I have recently had the chance to get my hands on a ChromeBook. I have to say I was impressed but do still have a reservation or two.
I understand the ChromeBook and its market. It is aimed at people who want to access the web, web apps and nothing more. It it is a perfect replacement for Netbooks which are something of a stopgap solution. They are aimed at your parents, they want to turn on, check ebay, upload pictures to Facebook then turn it off. They don’t have the knowledge or inclenation to do anything else.
In this respect ChromeBook’s cover all the bases and have been well designed to fill this niche. At around £350 for the Wifi only version and £400 for the 3G version they are also very attractively priced. They start up extremely quickly and provide a good browsing experience in a tightly controlled environment. There is very little for the end user to maintain, break or update. You could quite happily give this to your granmother and not have to explain how to use it. Even the battery is a integrated and sealed in to the bottom of the laptop. In one word: Focused
Being such a focused device it does have several trade offs. Offline support is still very limited, even most 1st party google apps don’t allow you to save the content to use when you can’t access the internet. I’m sure this will change as time goes on but it will cause problems for a lot of people. Printing is going to be a issue as well as most printers aren’t currently cloud enabled so if you need to print you won’t be able to use this as your only computer.
As a tool for accessing the internet Google and Samsung have nailed the concept and Chrome as an OS works well. Its a simple system for a user who doesn’t want to be concerned with anything else. It actually strikes me as a product Apple could have produced, the feature set is controlled but the trade off is a simple and slick experience. So would i buy one? No. Its a great device but I’m not the target audience.