Chrome SO what?

Chrome OS CR48 Notebook is an interesting test but looks more like a move by Google to control more of your data and eventually sell you more targeted ads based on your usage of the device

Chrome OS LogoThe Chrome OS Pilot program has now been running just over 1 month but since it’s launch not too much has been said about the device and there appeared to be no appearance at CES to show off a much needed 2nd generation device.  My initial feelings around Chrome Notebook overview seems to be that this device is not really going to set the world on fire and seems to remind me of a cheap MacBook, which might have helped their competitor Apple sell more of their MacBook Airs over Christmas. You had to apply to be part of the pilot program which started with the process of application form which took around 15 minutes to complete but appeared to be a larger and more interesting marketing move for Google as they will likely receive a massive amount of applications of people that might buy the device in the future.

What user are you?

As you can see shown in the graphic below Google has gone that one step further to segment the CR48 applications into 5 types of user: Business, Education, Non-Profit, Developer, Individuals.

Chrome Users

The very interesting part about this segmentation is that there are 2 uniquely different survey’s one for (Business, Education, Non-Profit) and one for (Developer & Individual), which gives you a good insight into the primary markets that Google is pitching the product towards but also how it will likely split the allocation.  It’s very interesting to see that Google has recognised the individual possible evangelist users that might be very suitable as initial test users for it’s Chrome OS before it launches it to everyone in mid-2011.

Chrome Notebook Pre-Qualification Survey
There are a number of very interesting questions asked via the Chrome CR48 Notebook survey and I have done some basic analysis on what I see as the rational or logic behind Google needing to ask this information on those applying for it’s notebook. Remember that a large number of people are likely applying including your employees and staff who are freely sharing internal and confidential details on the chance they can win a free Notebook which will be drain on your internal resources as it is powered by the cloud and will use massive amounts of bandwidth.

Google wants to know how many people, in total, work at your organisation?

  • 1-49
  • 50-199
  • 200-799
  • 800-2999
  • 3000+

Analysis: This allows Google to increase the amount of information it knows about your company and confirms if account managers should be contact your firm to discuss it’s enterprise products like Search Appliances and Google Apps.

Google wants to know how you are using your computer today

  • Operating System
  • Web Browser
  • Type of device used
  • Type of smart phone
  • Email & Calendar platform used
  • How many hours spent online (upto 5, 5 to 16, 16+)
  • Primary Office applications

Analysis: This is a fairly invasive question and one that Google already knows based on your Google account and from it’s Google Analytics platform.

Software Applications You Use Weekly

  • Adobe Reader
  • Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Adobe Fireworks
  • Adobe Flash
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Citrix
  • Final Cut
  • Flixter
  • Instapaper
  • Mathematica
  • MatLab
  • Quickbooks
  • Quicktime
  • Skype
  • Snagit
  • SPSS
  • Stata
  • WebEx or GoToMeeting

Analysis: It is interesting that a chunk of these applications can’t actually work on the device due to the high specifications required and also they make use of function buttons which were left off the CR48 Notebook.  It is likely that Google has already developed an Alpha version of a few of the above applications and is wanting to survey the demand for releasing it’s own versions on a future version of the Chrome OS.  If you application is listed above expect to see competition from Google soon as you can see Google is doing market research on your existing users to measure the possible demand.

Technical Survey Questions

  • Do you use VPN or remote access
  • Do you already authenticate via Google Accounts?
  • Wifi Security Protocols
  • Needing to have IPv6 support?
  • How do you currently take notes
  • Do you lock laptop machines to desks?

Do you use any of these productivity tools on a daily basis?

  • 37 Signals Base Camp
  • Microsoft Project
  • OmniGraffle
  • OneNote
  • Visio
  • Other
  • None of the above

Analysis: Again it seems that Google is doing some market research with plans to roll out it’s own time management application likely as part of it’s Google Premier apps and much more powerful than it’s current Gmail task.

Chrome OS Overview

  • Load Times – 10 seconds boot-up is no longer ground breaking and is expected
  • Cloud Hosted – all your apps, and documents are hosted in the cloud which means no internet means you can’t work
  • Security built in – Google has complete control of all your data no need for Street View Cars
  • Continues upgrades – a great way to burn through the 100mb of free data Verizon provides you each month
  • Adobe Flash support – a direct swipe at Apple devices not a selling point

As a number of tech writers have raised, Android actually makes for a better OS than Chrome which has been class as just an Application and not a true OS by PC Mag.

Cr-48 Chrome Notebook
Cr-48 Chrome Notebook

Chrome CR-48 Specifications

  • No Capslock Key – NO YELLING OR EMPHASIS
  • No Function Keys – Not suitable for non Google Applications
  • 1.72 Kilograms with 12 Inch screen
  • Intel Atom Processor N455 1.66GHz 512K Cache
  • Memory is Hynix 2GB DDR3 1Rx8 PC3
  • Solidstate Drive is SanDisk sdsa4dh-016G 16GB SATA SSD
  • Qualcomm Wireless WAN
  • AzureWave 802.11 3G adapter
  • Atheros Bluetooth v2.1

Why Chrome fails?

The issue is that the platform requires almost constant connection to the web and the first Chrome OS laptop only comes with 100mb of free data from Verizon each month.   While I would not say no to a free Chrome OS laptop the question is how scalable this product might be outside of the US as very few other markets have access to so much bandwidth at such a low cost. 100 megs of bandwidth maybe be suitable for most low activity users but the issue is that when the entire platform is stored in the cloud I would anticipate several Gigs of data required each month. The reasons are that how often the platform will check for updates and how frequently it will download and apply these updates automatically and this is just focusing on Chrome browser.

Primary Chrome Browser Updates

  • Performed every 25 hours to check for updates, patches and plugins
  • Every 30 minutes Chrome downloads a list of URL thought to be dangerous

So it will be interesting to see how their Laptops or platform will be changed and tweaked to suit markets outside of the US but I think they might have to rethink both the amount of included data and how much of their applications/software is hosted locally to save bandwidth and deal with the fact that the net is not always accessible.

13 Replies to “Chrome SO what?”

  • Ok you dont know what the hell your talking about! u bet you dont even have one of these computers and your jealous of them. It is not a “Cheap MacBook” It is actually, i think, better then a mac book. It has an amazing rubber finish which is really soft and the keys are very comfortable. YOU CAN YELL BY HOLDING DOWN THE SHIFT KEY SMARTASS.You dont need function keys at all for anything. In fact these keys are 10x better. And you can still type documents and play games offline if you get the right apps.

  • The thing you have seemed to miss out completely about Google’s launch is the word “PILOT”. This is just a test, another stage if you will to the completion of it being released. How much do you hear about Microsoft piloting their next OS to users to download. Not much, they are normally 6-12 months before release, just to collect data for bugs and problems. This is exactly what Google is doing. Till it is ready for release, then you will get a hype. Not that there hasn’t been hype already. I have seem about a couple dozen articles, videos, tweets and so on about it in the last month. The 100MB, will be a test. They are giving it to you for free (with a free netbook and OS) so that they can examine if there are any bugs, how well it works on the move, in low signal and high signal areas. They do not need to give users GBs worth of data usage to work those out. This relates to the questions they ask. For when they get the data they can cross examine them to what you have said to see where they best way to market it is. Where they need to improve and what works best. I’m not saying that Google Chrome OS is good or bad, I just feel the need to point out the word PILOT.

    Also would be quite simple for data usage for Google, seeing as they have connections with them already due to Android. T-Mobile for US/Europe and Vodafone Europe/Australia (These are ones I know for sure would work quite easily)

    Also Also, 10 seconds is extremely good. My Netbook take just less than a minute to boot with Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook. Laptop (7) 45 seconds, as does my HTC Desire (2.2). Macbook Pro take just less than 30 seconds with Hybrid Hard drive.

    • Jonathan,

      Very much appreciate the detailed response and yes I was quite critical around the launch but also get annoyed when companies continue to use consumers as guinea pigs. I’m wondering what happens when that 100megs on the Pilot laptops runs out do they stop working or do they have to reach for their credit card to keep the laptop ticking along. The issue is that so much focus is around the idea of having everything hosted in the cloud and barely anything on the device seems to leave it open for consumers to spend possibly thousands on buying bandwidth to use the machine as they would a standard desktop.

      The issue of the rollout of automatic updates and patches will certain chew through that 100mb very quickly, it’s like Apple’s model of rolling out new updates that eventually are no longer compatible with your device so you have to buy a new device…

      I would think if there are new breed laptops such as ASUS that feature instant-on using express gate, while its a great boot time it’s not as ground breaking as it once would have been.

        • Jim,

          I know it’s a pilot and that fact has not escaped me but it’s like giving away a car and telling drivers they can only really drive 100kms/month… the platform idea is great but there is too much dependence on the Cloud platform and 100mb/month is barely sufficient to truely get the most out of the device.

  • This is such a bias response, I thought it was going to be about Chrome, but with the word “fail” and using apple comparisons twice in this article lets me smell emotion from this guy. I bet he has macbooks.

    Fail blog is fail.

    • Wesley,

      Emotion should always be an element of any post and certainly not a Mac user, I happily use a number of cloud hosted solutions and some of these are powered by Google but I don’t technically or practically see a device that relies so much on the cloud. Examples in Queensland, Australia are internet connections are struggling due to flood damage, wireless networks are slowing to a crawl but I can still work on my PC and edit, save and print Office documents with no hassle. Had I have had a Chrome OS notebook it would have been nothing more than a glorified paperweight if I can’t get and keep consistent internet access.

  • How many other beta products get such a roll out or response? Zero, there is nothing like this in the history of new tech (that I know of). TO even review this CR-48 is absurd to do as it isn’t even an consumer product.
    To be critical of a free product with free but limited mobile access is just silly. If someone was in the know about signing up for the product chances are they have wifi almost everywhere in their life – office, home, friend’s house. Saying it will fail because you can only drive it 100 miles is just stupid. The 100 meg is for back up. So now lets look at the current crop of other portable device coming out of CES. How many of them are useful with out internet/data? I guess those are destined to fail too?
    DO you really think this device or future devices are really going to be target at power users who need to develop or edit documents, pictures or video on a large scale? Or maybe just for the average Joe looking to do a few things on line? Let’s face it, for most people if the computer (desktop or laptop) isn’t connected to the internet it is useless anyhow.

    • Dave,

      I do agree that many of the CES products are doomed to fail due to being too little too late or just really a product that even the person who has everything will struggle to figure out why they need a dedicated device to do something that many other devices already do such as a touch screen alarm clock…

      I’m not saying the device will fail just based on the bandwidth but really how much use is 100megs going to provide when a new smartphone can and will use much more than that easily. Tell me how much 100 megs of backup will provide when there is a constant stream of data each time you save a document. Thinking that the platform will only transmit the data once you have finished the document is absurd have you seen the demo video that shows it constantly sends data you could even use 100megs in a single day of constant use.

      Point is that the article created discussion and made people think about the product and it’s possible limitations, unlike other blogs this is not a paid PR placement so the review does not have to be warm and fuzzy and can be critical.

  • “which means no internet means you can’t work”

    It depends on your job. As a web developer, each time the line goes down there is almost nothing we can do to continue working, as we already rely a lot on the web. (even development servers are hosted on the cloud now)
    I could open Photoshop, but you can bet that in that moment I had some on-line task to do…

    • Andy,

      But if you are running Dreamweaver and the net goes down you are still able to do some work but agree having your development servers hosted does compound the issues, as does most people don’t have stock photography on cds/dvds anymore it all sits online. Other small issue is that most applications that you use would likely not be able to run on the CR-48 at this stage….

  • David, a provocative review, and readable. I appreciated being reminded of the various questions on the form—as I read them and responded, they seemed to make sense as a way of informing a pilot testing team that wished to allocate their resources somewhat evenly across a swath of both usage cases and geographies. Invasive, yeah, yet in my case I filled out the form late Wednesday night, and the machine was sitting on my doorstep Thursday afternoon. Invasive, and impressive.

    The Verizon data plan wouldn’t even configure its free allocation without a credit card from the outset. At the same time, one can’t buy additional Verizon data plans until the 100 MB/month runs out; as written several places, the data plans are for fixed limits in a 30-day period—the 100MB/month will roll over. It seems like there’s some testing of data plan approaches that are alternatives to the stock two-year-contract scheme so common with phones.

    As a month’s experience showed, with WiFi at home and work, I made it 25 days before 100 MB ran out. Google Docs adds lots to productivity, and is not a bandwidth hog. Watching videos? Another matter entirely ;^)

    My impression so far is that Chrome OS’s niche could be like that of tower computers of the past decade. Towers were a cheaper way to get performance vs. a laptop. Now, Chrome OS could be a way to have good hardware feel (imagine ChromeBook Air) with very cheap internals and reasonable performance for a moderate swath of tasks. Chrome OS or something like could be a cheaper way to get that performance than phones or tablets. For price/performance those devices may be the new “laptop”. So it seems as I write from my Cr-48 this week.

    • Darb,

      Thank you for the feedback and I’m glad you enjoyed the post and also managed to secure a Pilot Cr-48 and within a day is amazing just on that aspect alone. That is a very interesting quirk that Verizon makes you use up all your bandwidth before you run out and can’t imagine it would make any long term commercial sense to operate their prepaid model that way. I can understand the fact that the 100mb does not roll over each month but interesting that they are using 30 day periods and not calendar months as most services do but as you said I wouldn’t be surprised if Verizon is testing a new pre-paid concept.

      That’s some great real-world feedback that with having a WiFi network at both home and work you are able to make it just over 3 weeks with the 100MB of data, but it does seem to reinforce the idea that the device is not really designed to work for extended periods of time outside of a WiFi network. I can imagine it’s almost designed to be a disposable laptop that you give out to temporary staff, during tradeshows, conferences or when travelling as it doesn’t matter if it gets lost or damage as no information is lost and it’s cheap enough to replace regularly.

      Very interesting thought that it might fill the niche or a dedicated task so wonder how durable the devices might be outside of the promotional video?

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