Google just won't let the Chromebook die. It seems like their long tail support approach is finally paying off with their newest update to their Chrome OS.
If you haven't had a chance to see it in action yet, the Chrome OS is basically Google’s home brew, linux powered, browser based, operating system with enough punch to drive a small laptop. The first run of Chromebooks featuring Chrome OS came to the market with a lot of buzz and interest but it also came with a laundry list of caveats and a hefty price tag. Chrome OS was designed for users that were always within range of internet access, and were entrenched in the Google universe, as all of their data would be stored to the cloud (tho some models do sport 3G access through Verizon). Users could not originally save their data locally and the laptop would be rendered useless if used in an environment with no connectivity. Google regularly posted updates for the Chrome OS, which is par for the course with Google, and the chromebooks really started to improve and become more of a viable option for more regular users.
Good News, Everyone!
Now your Chrome OS has been completely transformed into a more flexible and feature packed system. First up we see that the quick starting Chrome OS now welcomes you to an actual wallpaper for a more traditional (even macbook-esque) feel. At the bottom of the screen you have your “toolbar” on the left and notifications like wifi status, battery, and clock on the right. Your toolbar consists of buttons for the chrome browser, Gmail, docs, search, YouTube, and apps. The buttons will open chrome to the pages you want, and the apps button will turn your new desktop into a grid of your apps and games you’ve downloaded from the chrome store. With the addition of an actual desktop you leave the classic (yet, boring unless there is a doodle that day) Google Homepage for a new prettier desktop image of your choosing.
The fonts and window dressings have been tweaked as well, the notification bar pops up pertinent information as well as giving you a quick way to tinker with your settings without having to go to the main settings page. It also appears that for the CR48 its blue-tooth functionality is coming as the option for it now appears but it does not seem to be working (yet). You can re-size your windows and even “snap” them to the sides of the screen so you can work in multiple open windows at once. The resizing button even has its own features allowing you to quickly minimize, maximize and relocate your windows. Outside of that the basic tabs windows remain largely unchanged. Clicking the wrench pulls up the same options, however, going to the settings page takes you to a new and improved interface for all your tweaking needs. Here you can adjust everything as you could before but Google has taken the time to make finding the features easier and wording for what they do a lot more understandable.
The problem with on-board storage has also been addressed. The Chromebook now makes it easier to tap into the included storage memory for file access. And the media player has also been adjusted to show a friendlier interface for music playback. In addition to seeing what files you have on your hard drive, you can also see what files you have on your Google Drive. It allows you to access all of your online files from the same screen as your local ones. The issue of Google Music integration is still missing, but the addition of the integrated Google Drive access is a welcome one.
So far, using it has been just as easy; there isn’t much to adjust for as it more closely resembles a “normal” Windows, Linux or Mac desktop. I guess that's pretty much it- same Chrome engine, sexy new Chrome body with a few new bells and whistles for good measure. I am very excited to see what the next updates will hold and what features might be integrated into the Chromebooks. The announcement of the Chromebox with a lot more horsepower under the hood in a much smaller package makes me wonder just how much Google is really planning for this platform. I think the Chromebook is a great product for techies who know how to mash all their online capabilities together. Facebook, Chrome, and other web games are fine on them as well, but there’s no Steam for Chromebooks yet, and frankly, the hardware isn’t geared for it yet (maybe steam for Linux will open that door... dreaming). I suppose gaming isn't the focus for Chome OS at this point anyway; its a solid OS that runs quick and light. The future for Chrome OS is bright, but the price to feature ratio is still a bit off for the average consumer.
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