and the high end is too good for the web.
Give it a couple of years, when the native application is as good as dead, and I'd buy one in a flash, but right now there just isn't a suitable price/performance/usefulness tradeoff.
Whilst writing this, however, there was a problem.
The there I was, writing this post, when I notices I'd missed something about the HP Chromebook 11. It comes in black! £220 for a little black
laptop and I'm much closer to being sold.
Thankfully I need to buy food. Damn you Sainsburys...