#1: It’s Net Only
Oh yes, we heard of this a thousand times, but it’s true. Despite the growing family of offline web apps, there are things we cannot do to with Chromebook offline.
Think offline function unimportant? Now tell me how you could edit images like in Photoshop? There are a number of imaging web apps but none of them are up to Photoshop’s professional standard.
The day when web apps are as good as local apps would finally come, but now we have to wait.
#2: Chrome Being the Only Browser
Some people like Chrome, some not. There are features that are exclusive to other browsers, for example, the managing tabs in panorama is not currently available in the official release of Chrome. You can tag bookmarks in Firefox but not Chrome (you could get similar function by installing extensions or use bookmarking services like Delicious, though).
Another reason that it is not good to have Chrome as the only browser is that some web sites could only be displayed properly in Internet Explorer. For example, the payment processing system is IE only. I know it is not the problem of Google or Chrome, but unless we can knock down the monopoly of M$, there are problems we need to face. If my company needs to spend money on tweaking the current web apps, most likely we would not buy Chromebooks for employees’ use.
#3: Chrome OS Being the Only System
Many netbook manufacturers offer their netbooks at different prices with different operation systems. Want cheap and hate M$? Linux option. Need M$ apps? Windows option, with extra bucks please. Or you could buy the basic one and stuff it with whatever OS you like, Windows, Ubuntu, DOS, etc.
You can install other operation systems in Cr-48 by turning into developer mode and flash the fireware with particular tools. On commercially released Chromebooks you can enable the developer mode with a slightly different method. But installing another system is yet another story. Til now nobody successfully done so, and probably it won’t be as easy as how you install windows in other netbooks.
Why need another OS? You may ask. I would say we all want to release the potential power of the gadgets we have. That’s why people like dual-booting two systems on their computers. Different situations require different systems. How great it is if I could benefit from the fast booting of Chrome OS for bedside reading while being able to use it as a fully functional computer for work?
#4: Limited Local Storage
Chromebook is designed for cloud lifestyle so storage of files online is recommended. Right, but we all know that online storage costs. Most storage providers offer a free plan but with limited space only (around 2GB to 10GB). Even Google Docs, Picasa Web Album and Music have limited free storage. When your collection grows, soon you’ll find file storage a problem, unless you are willing to pay. (I have over 10 GB of photos and over 60GB songs in my Macbook, where should I put them?)
#5: Lack of Hardware Support
Use Chromebook and be prepared that you may not use all the existing peripherals that work on your Windows PC. I mentioned in Google Chrome OS For Chromebooks – A Complete Review that my Logitech web cam did not work on my Cr-48 Chromebook. Now I found even more peripherals not recognized by Chromebook, not to mention my iPhone.
I love watching movies. Despite Netflix will soon officially arrive Chromebook, it cannot fully meet my movie demands. There are movies, especially foreign ones, that are available in DVD copies. Without support for DVD drive (and corresponding DVD playing apps), I need to rip the DVDs before playing the file in Chromebook (and the existing Media Player in Chrome OS is quite picky. It does not eat many file formats). Mac users you feel the same pain since Blu-ray disc reading is still out of question.
And this is only an example. There are lots of different scenarios that you’ll need to connect some hardware to your computer. Chromebook is just NOT that computer.
#6: Printing is NOT Easy
Chromebook is a machine for the cloud, use it and do everything in the cloud, including printing. To print a web page or Google doc on Chromebook, you need either a cloud-ready printer or a classic printer connected to a Mac or Windows PC. For the former, only a limited choices of brands and models are available in the market.
For institutions and offices, this is not a problem. They could invest on new printers or leverage existing printers hooked up to existing computers. For home users, this could be a problem. Unless you are willing to through away your still functional old printer or switch on the windows PC every time you want to print, perhaps just a page of document.
#7: Plug-ins, I Need Plug-ins!
I hate Java. It’s slow, but sometimes I need it. Just like how Apple banned Flash, Google did not open the door to Chromebook for Java. Some say Java is an outdated technology. I would not object to this comment. But at times it is useful.
I regularly blog about web apps. I need to capture screencasts to show visitors how the web app works, particularly for web games. I have been using a web-based screen video capture tool that was built with Java. Obviously it would not work on my Chromebook, so I have to turn to my Macbook. Ironically these web app reviews are written for Chromebook users.
Again this is just an example of the problems that may arise due to lack of plug-ins in Chrome OS. You’ll find out more (painfully) when you have used Chromebook for some time.
#8: Few Choices
For this one it depends on how you see things. Chromebook specific, there are only to announced brands producing four models (I treat the white and titan silver versions of Samsung’s Chromebooks as one model). Chromebox has only one and god knows when we can buy it. If you consider Chromebooks as netbooks, look at the whole netbook market you could find a lot.
I do agree that choices of Chromebooks are not many. Until it gets popular Chromebook looks like a gadget for geeks only (a non-geek friend told me so, that’s why she never considered buying one). And the support you get is limited to the official channels from Google and the two manufacturers only. Unlike Windows or Mac that have many users blogging tips and tricks on the web, it is relatively harder to call for help online.
#9: Well, I Actually Like It but Just Can’t Get One
Many grievances about Chromebook I found in forums and blogs are not about the machine itself but how Google restricted launches to selected countries only. This reminds me of how Palm released Pre, the new generation Palm smartphone running web OS.
When Palm Pre first hit the market, it’s not available to most of the world. Only the US, UK and a few European countries were lucky enough to have Pre. This opened a large market to parallel importers. Some loyal Palm fans were willing to pay quite more for getting one.
And you can find similar situation on eBay now for Chromebooks. Some international buyers who can’t wait to get one had to pay extra for shipping and profit of importers in order to get one. Of course there are limits of the factory’s productivity, but if I have to wait, why not buy a cheap netbook and install Chromium OS instead?
Who Shouldn’t Use Chromebook?
You need many local apps that no comparable web app alternatives are available
You need to access IE- (or other browser) only web sites
You want dual systems but you are not technically competent to hack the Chromebook
You need large local storage space (or you don’t have money to pay for extra cloud storage every month)
You have many peripherals to plug into your computers, for example iPhone
You often print but only have an old printer and don’t want to always switch on another PC
You need Java and other plug-ins not supported by Chrome OS
You want choices (of Chromebook with varying look and specs)
You do not live in the launch countries and don’t want to wait (or pay more for parallel import)
This is not an article to deny the whole Google Chromebook project. In fact Chromebook it’s a great machine, but you ought to know both pros and cons about it before buying one. This is an article for providing balancing views.
Days ago I had a discussion with someone in an online forum. I mentioned the drawbacks of Chrome OS such as lack of Java. The other guy seemed not to be convinced, since he thought that what I did was like comparing a car with a motorcycle. Chrome OS is a web-centric OS that shouldn’t be compared with traditional OS.
Well, I agree that Chromebook is not an ordinary computer. But customers don’t necessarily appreciate this. To them as long as the product is good and matches their needs they’ll pay. If I have to buy a computing device for my girlfriend, I won’t care about theories and academic talks. If my girlfriend does not fall into one of the 9 categories of people above, Chromebook is a good choice. That’s all. So dear friends, think thoroughly before you purchase. Chromebook is a great device, but only people know how to handle it could release its full potential.