First Day Review: The Google Chrome OS Cr-48 Notebook

My Google Chrome Cr-48 notebook has just arrived. For my first day with it, I decided a good torture test would be to unplug my Windows 7 machine and see how the Google laptop worked in its place. Let’s go!

Chrome, Chromium & What Is The Cr-48?

Before I dive in, some background about the computer. Let’s start with Chrome. That’s Google’s web browser, which was launched back in September 2008. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a browser just like Internet Explorer or Firefox. Google released its own browser saying it hoped that it would help keep the web browser space competitive and better able to handle increasingly sophisticated software programs and applications that run within the browser itself.

For example, in the “old days” of personal computers, you had software that you installed to do word processing (say Word), or to do email (say Outlook), or to do photo editing (such as Photoshop). As the internet emerged, you also had web browser software that let you view web sites.

As the internet evolved, programs and services written to work within your web browser emerged. These days, it’s possible to do word processing, email, photo editing and much more all from within a web browser. The software — along with your data — lives on the internet, or the cloud, as it is increasingly being called.

Google believes so much that the web will make standalone software applications obsolete that it has developed an entire operating system around the Chrome browser. That’s what Chrome OS is. You have consumer-oriented computers that run Windows or MacOS. Now, Google’s adding its own Chrome OS into the mix.

Chrome OS is a software operating system that any one is allowed to use. Any computer maker might decide to build a Chrome OS-powered computer, just as any mobile device maker currently can use the Android operating system that Google backs. This open release of the software is known as Chromium OS – a play off the Chrome browser’s name.

The Cr-48 is a further play on words. Cr stands for the element Chromium. Cr48 is an isotype of that element. It’s also the name Google has given to the computers it released into the wilds this week.

You can’t buy a Cr-48. You’ll never be able to buy a Cr-48 in the stores. They are only being released to consumers and business through a pilot program. Anyone can apply, and if Google deems you worthy, you’ll be given one free to use. Google also gave free units to members of the press who covered the Chrome OS launch event earlier this week for the computer. That’s how I ended up with mine.

Sometime toward the middle of next year, computer manufacturers Acer and Samsung are set to release actual Chrome OS notebooks that anyone can buy. You might choose to purchase one instead of a Mac or a Windows PC — or in addition to them — or perhaps not at all. But Google hopes people will, and the pilot progam is designed to give them real-world feedback to improve the systems.

Comparing To My Current Computers

Next, let me talk about my current computer hardware, so you can understand what I’m comparing the Chrome OS computer I received to.

My regular computer is a high-end 2010 15″ MacBook Pro, running Windows 7 through Boot Camp. Eventually, I’ll do a post on my personal blog about why I have this strange set-up. Simple answer: Windows 7 handles multiple external monitors better than the Mac OS, in my opinion. I have three external monitors. But I also think the MacBook has the best high-resolution non-glare screen compared to Windows laptops that I’ve seen.

I also use one of the new MacBook Air laptops for when I travel, a 13″ machine. It’s wonderful. I’ll be referencing that machine as part of this review, though I’m really looking at how well the new Google computer can work to replace my main workday computer.

Also, about my testing today. I deliberately didn’t try to figure out stuff beyond what was readily visible to me as a user, such as searching for tips (what few there might be so far, given this computer is so new). I also didn’t get a briefing about using the computer from Google beforehand. My approach to testing new devices is to avoid knowing whatever secrets might be hidden, so that I can better understand how a typical user might approach them.

I will be following up with Google afterward, plus I expect to do further reviews as I live with the machine more, similar to how I’ve been testing Google TV.

Also, I’m fully aware I’m pushing this device to the extreme, as well as it still needs much more development. I explain more about this at the end of the review. But I saw some comments on Hacker News suggesting that Chrome OS machines are meant for casual computer or netbook replacements. Not so.

A year ago, Google positioned Chrome OS as being suitable for those using netbooks or having light computing usage needs. It has completely changed its tune since then. At the launch press conference this week, there was no suggestion that Chrome OS was somehow an insufficient operating system for all people. The opposite. Chrome OS — coupled with the cloud — was positioned as the future of computing.

Indeed, consider this from the pilot program site:

“It runs web-based applications, not legacy PC software.” The key word there is legacy. I have a freshly minted copy of Outlook 2011 for the Mac. That, in Google’s view, is legacy software. It’s going to die, replaced by web-based applications — and Chrome OS is designed to usher in that future.

Also noteworthy, as someone pointed out in comments on Hacker News, is that Google asks those applying for the pilot program use these machines as their primary computers. Indeed, they do:

If selected, will you use this Chrome notebook as your primary computer and provide regular feedback?

The Hardware & Setup

The Google notebook is a little smaller in overall size (length and width) than my MacBook Air, perhaps twice as thick and feels about twice as heavy (you can get full specs on the computer here).

Opening it up, within seconds I got a Google Chrome logo without pushing any power button (so the unit was shipped without being turned off). That was quickly replaced by a “Let’s Get Started” screen asking for my language and network.

The Cr-48 immediately recognized my wireless network. There’s no option for a hard-line network cable to be plugged in. My MacAir is the same way. It’s wireless only. Personally, I prefer both options, as wireless — even in my own home and feet away from my desk — can still be flaky.

(NOTE: Google told me after I wrote this that some USB-to-ethernet adapters will allow a hard-line connection. I have one of these for my MacBook Air, though I’ve yet to break it out).

Next, Chrome did a check for any software updates. That took less than a minute, then I was asked to sign-in with my Google Account. Immediately, confusion. I have a Google Apps For Business account where I run all my own mail. I also have a regular Google Account that I use for my calendar and other Google-related things. Which to use? I tried my Google Apps account and was given an error. So, I fell back to my Google Account log-in, and all was good.

Next step, take a picture of myself. Personally, I’d have preferred if I could have chosen an icon. Or, I’m pretty sure I already have a picture associated with my Google Account. Why not use that?

After that, I got a “Greetings” message to introduce me to the device, which when dismissed gave me a quick tour of features:

The advice was fairly straight-forward. Left click on the touchpad by using one finger; right click with two. Scroll with two fingers, and there’s a scroll speed setting. The trackpad itself felt slightly clunky, a little less responsive than what I’m used to on my Macs.

A keyboard tour. Yes, there are no function buttons. There are hard buttons to do things like go forward or backwards. Yes, the CAPS LOCK button has been replaced with a Search button. And yes, while Google is the default, you can change this in settings to Yahoo or Bing.

After this, a mention of printing and a worrying line about “Google Cloud Ready Printers.” Is mine cloud ready? We’ll see.

The Home Screen

That was it for setup. I arrived at a screen in the end that already knew all the bookmarks on my regular computers. That’s possible because I’ve used Chrome on those machines and the “sync” feature that let bookmarks be shared across devices.

The home screen is basically the same thing as your computer desktop, on a Windows or Mac — and it’s a browser. As you’ll see above, all my applications (which really are simply bookmarks to web sites, in some cases) are displayed on a browser tab. There’s no “minimizing” the browser to get to an underlying desktop, which I’ll get back to more.

External Monitor Woes

with setup complete, the first thing I wanted to do was drive my external monitors. That meant digging out a VGA cable, as there’s only a VGA output on the Chrome machine. I plugged it into my machine, into my main external monitor — and no luck. No signal. I went into the system settings. No luck there, nothing that indicated out how output a video signal. As far as I can tell, the VGA port is non-functional.

Even if it had worked, it almost certainly wouldn’t have done what I ultimately wanted, to drive my external monitor at its full 2560×1440 resolution. You need a special DisplayPort output and cable for that. Both my MacBook Pro running Windows 7 and my MacBook Air running the MacOS can handle this monitor at its highest resolution, as both have DisplayPort outputs. My Dell Windows 7 laptop that I previously used could handle this, too.

In addition to my main monitor, I run two side external monitors via USB adapters. I plugged my USB hub into the Cr-48. The hub, in turn, has these adapters hooked-up to it. No luck. They didn’t come on. That didn’t surprise me. Google had previously said that while there’s a USB output, it doesn’t much of anything.

Bottom line: I get one display, the built-in display of this notebook.

NOTE: After I wrote this, Ash Jhaveri tweeted to me that hitting Control-Alt-/ brings up a map of alternative functions that the keyboard can enable (Google also later told me that Ctrl-Alt-? does this, too). One of these, the Control-Next Screen combination, does enable the VGA port. However, for me, this disables the internal display. So, there’s no screen extension as you can do with a Windows or a Mac. Also, my side monitors are rotated, so that they are more vertical than horizontal. Windows can adjust for this; the Chrome machine cannot.

FURTHER NOTE: After talking with Google, it confirmed that using the VGA port disables the laptop’s own internal display. There are no immediate plans to create a virtual or expanded desktop, where you can work on different things on both your internal and external monitor, though that might come.

USB: Found My Mouse, Not My Drives, Phones…

Related to this, my external hard drives weren’t recognized. I keep photos, data, music and a variety of other information on these. They’re currently invisible to Chrome OS. (NOTE: Google tells me support will be coming for these).

Somewhat related, I can’t even tell what’s on the notebook’s own hard drive. There’s no Finder or File Explorer equivalent. Now, this may be down to my “old school” thinking, wanting files on my own desktop. They should all live in the cloud! But as I’ll get into, there are reasons why I want local files.

How about my USB mouse? I like an external mouse. Success! I plugged my Microsoft Arc mouse’s USB transmitter directly into the USB port, and it worked.

OK, how about my phones? I use these to take a lot of pictures for my reviews, including this one. Could it recognize those?

No luck with either my Droid 2 or Samsung Fascinate, both Android review phones that I currently have. My iPhone 4? Again, no luck. The USB port does send out a charge to these, but you won’t be pulling data off of them.

Related to this as there is no iTunes for Chrome — and you pretty much need iTunes is you want to fully use an iPhone or an iPad in many ways without rooting around stuff — this couldn’t be your sole computer.

Getting To Work

Enough hardware stuff. Let’s do some of my routine work! I decided to visit Chartbeat, where I track visits here to Search Engine Land in real-time. I usually have my Chartbeat screen open one on my external monitors. At least with Chrome, I can leave it open on a tab.

Uh-oh. Problem. What’s my password? I don’t save those in Chrome. I use a great web site called LastPass to have access across machines. Well, LastPass has a plug-in that works with the Chrome browser — and Chrome OS is basically a super-charged version of the Chrome browser. But when I tried to download LastPass, I got an “Extensions cannot install plugins on Chrome OS” message.

Bummer. Still, I can log into the LastPass site itself to access my password information. But that means an awkward copy-and-paste routine. How about exporting my LastPass information and importing it into Chrome? If it were the Chrome browser itself, you could do that. But Chrome OS, as far as I can tell, lacks any type of password import capability for its browser.

Eventually, it occurred to me to try checking at the Chrome Web Store, rather than at the LastPass site. There, I found LastPass listed. This time, the install worked fine. Phew.

Using The Cr-48 To Write This Post

Next, I wanted to log into Search Engine Land itself, so that I could continue writing this post from the Chrome machine.

And so now I am. No problem logging into WordPress and working within it like I would on any other machine, or with any other browser.

At this point, I’ve taken several photos of my journey of using the Cr-48. I’d like to get them into this post. Curious, I used the “Add Image” feature within WordPress and got a dialog box that let me browse my computer — that type of file explorer interface that I wanted earlier but couldn’t find.

Oddly, it even listed one of my external hard drives, despite that no longer being plugged in nor on the network. My guess is that it remembers the basic information about the drive from when it was plugged in, even though it didn’t have the right drivers to access is.

Pictures, Displayed As Text

So how am I going to get my pictures of my phones and into this post? The Android phones have memory cards. I pulled one, shoved it into a USB memory card reader, and I could see the files. Unfortunately, there was no thumbnail version available — which I find pretty essential, when I’m trying to deal with media files.

I went back to the Chrome Web Store and downloaded Fiabee, which I hoped would let me browse images visually on my memory card. No such luck. I was able to sync pictures between Chrome and Android devices, however. So I installed Fiabee on my Droid 2, selected a photo, selected Share To Fiabee and repeatedly watched the app crash.

I know there are other options. I could sync with Picasa or a variety of other places online to get my pictures eventually to my desktop. But going through the cloud is much more complicated than just pulling them off my device directly.

Other Applications & No “Outside” The Browser

I’ll come back to the pictures, but while I was in the Chrome Web Store, I started thinking about other things. For one, is there a Twitter application?

I like having a Twitter application separate from my browser. I use Twhirl, and when I’m traveling, I set it off to the side of my screen, not letting the browser take up all the screen real estate.

Immediately, I realized even if I could get Twhirl to install, this was impossible with Chrome OS. There seems to be no concept of minimizing your browser, much less letting it take up less than the entire screen. In fact, you can’t even have two browser screens/tabs appear side-by-side, something I often need to do.

Just for fun, I did try to install Twhirl. It, in turn, tried to install Adobe AIR — and I got a crash notice.

Of course, Twitter itself is on the web, and I had no problems reaching it. I also found apps for HootSuite, Seesmic and TweetDeck. HootSuite worked exactly like going to the web site itself, so there was probably no need to install the app. TweetDeck looked just like the standalone application that I’ve used on occasion — good news for TweetDeck users, as I’m pretty sure there’s no web-based alternative. Seesmic also had an app that I was able to use.

Screenshot Through The Head

Next, I wanted to screenshot some of what I installed. On the Mac, I use Skitch. On the PC, I use Snagit. Both let me add arrows easily to things I snap. Chrome has no native screenshot tool. (NOTE, see further below — it does).

Back to the Chrome Web Store. There were any number of options to choose from. I decided to try Aviary from the Chrome Web Store, as I’ve used it before.

It freaked me out, a bit. When I clicked on the Aviary icon and choose to capture a page, suddenly my screen shifted to the left, in the way that things work with the Mac’s Spaces. In fact, I’d been wishing that Chrome OS had something like spaces, so you could place things on different virtual screens.

NOTE: I later learned that Ctrl-N will open a new browser window. Then you can use the Next Window button to toggle between windows, just as the Mac’s Spaces feature allows. This is very cool and nice to have.

That sent me scurrying back to the introductory tour, where there was a “Next Window” button that was mentioned. When I pushed this initially, it did nothing. And earlier, I had looked at ways to open something up into a new window without luck. But Aviary seems to do it, and later I might hunt down if human users can, as well.

Anyway, I was able do take a screenshot. And save it. And when I tried to upload it to WordPress, it was nowhere to be found. So I tried again, did something that Aviary didn’t like, and then it’s just sat there saying that the screen capture was still in progress. Disabling didn’t help. Uninstalling didn’t help. When I reinstalled, it just sat there with the same problem. Where’s the Task Manger or Force Quit feature on this thing! (NOTE: Later learned that Shift+Esc brings up the task manager).

NOTE: After talking with Google, I learned that Ctrl-Next Window will take a screenshot. I had tried this and thought it wasn’t working.

What happens is that a screenshot is made, but there’s no confirmation view of what you’ve shot. Instead, the screenshot is written to disk. To access it, you have to hit Ctrl-O to bring up a file list:

That opens a little window at the bottom of your screen allowing you to navigate either downloaded files or screenshots, where you can also delete:

Ctrl-O is also the only way, Google says, to easily view files on your computer. It lacks any type of path navigation, where you can click around elsewhere on the computer, as you might with Windows Explorer or Finder on the Mac.

Screenshot, Take Two

After a short lunch break, I tried again to do a screenshot, this time using the Webpage Screenshot application. It lets me snap a page, crop, add arrows — but if I tried to save the screenshot locally, I got another of those “extensions can’t be installed on Chrome OS” errors. A third screenshot tool is also gave me hassles.

I restarted the machine, hoping that might with Aviary. It didn’t. Instead, my screen resolution got all messed up, and there was no control that let me adjust it, as you might find on a Mac or a Windows PC.

I restarted again. Aviary was still unresponsive. But, with some serious difficulty, I was able to get a screenshot of my apps as listed home page by using the Explain & Send Screenshot tool. Here it is, shot from within Chrome OS, posted to the WordPress using Chrome OS:

Where’s My File?

In particular, I was able to save the screenshot to the local hard drive. Finding it was another matter. When using the upload feature within WordPress, it wasn’t visible. And, it wasn’t clear where exactly in the file structure saved documents were going. Solving that isn’t too hard – there’s going to be a default folder somewhere, which I’ll look up later. But in the end, it was faster to search for the file name to find it.

At this point, I was exhausted and ready to move back to my regular computer to insert my other images. But I still had some more testing to do.

NOTE: See above on how Ctrl-O provides access to files.

Forget Outlook, Change Your Mindset

I do my email and calendar primarily in Outlook. I like Outlook. It’s a good program that allows me to easily have a message open and compose a reply right next to it, something that you cannot as easily do with Gmail’s web-based system. I also like that, unlike Google Calendar, Outlook can display a “month view” that stretches across two months (say mid-October to mid-November) rather than being restricted to a single full month.

In short, no Outlook. Not for Chrome.

Eventually, I might be able to use Citrix Receiver to run Outlook as a cloud-based application that will work with a Chrome laptop, but that’s not available right now. It won’t be out until next year, and it’s unclear what the pricing will be.

Of course, I have full access to Gmail and Google Calendar through the web. It’s not like I’m stuck. If I change my Outlook habit, problem solved. Or, if Outlook releases an online version that mimics what the software version does, problem again solved (last I looked, this wasn’t an option).

Printing Promises

How about printing? It turns out, that only happens right now if you have a separate Windows PC computer running. You have to visit the Google Cloud Print site with Chrome on your Windows PC, install the extension into Chrome, then any printer that your Windows PC can use, your Chrome notebook can use.

I had no luck with this. I have a wireless computer attached to my Windows PC. Half the time, I can’t get the PC to talk to that printer directly. Chrome definitely did NOT send the print job to the PC as it should have, as nothing appeared in the queue on that machine. Things would go to the queue on the PC, however, if I sent to some of the other printers that used to be installed on it for direct USB connections.

Built In 3G & Free Data

Another feature of the Chrome netbook is that it has a built-in cellular connection with 100MB of data free per month, through Verizon. I already have a Mifi card with Verizon that I use with my laptops, so I’m not dependent on this (nor dependent on having a cable to physically tether, good, since there’s no software or hardware drivers to support this). But, it’s nice to have that connectivity, even though I think most people would blow through that 100MB in a day.

I went ahead and activated the system. I was prompted for my ZIP code, then presented with plans:

  • 100 MB per month, free
  • Daily unlimited, $10
  • 1 GB, $20 per month
  • 3 GB, $35 per month
  • 5 GB, $50 per month

Even for the free plan, you have to provide a billing address and credit card number. I did all that, and I was connected. One nice thing is that you can see right within the status bar at the top of the page, by hovering over the signal strength meter, how much data you have left.

Reflections On The First Day

That’s all for my first day. When the kids get home, I’m going to toss the computer their way with no instructions, and see how they get on doing less intensive activities. I might even get my oldest son to write a first day review from his perspective. If it loads Club Penguin, they’ll probably be happy :)

Overall, it’s important to understand that this isn’t a finished consumer product. There are no Google or manufacturer labels on it, at all. As I said, you can’t buy Chrome notebooks right now and won’t be able to until some time next year. By that point, I’d expect there to be more device support.

That also means there’s not much sense worrying about the physical feel. The computer feels kind of rubbery. The keyboard is kind of chunky. There’s no backlighting. The battery doesn’t seat fully flush with the base. None of that really matters, because the final machines will likely be much different.

Still, right now, I’d say the Chrome notebook is mostly like an iPad with a full-sized keyboard attached. I find the iPad limiting. It’s mainly, to me, a consumption device. I can read, I can do email, I can use some specialized apps — but it could never replace my regular computer. I know some have done so, and more power to them. I tried going iPad-only once. The inability to save files locally, or really feel I could work well offline, made that a short-lived experiment.

Another similarity is that the iPad depends on the iTunes marketplace for apps. I suspect that Chrome will grow more as its own Chrome Web Store develops more apps within it. I also suspect Chrome might become more acceptable to some people if it grew some more native utilities and added things you expect from an actual computer — better file navigation, better visual displays.

I know that’s supposedly old school thinking. I know that the future is supposed to be the cloud, especially as the makers of Chrome OS see it. But I suspect that putting out a device that’s so in the cloud — and yet which ultimately is designed to replace devices that live on the ground and in the cloud — will be a frustrating experience if there’s not more down-to-earth features.

Then again, for people who approach it with a completely different perspective — coming from no legacy machine, downloading stuff only from the Chrome Web Store and growing up, if you will, that way, the experience may be much different.

Finally, there are various reviews from other publication. A Walk In The Cloud: My First Day With Google’s Chrome OS from Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch is a nice test drive review. Techmeme also has a good round-up.

Postscript: Please see my follow-up piece, Q&A: Google’s Sengupta On The Chrome OS Cr-48 Laptop.

Postscript 2: Commercial products have been announced. Please see Google Chromebooks Out June 15, $349 For Consumers, $20-$28 Monthly For Educators/Business.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Features: General | Google: Chrome OS | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


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  • dunivan

    im very pumped to potentially get to try this out. I’m guessing theres no way to store files locally, can you confirm this?

  • keithdsouza

    Quite a review, I guess it is going to be a hard time for users to get over the desktop mentality. Of course it would be good if Chrome does local storage and also recognizes external drives and phone.

    When Google expects us to use this as a device of the future, it definitely misses on the point that we require mobile connectivity, bluetooth et all.

    From what I can say this is a OK start, not anything extra-ordinary, but hopefully things should improve before the actual OS becomes available to general public.

    P.S. BTW the Dell XPS 1645 monitors are awesome.

  • dunivan

    @keithdsousa maybe pilot program members will have a bit of an upgraded version of the cr-48 then what is being used in this review as well?

  • Mike Vaz

    The lack of ports and various hardware recognition is kind of a bummer. Glad to hear that it takes an external mouse still. That’s something I couldn’t live without.

  • jeffbanks

    Considering this is a preview version of what Chrome OS is going to be, the idea is good. Remember this is cloud based computing. You have 3 options: Go cloud, do hybrid computing with cloud and local storage, or go local storage. The old desktop mentality will melt away over time as these things improve. Review what the OS can do, not the limitations of a cheap, preview based notebook can do.

  • Simon Serrano

    for those that didn’t see the live Google announcement of this…

    There is NO local hard drive (that’s accessible) on the Cr-48. You’re supposed to store all of your files in the cloud… (ie on Google’s servers or some other cloud based storage solution like Dropbox or

    If there’s no internal hard drive then it’s not going to be possible to store anything locally or use local storage…. at least not at this point in time.

    Additionally, I don’t think Google meant for people to be able to test peripherals or other external equipment. I think it’s just meant to test the software itself in casual use. I’m sure that final versions of Chrome OS will allow for peripherals, bluetooth, usb, vga, hdmi, etc.

  • Flame S Blade

    task manager is probably shift+esc that is waht it is for the chrome task manager normaly normally

  • Sean Lind

    I don’t mean to harp on you Danny, but again I think you missed the point on this notebook.

    Like jeffbanks was saying, Chrome OS is a cloud-based computing option. Windows, OSX… these are local options. They’re completely different concepts. The fact that you’re calling it a negative, or are surprised that your external drives don’t work, mean you clearly don’t understand the concept of cloud computing.

    The whole idea is based on nothing being stored locally. Not somethings, nothing. It was NEVER supposed to work with external hard-drives… that’s the entire point.

    External monitors? This is a cloud-computing based netbook. If you want to be parked at a desk, use a desktop.

    Finally, all your tests which have failed are based on you trying to do things created for local computing on the cloud. You’re missing the whole point. The vast majority of all hardware will not work on Chrome OS, simply because that hardware was designed for local-based computing. These things were never supposed to work together… I’m not sure why you’re surprised that they don’t now.

  • Michael Martinez

    I think I’ll wait for the Cr-100.

    Thanks for going through all that pain and agony for our sakes.

  • matthew taylor

    Sean, seriously just read what you have written… surely cloud based OS is still some way off yet and this proves it, surely only the biggest google fan boy would consider limiting their abilities so much, You keep saying this is about “cloud computing” but as the article points out, most typical use cases for a notebook are not possible. surely this article identifies that for most typical users this is just a niche device, and a very limited one as well. Saying that “this is a cloud computing based netbook” doesnt actually address any of the commentary in the main article. Because what you are implying is cloud based computing is not very useful to most people.

  • trondw

    You can route video out over the VGA port by pressing Ctrl-Full Screen. Also, a few other ways to do things that could help you as well:

    Ctrl-Switch Window takes a screenshot
    Ctrl-O opens the content browser where you can see saved screenshots

    Chrome Team Member

  • augi

    Google chrome app for New York Times is stale dead on Acer nav 50 netbook; although my imported bookmark works NYT site beautifully. Hope that Chrome netbook can use chrome browser apps.

  • Sean Lind

    Matthew Taylor,

    Again, you’re missing the entire point of the device. This is like someone buying an iPad and then complaining that they couldn’t plug their external hard drive into it. It was never the point.

    I know it’s hard to stop thinking about computing as local-storage based, as that’s how it’s always been. This is something new. If you want a computer that’s going to do everything you currently do, exactly as you currently do it, then use the computer you already own.

    If you’re looking for something new, a computer that you never have to back up, that is “synced” no matter where you are, or what computer you’re on, and if just about everything you do is on the web, then this might be for you.

    It’s not Chrome vs. OSX vs. W7, it’s something completely different. If you keep trying to compare it to local-based OS’s you’ll always be disappointed.

    As for your comment “a cloud based OS is some way off yet”, that’s completely false, it’s here… this is one. The problem is not the machine, it’s your perception of computing. Everything you use to define computing this doesn’t do, or does differently.

  • matthew taylor


    i get the point but based upon the evidence so far, is this thing actually of any use? or is it just a way of charging someone for a web browser? at least the ipad has storage where it matters for most use cases.. photos, email, and documents they are the things the i want to access wherever i am. im sure in the realms of academia, always on internet access is a given, in the real world however its a different matter there isnt a million miles of difference between an ipad but where it really matters, they are a lot different.

  • Sean Lind


    You still don’t get it. Photos, email, documents… you store them all online, specifically for the reason that you will always access all of them, wherever you are. The only thing you need is internet access.

    ChromeOS has never, and never (well, maybe not never) will be marketed towards serious computer power-users. It’s marketed to the netbook crowd, NOT the notebook crowd.

    It’s for people who want email, internet, music, photos, youtube and never want to worry about updates, patches, or anything like that. The majority of computer users don’t need anything more than this. This is the market this was designed for.

    Google is a search engine, they see the world as always being connected online, in that world local storage is redundant and useless. If you need to use your computer offline, this isn’t for you. But that doesn’t mean it’s a useless product.

  • Mista Mixon

    Interesting. I have applied for the beta test. I am an avid Ubuntu Linux user. I have been using JoliCloud, which is a cloud based OS, based on linux. I use it on a dell 10v netbook and have actually become quite happy using a cloud OS.

  • Danny Sullivan

    dunivan, you can save files locally, but it’s not easy. Google really sees storing files as a temporary thing until you upload to the cloud. I’ll have more on this in a follow-up piece tomorrow, from talking to them about it.

    Mike Vaz, I’m sure the versions shipped for consumers will be far more robust in terms of ports and so on.

    Jeffbanks, the OS can do what any computer you have now can do, let you go to the web and do things. There’s nothing special or magical. There’s nothing this can do that a Mac or PC running Chrome can do — and a lot less. One key exception is the security. If you believe Google, this is going to be a very secure operating system. But honestly, anyone who wants to try this now could get any laptop, run Chrome and only Chrome, and you’re kind of set.

    Sean, I wasn’t surprised my hard drives didn’t work. I actually said the opposite, that I did NOT expect them to work. I was actually surprised that my mouse DID work, because there are so few drivers out there.

    I haven’t used a desktop computer for about three years now. My laptop has been fine — and works great with external monitors. They increase productivity. Apparently, Google agrees. I mean, any time I’m in a Google office, I’ll see employees everywhere using laptops with one if not two external monitors. It’s common. They use laptops and external monitors together, as do many people. And they do that while accessing the cloud.

    All my tests didn’t fail, by the way. I was able to access any number of web-based applications just fine. I was curious about whether I could use this machine instantly, out of the box, as replacement for my regular laptop. Answer — no, not right now.

    I use multiple monitors too much to give them up on a daily basis. I need to read something on one, write something on another and perhaps test on a third. With this laptop, not only couldn’t I run those monitors — I can’t even set two pages side-by-side.

    Doing a screenshot, and editing it, was harder than using some software alternatives out there. Not impossible. It’ll get better. But it was harder.

    Getting a picture off my phone into the computer? Right now, firing it through a 3G network into the cloud and back down through my internet provider to my laptop sitting less than a foot away from the phone seems suboptimal.

    These things will get better. For people with other use cases, this might even seem a perfect machine them of the box. That’s especially so if you already pretty much live in the cloud. And I’m pretty sure I’ve said that in this piece, as well.

  • shively

    Okay, that is one thorough review. Thanks.

    I requested mine yesterday, but now I’m second guessing the decision. While my initial thought was that I was primarily a cloud user, I can see how this computer is probably a few years ahead of my time. (Initially groomed on WATFIV and Hollerith cards, it makes sense.)

    This computer is not meant as an adjunct for your primary computer – it is meant to be your primary computer, especially for the trial period. For those arguing in the comment section, you can apply yourself to receive one of the computers. Just by reading the questions Google asks, you will get a feel as to who they may be ‘marketing’ this OS to.

  • tod

    They should call this Google Wave v2.0b.

    Come on guys, let’s be honest with ourselves. This isn’t a paradigm shift, it’s a company trying to force some ill-conceived vision on billions of people.

    And you can’t compare it to an iPad because it’s the size of a notebook.

    Danny: so you want us to pretend it’s a NETbook, even though it’s the size of a NOTEbook, and even though it can’t do a fraction of what a lowly NETbook can do? Righttttt…

  • James Lichtenstiger

    I hope chromeOS merges with some of the principles of android.

  • Karolis

    It is very strange that you got a full UNIX file system browser when you clicked “Add Image” on WordPress. I think this will not be available in the final release of Chrome OS. In my opinion this will look something like this:

    This can be called the cloud file browser.

    Yeah, I have also added Dropbox to this image, because I think that Google must do the ability to integrate third party Cloud file systems in the Chrome cloud file browser (for example by using Googlle Chrome extensions).

    You said you haven’t found a normal file browser. I think there is no need for that. They have Google Docs and Picasa which can be a file browsers too. Google just need to fully integrate cloud file browser in Chrome (as in my image). So whenever I need to browse for a file, Google Chrome must open a well integrated cloud file browser.

    And when I use built-in screenshot maker then the screenshot automatically must be saved into Picasa (not the local computer). Of course Picasa and Google Docs must be synchronized with the computer so that I can access files when I am offline.

    This is my vision, but I want to see Chrome in that way.

    By the way, you haven’t tried if it is possible to use that computer offline. I mean that in theory Gmail and Google Docs work offline.

  • Arun Shroff

    This is a great in-depth review and walk-thru of the Cr-48 that conveys very well the pain and frustration of trying to do what Google claims or at least hopes this device can do : replace your main computer for daily work. Sort of reminded me of the early days of the PC era and before plug and play device standards. As of right now, it does look like Google has some way to go before Cr-48 is ready for the mass market.

    While Google may well solve most of the hardware and many of the software problems before launch – there are two key challenges, The first one is to change people’s habits. Habits built over decades of PC, Mac and yes legacy software usage. Simple things like local file storage and carrying your entire music and photo collection around in a portable hard drive or USB drive. You take it for granted until you realize it is not an option.

    The second challenge will be price and competing with notebooks/netbooks (not to mention tablets). If think about it – you can do everything a Cr-48 can do plus more using a $200 netbook All you need to do is to fire up the Chrome browser on it and you can run the same web applications as the Cr-48 . Plus install local programs and use your local storage to your hearts content. And if you only want to live in the cloud you can do that too – just use a service like Dropbox or similar. So unless the Cr-48 can be much cheaper or offer a lot more – maybe a killer application that only runs on it, it will be a hard sell.

    The other big benefit claimed is zero admin and maintenance costs, and no vriuses – as everything is updated via the web (no DLL hell) . Yes that is a big benefit -but a constantly connected device to the internet with all your data in the cloud introduces an entirely new set of challenges with hacking, privacy of data and security.

  • John Howell

    Danny, Thanks for this review. It really gave me the ‘feel’ of the experience. I’m curious about ChromeOS’ suitability for web-based ERP and CRM type applications like Salesforce, Netsuite, Acumatica. The potential for high security, fast javascript performance, and low TCO are (at least on the surface) quite compelling.

  • DP

    I Like the idea. There needs to be a lot of work done.

    My only question is how would you program like this?

    Maybe the paradigm will shift when these computers come out but I see it really tough to do things that are not local on your computer. I know for java you could just put your jar files in the cloud and have it run it. But what about any other language that compiles like ASP.NET. I know Google does not care about them but for me that is one limiting factor. Anything that takes considerable CPU you don’t want to have all information transferred there and back via the internet every time. Just seems too slow to be worth it. Or I could just be thinking of it in the old school terms.

    Not sure yet at this point. But I am open for anything new.

  • Jason Ryberg

    I figured out how to replace the owner profile picture on the Cr-48:

  • Danny Sullivan

    Tod, I didn’t ask you to pretend it was a netbook. In fact, I explained the opposite — that Google initially suggest this would be a netbook replacement but instead is now positioning it as a replacement for any full-featured notebook.

    Karolis, Google views that dialog screen that an application provides as one of the primary ways to access files on your computer, files that in the end, it views as being there only temporarily until uploaded into the cloud. I have a follow-up interview coming out later today with more on this. I’ll add a link to that to the end of this article, when it’s ready.

    And no, I haven’t yet tried how well Gmail and Google Docs work offline. I’ve used Gmail offline before on other computers, however. That tends to be OK.

    Jason, thanks!

  • djkurtz

    Thanks for giving such a detailed review.

    Maybe this will help get you a span-2-month ’4 week’ view in Google Calendar:
    1) Calendar Settings -> General -> Custom View = “4 Weeks”
    2) In Calendar, click on the new “4 Weeks” button, upper right

    By the way:
    Microsoft has had OWA for years (formerly Outlook Web Access (OWA), now rebranded as “Outlook Web App” – but still OWA):

  • i [heart] ubuntu

    Based on your screenshot of the hard drive data, looks exactly like Ubuntu. :) Which I have used for 4 years now. Correct me if Im wrong, but isnt ChromeOS built upon a debian base? I’d love to get one of these and test it out! Great review, thanks.

  • 생활 부활한 자로

    Do you want access to my Citrix Receiver account? It can bust out Word, the entire CS5 suite, etc. all at a blink of an eye. Especially on that chrome notebook of yours.

  • Nikita Kostylev

    >> my external hard drives weren’t recognized.

    Under the Settings > Labs you’ll find support for experimental features as “advanced file systems” and media player.

  • Nikita Kostylev

    Sorry, they are supposed to be here

  • Gio Ciampa

    If the OS on the Cr-48 is the same as that on the one I downloaded from – it’s based on SuSE Linux (YaST is the system configuration system for example), presumably switably tweaked to be net-centric rather than rely on the local device.

  • existdissolve

    iTunes needs to go to the cloud. It’s stupid that music which is used on so many portable devices is still machine bound. Once that happens, the old paradigm of personal computers will die forever.

  • Bubba Dot Bubba

    Seems like a number of folks have chosen to ding you for “missing the point.” I don’t necessarily see this as a valid critique. One of the things to be learned in this beta is whether the “point” itself is good or at least viable–apart from the execution, which is bound to be a continually moving target.

    Personally, I don’t see anyone profiting from this except for Google and those who will make money providing workarounds for various foibles, glitches and gotchas. Otherwise it seems like a wonderful idea.

  • Justin P

    I must say, I found this “review” to be a joke. It’s clear that you didn’t even bother to do any research before finding fault with a product that is labeled as still in a “pilot program”. It’s not ready. They said that, so don’t review it or treat it like it’s a final product. Do a tiny bit of research before complaining that you can’t do something. Just because you’re too lazy to learn doesn’t mean that something is broken. Your critique about not having an ability to run iTunes for your precious iPhone shows your sad Apple-centric world. Get over yourself, and your iPhone. This is a new platform. God forbid Apple get off its butt and build a modern version of iTunes (such as the fabled cloud iTunes that would solve this issue). Perhaps in the future any company (besides Apple of course) should not bother sending you early products because you’re going to ignorantly treat them as a mature product instead.

    I don’t usually read Danny Sullivan, but after this I can guarantee you I’ll not being making that mistake again in the future.

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