Google Chromebooks celebrate 1 year anniversary

samsung-series-5-google-chromebook-white-angleIt’s been roughly a year since Google’s Chromebooks (then known as the CR-48) first surfaced. Google’s “nothing but the Web” netbooks have laid fairly low, making a big initial splash and then playing second fiddle to a variety of other Google releases this year (the Google Wallet and Google+ specifically coming to mind).

Those who are fans of the Chromebooks loyally defend their user-friendliness and accessibility. But there are plenty of skeptics who remain. So in review of the past year, how far have they come and where are they going?

Manufacturers

When Google officially announced the Chromebook this summer, we got a peak at the new hardware. The original beta product was little more than a black box with what were then unknown capabilities. But at the Google Chrome event last year, we finally saw the real deal: two sleek netbooks from Acer and Samsung.

In addition to showing off the new devices, Google said other manufacturers would follow, giving users more selection and variety. A year later, Acer and Samsung remain the only Chromebook-makers.

It’s not exactly encouraging that no other brand names have jumped on board with Chromebooks. Whatever progress they have made, it’s obviously not enough to lure in any new partners. Progress in this area: nil.

Chrome OS depends on apps

Winning the corporate world over with enterprise apps has been a struggle for Google. The company’s Rajen Sheth recently spoke at GigaOm’s Network 2011 summit about this experience, saying “some businesses literally threw me out of the meeting five minutes in when they realized I asked them to move their emails outside of their firewall.” But now Google Apps have four million business customers and are looking more and more like a legitimate business solution.

And this could translate into a couple of things for Chromebooks. One, Google could look at its experience with Google Apps as a mold of what will happen for its smartbooks. Chromebooks are introducing a new type of operating system, a new payment plan, and are altogether very different from how people are used to owning and using laptops, but like how the corporate world had to grow into Google Apps.

Secondly, the success of Chromebooks is very much dependent on Google’s continued development of Google Apps and its Chrome Web Store. The Chromebook might bill itself as a laptop, but it’s really no such thing. Instead, the Internet disguises itself in physical form and users are left without a toolbar, desktop, or software. You’re entirely at the mercy of the Chrome Web Store, which was off to a slow start last year.

chrome web storeOn the plus side however, it’s gotten a recent makeover and passed 30 million aggregate users. What’s probably the best news for all things Chrome is that it’s swiftly moving up the browser market share ranks. It recently surpassed Firefox for the number two spot. And really, in order for Chromebooks to succeed, the Chrome Store has to succeed. In order for the Chrome Store to succeed, Chrome has to succeed. It’s a vicious cycle and one that makes Google’s Internet products very dependent on each other, for better or worse.

What’s next?

Many of the original complaints users and reviewers had with the Chromebook related to reliability. Offline support was iffy, and with such a device it means the thing is rendered useless. But an update from a few months back has apparently addressed this. OS updates in general have been incredibly user-friendly, being pushed out regularly

Clearly, addressing glitches and keeping with the Chromebook status quo won’t be enough to keep these things going. Google’s going to have to issue bigger improvements. Our guess (or hope, rather), is that the next iteration of the Chromebook will feature more powerful ARM chipsets for overall more efficient use as well as improved battery life.

And as far as looks go, Google wouldn’t be mistaken to take the Ultrabook route and design a sleeker, thinner, more professional-looking model. Compared to the aluminum, streamlined notebooks that are taking the consumer market by storm, the plastic-coated, shiny Chromebooks look like toys.

The biggest hurdle Google will have to address is fragmentation. Android and its tablet-smartphone division has been something of a sore spot for Google, and add the Chrome OS to this inventory of operating systems and it can easily look like a tangled mess.

Because Chrome isn’t your traditional laptop operating system and depends on the Internet, it can find itself looped into the mobile OS bracket. Google needs to find a way to redefine this so that isn’t the case, because Android loyalists will argue Google’s Android tablet/smartphone experience is superior and Chrome OS users might feel like they’re missing out (the Android marketplace easily trumps the Chrome Web Store). The creator of Gmail himself expressed his doubts about this decision. 

But certainly Google has been ahead of the curve when it comes to cloud computing before, and this might be the case with Chromebooks. Fingers crossed, it is, but we’re still hoping for some key upgrades in the coming year. 

Computing

The number pad on HP’s Chromebook 15 makes spreadsheet work a breeze

HP's Chromebook 15 comes with a 15.6-inch display, a metal keyboard deck with full-size keys, and a dedicated number pad, making it the second Chromebook model, following Acer's Chromebook 715, to be suited for spreadsheet work.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Trash

In 2019, laptops are better than ever. Here are the best of the best

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. Our picks for the best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while they're at it.
Computing

Chromebooks are laptops, but they do things a little differently

Chromebooks are an intriguing branch of laptops that are often cheaper and faster than their Windows counterparts, but they are a little more limited. Intrigued? Here's everything you need to know about Chromebooks.
Mobile

Spruce up your Lenovo smartphone with the best Moto Mods for the Moto Z-series

Moto Mods, the snap-on accessories compatible with Lenovo's Moto Z-series smartphones add a lot of value without adding a lot of bulk. Looking to try one out? Here are a few of our favorite Moto Mods.
Mobile

The Pixel 3 range will soon be coming to T-Mobile's network

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Mobile

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL will be coming to the U.S. with T-Mobile

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.
Mobile

The black satin Razer Phone 2 is now available for $500

The Razer Phone 2 is finally here, and it's got upgraded specs, that super-smooth 120Hz display, and an updated design. Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the Razer Phone 2.
Mobile

The best LG G7 ThinQ cases will keep your phone looking new

The LG G7 ThinQ comes with a powerful processor, versatile cameras, and amazing sound. But a powerful phone still needs protection and you might want to change the style. Here are the best LG G7 ThinQ cases.
Mobile

Multiple phone leaks show May 21 is going to be a big day for Honor

Honor will launch at least one new smartphone on May 21, at an event taking place in London. Leaks have indicated the Honor 20 will take center stage, with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.
Mobile

Breaking news: Samsung responds to reported Galaxy Fold display issues

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.
Mobile

The Avalon V is Alcatel’s first Verizon-exclusive smartphone

Alcatel is has announced a new phone, the Avalon V -- but this budget device isn't what makes the announcement special. It's Alcatel's first phone on the Verizon network, and it's available now.
Mobile

Big, beautiful, and breakable: Check out the best Galaxy S8 Plus cases

There’s no denying Samsung’s ability to turn out an attractive smartphone, but glass curves are expensive to fix and metal chips easily. We've rounded up the best Galaxy S8 Plus cases on the market.
Mobile

Sidestep banking fees with the nationwide launch of T-Mobile Money

T-Mobile has launched its Money banking service nationwide in the U.S., and it offers an extremely tempting set of features for everyone, including industry-leading interest rates, a powerful app, and no banking fees.