Friday, December 17, 2010

A Day in the Life: My Journey with Chrome OS (Part 1)

When one of my friends from school got a CR-48 from Google and I did not, I almost freaked. Everybody heard about it all day how they didn't send one of the biggest Google fans on Staten Island their new, cutting-edge netbook in the cloud. However, the gods of Mountain View must have been listening because mine came in the next day. The new device, which runs only a web browser and uses web applications alone to simulate a user experience, is truly the final step into cloud computing that everybody has been waiting for. In this series of posts, I hope to give some insight on this new device to those not fortunate enough to have gotten one, and maybe help you decide whether living in the cloud will be right for you when 2011 comes around and these things go retail.

Google Chrome OS was first announced in July of 2009, and since then has been in the closet, so to say, as it reached maturity. An operating system entirely online is a new concept, and it took quite a bit of effort on Google's part to get it just right. Ever since the debut of netbooks and smart phones, people have been going mobile, and an operating system that fits into this trend is only a natural future for a world that is always betting busier. As with Google Chrome, Google's speedy web browser, the operating system is open source. Based on Linux, the idea was to look at cloud computing from a new aspect: rather than just storing your data in the cloud, why not actually live in the cloud itself? Why was it not feasible for somebody to spend their entire experience with a computer in a web browser when this is pretty much the case anyway? Furthermore, such an operating system would still have to have that trademark Google experience: simple, secure, and intuitive. And, of course, we cannot forget that more time online equals more online advertising, and obvious motivation since 99% of Google's revenue is from advertising. At this point in time, Google has almost finished its new product, and is not distributing it to beta testers before it is sold to the public. For more information on recent Chrome OS developments, see my previous post on the topic.

Not my pic, by the way. Next post I'll have more to show.

Well, let's get the suspense out of the way and straight to what you came here to read. As of the writing of this post, I have spent a mere five or six hours with the CR-48, so I cannot tell you much, but what I have experienced so far has been exactly as I expected. Like promised, the computer boots in about ten seconds, and in another ten you're logged on. Even before that, turning on the computer is simpler than ever. If for some reason you find pressing the power button to be confusing, the netbook actually powers up automatically when you open the lid, even if it was off to begin with. It is literally an open and go experience, and Google was successful in making the journey online quick and easy. When you boot up for the first time, Google asks you to connect to WiFi, log in, take a quick photo, and agree to the EULA. This makes your account the owner of the computer so you essentially have superuser control over all of the settings. After that Google Chrome pops up and everything is just like on your desktop or laptop.

Unlike a standard computer, there are no local applications, so everything must be done online. The operating system comes preinstalled with basic apps such as Gmail, Google Talk, a ScratchPad, among other utilities, and hundreds if not thousands of more apps are easily installable from the Chrome Web Store, which is just a click away. If you already have apps on your desktop computer then the process is even easier. With Google Chrome's built in synchronization of extensions and preferences, everything begins syncing the instant you log in. Overall it took about five minutes to have fully customized the entire computer, and everything was working just about flawlessly.

In my opinion, the most important aspect of this platform is the built-in 3G. What would an internet computer be if it did not have internet absolutely all of the time. Chrome OS makes it easy to activate and use Verizon 3G. All that is required is entering some billing information and you are all set up. This is important because one of the biggest fears of a computer user entirely on the internet is if their signal dies, and they are stranded without any remedy or solution. Situations like these can even result in catastrophic results, depending on the circumstances. Google has made a deal with Verizon so you can get a certain amount of 3G internet for free, and after that you just sign up for a standard plan or pay as you go, whichever you prefer.

Well, it was love at first sight, and my first impression of the new netbook is rather awesome. Over the next few days I will be able to experiment with the system more, maybe find those hidden bugs that Google has made so hard to find, and maybe even discover an easter egg or two (really counting on that last one). But for now I must go, I have a cloud to attend to.

No comments:

Post a Comment