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When Google launched the first Chromebook in 2011 running Google Chrome OS, the questions on most people’s minds were why and how; why would anyone want to use a browser as their operating system and how on earth is it going to work out. Fast forward to 2013, the situation has changed a lot. While the first Chromebook Cr-48 was manufactured only by Samsung, now HP, Lenovo and Acer have jumped in the fray and have launched their Chromebooks which are typically in the range of $200-$350.

How it works?


Image credit: Labnol

Google markets Chromebook as a notebook that boots in seconds, always runs the latest version of the OS and is inexpensive; all three things users expect from a Windows laptop! But all good things come with a catch – in the case of the Chromebook it is the availability of an Internet connection pretty much all the time. Basically the Chrome OS is just the Chrome browser made to run on a laptop on its own and deal with the work done by a typical OS. So typically a user would be accessing their mails, documents, movies, music,etc over the cloud through the browser. In case of Google services like GMail, Google Drive, Google Docs,etc there are apps available on the Chrome app store. They are pretty much the same as accessing through a URL except that some features like document editing, viewing files on Google Drive will be made available offline. Changes made to the files are stored locally and then synced when the user connects to Internet.

Not that bad an OS after all

So the question is will users take the big leap of faith and buy a Chromebook. The answer seems to be Yes. Acer reported brisk sales of Chromebooks and the top selling computer on Amazon during the holiday season was Chromebooks! Surprised? yeah me too. But when you think about it, it actually makes sense to spend $200 for a laptop that can do pretty much what a tablet can do, but with a keyboard and a bigger screen. Chromebook’s target audience are people looking for a spare computer, schools in developing countries which cannot purchase expensive PCs and first time users. The fact that the Chrome OS is just a browser with a single search cum navigation bar means it doesn’t get any simpler than this.

Google Drive – More than just storage

Google has worked a lot on its core services GMail, Docs and Drive to ensure that users are able to do the basic tasks easily through a browser. Some of the latest updates include a Chrome extension to save images from webpages directly to Google Drive. Google has also added cool features like zooming to images stored on Drive, selecting a region and adding a comment to it. Another new addition is the Forms; they let you easily create questionnaires and automatically collect responses in a spreadsheet. Say you want to organize a team outing and want to know which places your team  members would be interested to go, just create a form, share the link to them via mail, Google+ or Facebook and its done. Another totally awesome feature Google announced on Tuesday is developers can now host their websites on Google Drive by storing HTML, CSS and Javascript files! Sure not everyone would want to host their website on Google Drive but it is still a great way to build and design a prototype and share it with the client.

Like all great ideas which make a debut before their time sound crazy, the thought of using a browser as an OS sounded ridiculous way back in 2011 but it doesn’t sound so weird now. Google has always taken bold risks by venturing in new areas and the Chrome OS is just another milestone for the Internet giant. Will the Chromebook become mainstream this year? We will just have to wait and watch!

This article has been reproduced from Sridhar’s blog.


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