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The Evolution of Chromebooks: One Year Later

BetterCloud Monitor

May 16, 2012

2 minute read

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Just about a year ago, Google unveiled a game changer: Chromebooks, the browser only, lightweight and affordable laptop released by Google in conjunction with Acer and Samsung. The product initially received mixed reviews from critics, with many claiming Chromebooks lacked the functionality of traditional laptops. But with programs like Chromebooks for Education and Google’s continued focus on the project, we’re betting the idea will pay off in the long-run.

In the past weeks alone, there have been two huge updates to Chromebooks – Google Drive and the Aura update to Chrome OS.

Google Drive
Just a few weeks ago, Google released Drive seemingly to compete with the likes of Dropbox and Microsoft’s SkyDrive, but Drive has more significant value when you take into account its integration with the latest developer version of Chrome OS.

Since Drive syncs your Google Docs with a folder accessible on the desktop, viewing Docs offline is even easier. Plus once Google rolls out offline Docs editing capabilities, Chromebooks will have true offline abilities. Drive also deals with the issue of Chromebooks’ limited storage space, currently only 16 GB, and the the inability to sync files across devices (without uploading each individually). Drive gives users an additional 5 GB of memory for free with plans of 25 GB for $2.49 a month all the way up to an additional 16 terabytes of storage and Drive users can sync documents and folders across multiple devices that can be accessed from anywhere.

And don’t forget that Drive works both ways. If you use your Chromebook when you’re traveling for instance, syncing a file created on your desktop with Drive will automatically populate your Chromebook’s Drive folder with the same file, giving you the peace of mind that all of your files are where you need, them when you need them.

In another developer release, Google pushed out the latest version of Chrome OS, known as Aura. In an effort to make Chromebooks more user friendly, Google’s Aura update gives users the look and feel associated with both Windows and Mac OS. The new UI includes a traditional desktop view featuring the user’s applications as well a window launcher at the bottom of the screen. Plus windows can now be resized so full screen isn’t your only option.

Chromebooks have only been around for a year and in that time, the most significant impact the device has made is in the educational realm. At around $299 Chromebooks are not only affordable, but allow students to access all information regardless of device just by signing in to their Chrome account. And maintenance and updates (all pushed out through the browser) require virtually no effort from the IT department. With an optional management console, IT admins can centrally manage an entire fleet of Chromebooks, rolling out different applications, policies or settings to users based on different user groups (by grade for example).

We know Chromebooks have a long way to go in order to compete with traditional laptops, but with rumors of a new hardware partnership with Sony and continued work on the UI and operating system, a faster, leaner and better device is surely on the horizon.