Cloud Computing…For Reallies

I ordered a Samsung Chromebook for testing at the library last week and it just arrived today, so the testing has begun! And, so far, it’s like falling in love all over again. Well almost.

Hyperbole aside, the Chromebook truly is something to get excited about: it’s cloud computing applied to personal computing in a big way. Log in to your Google account (with a real keyboard folks!) and your synced googlelandia opens up for you in this browser-only, cloud-based computing platform…all your Chrome Browser extensions you set up in the past…all your Google docs…all of that…brought in from the cloud and ready for use just as you left it on your other computer.

The whole experience is cloud-like in many other ways. First off, the device is quite light, weighing just under 4 pounds, but the lack of the usual OS complexities really approximates floating. No system messages crowding out your work. No labyrinthine file structures to lose documents in. No barrier between your web browsing and your desktop…there is no desktop!

Okay, that’s all nice and good, but what about the downsides? Well, I haven’t had much time with the Chromebook to tire of its eccentricities, but the first negative impression I had concerned the plastic-y look and feel. Samsung (the hardware maker) really cut corners on the materials. At once, this makes for a light device, but also gives it a “disposable” feel. That said, the keyboard is real nice and responds well as I type this review up. The trackpad, however, does end up on the junky side. It’s better than I expected, but what I would do for a non-Apple hardware maker to deliver something at least as good as Apple does in this area. Still, it has tap-to-click and some other touch-based features…so overall, the track pad suffices.

But the main gripe I have with the device so far, is with the display. There is, as of right now, no way to calibrate the color of the display. So, as I sit here on my couch, rocking out to Pandora, my dog beside me and everything nice and groovy, my eyes are awash in bluish whites and greenish yellows. Oh well, can’t have everything…and certainly not in the first gen model.

Now for library plans…this device is first and foremost a test machine just to check what our library web services operate on the Google platform. But a secondary interest is the potential for this kind of machine as a library loaner device. Running at $500 a pop, it seems a great candidate for such purposes as well. We’d have to sort out the user data/privacy issue with Chrome OS though, since each user signs in as themselves (their Google self that is), which could be a problem…have to investigate that. Meanwhile, it looks pretty good.

And so, all in all, I love this little, cloudy PC. Love it! Just can’t wait for the high end Chromebook to come out…

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