As more of our lives are lived online, whether through social networking, accessing media content such as videos, music or games, or actually doing ‘proper’ work through the use of shared projects, the increasing visibility of Google as a one stop shop for all our cloud computing needs is entering a new phase.
The Chromebook, bastion of this new approach, is positioned as a gateway into this brave new world that Google is predicting will soon become a reality for its unsuspecting army of potential laptop buyers. The concept of the machine is certainly sound: a stripped down operating system running on hardware that favours long battery life and access to the internet as its primary functions, coupled with speedy start-up times (around eight seconds is usually quoted as the average) and a slightly lower than average price point in comparison to something like an entry level Windows laptop. Specifications that would normally trouble those of a more technical mindset become largely irrelevant when considering how much the machine is designed purely for facilitating easy access to the ubiquitous ‘cloud’ which Google seems to think is where we’ll be spending most of our time in the future.
For the majority of PC users, not having to bother getting their hands dirty with the ins and outs of a more fully-featured operating system such as Windows or Apple’s iOS will provide a welcome change and indeed the Chrome OS which comes pre-installed really does only provide the bare bones necessary to access any files and media stored on the machine. As technology has become increasingly embedded in our society at all levels, so our degree of technical literacy has been forced to keep pace or risk being left behind. Seen in this light, the Chromebook project can be seen as Google’s attempt to redress this imbalance, embodying a design philosophy tailored towards simplicity and ease of use and concerned only to facilitate the usage characteristics of the majority of its users.
All things considered, it seems that the Chromebook is the natural culmination of a number of personal computing trends that have emerged over the last ten to fifteen years. It combines some innovative forward thinking on Google’s behalf backed up by some solid integration with its own products to offer something which the laptop PC market has never really seen before, and it will be interesting to see if the concept will come to signify a new era in computing history.