Thursday morning I received from Google a Cr-48 Chrome notebook. I'm not ashamed to admit that, for the first time in a very long time, I felt like a young kid on Christmas morning. From the moment I began watching the press conference introducing the notebook I began peppering the Chrome team with emails and applications to test drive the new computer. In fact, it was my only Christmas wish.
So Thursday morning there I was working away in my home office on my HP desktop when I heard a UPS truck in the distance. I stopped and turned my head to get a better listen as the sound approached. When I saw the truck pull up to the front of the house I was positively giddy with anticipation. Still in my robe, I opened the door before the UPS guy got a chance to knock and whisked the box out of his hands.
I ran the box into the kitchen and, hoping it wasn't a Christmas present for one of my two kids sent by an out-of-town relative, I cut it open and pulled out what might as well have been a Red Ryder BB Gun. Christmas had come early for me and I had Google to thank (or perhaps, Santa; either way, I “believe”).
I have been playing with my new toy almost non-stop since then and here are my impressions of the Chrome notebook after the first 24 hours:
The setup was a snap. Lift open the screen, enter your google password and you're taken to a browser screen; all of this happens in a fraction of the time it takes to boot up and log into a windows or apple computer. If you've already been using the Chrome browser with Sync then the notebook quickly imports your bookmarks, preferences, apps, etc. so that there is essentially no setup needed. This is a massive improvement over traditional pc's that require extensive setup including backing up files from your old machine and copying them over to the new one and then reinstalling all the software you had on the old computer and updating and configuring it. What could take days to complete on a legacy pc (this is what I call them now) takes literally seconds on a Chrome machine.
The first thing you notice is that, in the words of Linus Upson, Google VP of Engineering, with Chrome OS, “there's barely enough operating system to run the browser.” Everything you do on the notebook is within the browser. At first this is a bit disconcerting. No desktop? No software? But it's also very liberating. To replace the desktop software that can't be installed on the machine Google has created the Chrome Web Store featuring apps from a variety of sources. The benefit of this is that nothing is stored on the machine; it's all “in the cloud,” and eventually it should be able to completely replace any desktop software you might need (this is a very early stage, to be sure, but Citrix Systems already has a very slick enterprise software virtualization utility for business Chrome notebook users that seemingly replaces all the desktop software you might need). No more software compatibility issues, no more upgrades, no more licensing headaches and if your machine crashes you can simply get a new one and, because everything is in the cloud, once you sign in everything is restored automatically. In my humble opinion, this is the promised land for personal computing.
I haven't found anything really to complain about in terms of the operating system just yet. It did take me a while to figure out how to perform a few simple tasks like managing extensions I had installed. I have also had some difficulty adjusting to some aspects of the hardware: I was unfamiliar with the touch pad and had to teach myself how to highlight and right click on things. I also think that the touch pad is too close to the keyboard. In typing my palms or thumbs have hit it by mistake and selected things or moved the cursor around when I didn't really intend to. But these are hardware issues separate from the OS.
So now it's actually been well over 24 hours since I've been using the notebook and I haven't needed either of my two desktops or my other laptop for anything that I couldn't do on this thing. Another benefit is that I plugged it in to charge for about an hour after I took it out of the box and have been using it almost non-stop since then without having to charge it again at all (the battery image shows about 1/3rd of a charge left). My family noticed at the breakfast table this morning that it makes no noise – there is no fan humming or gears whirring that anyone can notice. Finally, the size is very convenient; it's about half the size of my massive HP media-heavy laptop and is much lighter as well.
All in all the Chrome netbook is a huge leap forward in the realm of personal computing. I haven't found any reason yet that I might have any difficulty making it my primary personal computer for the foreseeable future. Mid-2011 will see the mass-production of Chrome OS computers and I fully expect them to see the kind of quick adoption that has made the Android smart phone such a rapid success.
Finally, I should say “thank you” to the Google Chrome team for making my Christmas wish come true. I'm honored to be selected to test drive the notebook. Now to figure out how to get Porsche to send me one of these.
Disclosure: Long GOOG