Is a Chromebook Right for You?In 2009, Google released an operating system called Chrome OS, based on Linux. It is a lightweight OS designed to run on netbooks, or in today’s terms, an Ultrabook. It’s also an open source project, so the code is available if you are into that sort of thing. The Chromebook runs Chrome OS, and there are a few models currently available. And when I say available, I don’t mean you can run out to your favorite electronics retailer and pick one up today. The Chromebook has become wildly popular because of its price. The two most sought after models are the Acer C7 and the Samsung 11.6″, priced at $199 and $249 respectively. The Acer model seems to be available for ordering, but the Samsung model is hard to come by. Not only that, but it’s priced at a premium because demand is high, which kind of defeats the purpose of a low-cost device. Read on to find out if a Chromebook may fit your needs.

What Can I Do with It?

Consume Content: This is a fancy way of saying you will either read, listen to, or watch content on your Chromebook. Surfing the Internet, as it’s been called, is an ideal use. Reading articles or watching videos is also a perfect fit for the Chromebook. Many people never venture outside the browser when on a computer or laptop, so why not just boot into an OS that is basically a browser?

Email: Remember the days when Outlook Express ruled the desktop email programs? My favorite email client was Eudora Pro. Nowadays, most email is Web-based. Popular providers such as Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail have feature-rich clients. There is no longer a need for a traditional desktop email program. Not only can you manage your emails, but also your calendar. Each of the services I mentioned have a full-featured calendar to keep track of appointments and other important, date-sensitive items.

Video Chat: Sometimes you just need to put a face with the voice (or text message). Both the Acer and Samsung Chromebook come with a front-facing camera to allow you to video chat. A built-in microphone handles the voice while the webcam does a decent enough job of showing your face to the person on the other end. You can video chat with a bunch of friends or coworkers at the same time using Google Hangouts.

Be Productive: There are now a variety of online word processors, spreadsheets, calendars, and project/task managers to keep you busy anywhere at any time during the day or night. Some of those applications even work offline, so no Internet connection is needed. Share documents, give presentations, collaborate with colleagues on your latest venture, all from your Chromebook. Or simply keep track of a shopping list that is shared with the entire family.

Spend Time in the Cloud: Chrome OS is based on content being in the cloud. The advantage to this is that you can access it from anywhere. This mean no longer having to fumble with USB drives, or emailing documents from one computer to another. Having your data in one place also allows you to share it among devices.

I’m Still Not Convinced

Are there things a Chromebook can’t do that a laptop can? Of course, but do you really need a laptop is the question. If you find the above scenarios fit your needs, then you don’t need a laptop. For as little as $199, you get a laptop replacement with a full keyboard, USB and memory card slots, and even an HDMI port. And if that’s not enough, you can get 4 to 6.5 hours of battery life depending on which model you choose, all in a package weighing in at under three pounds. Other benefits include a quick boot time and easy OS updates. In fact, Google is constantly working on Chrome OS and sending updates out to Chromebook owners to enhance their experience. And if that’s not enough, the Chrome Web Store is full of applications to help you get more out of your Chromebook.

The Chromebook is worth a look, and is a suitable laptop replacement for many people. What are your thoughts on the Chromebook being a viable solution for work or play?

My name is Nick Alonge, and I’ve been a software developer for the last 20 years, creating everything from websites, traditional desktop applications, and most recently mobile applications. I started my own business five years ago after working in a corporate environment for 12 years.