Chromebooks turn 10: From the first prototype to the latest models
It is the 10th birthday of the very first Chromebooks and I never would have imagined these stripped down machines that didn't really do a lot would evolve into what everybody needed during Covid for remote school and remote work.
I'm gonna show you how we got from there to here.
Way back in 2011, when the very first Chromebooks were announced, it was a Samsung model was an Acer model.
I didn't have a lot of high hopes for that.
We were just coming off of the netbook era where we have low cost windows laptops.
That seemed like a great idea on paper but didn't really perform in real life.
They just were not powerful enough.
So even though you could download and run apps on them They just felt sluggish and you weren't getting even your two or $300 worth.
These first Chromebooks were going to cost 350 to $450.
That's getting get more into mainstream low end, Intel windows budget laptop territory.
But frankly, those systems didn't feel great to use either.
So the pitch for Chrome was by stripping out all this The extra stuff.
The web browser is gonna run nice and responsively.
It's gonna feel very fast, you can't do as much with it.
But all the stuff that you do or that you're gonna do over the next few years is really gonna be cloud based.
It's gonna be browser based.
And that's why a Chromebook makes a good argument for it.
Now, the initial generations of them were a little bit too limited They didn't really have any onboard storage they didn't have any usable file system prevents small things that you'd want to download and keep on the local machine.
And frankly, a lot of tools that we used had not really fully moved online yet.
You could use Google Drive in Google Docs.
You could use some Microsoft tools online.
There were some video streaming services.
Yeah, there's Netflix.
You couldn't really play any games or anything.
Anything you wanted to do that felt to app like you had to find an online browser based version of it.
Microsoft offered Chrome OS apps in their app store.
But when you found one, and you said, great, I'm gonna get this app is really just a link to somebody else's web page that had built in browser based app in it.
The other big argument against Chromebooks at the time, and for the next several years, was that if you're gonna spend $500, maybe a little bit more, you might as well get an iPad.
And that is a much more fully rounded consumer experience riding in the point of view of somebody in 2011, 2012, 2013, You could do so much more than a lot more video functionality.
There's a great camera built in.
You can play tons of games on it.
And there are mobile OS alternatives to a lot of the desktop apps that you couldn't download install that you still wanted to use.
So that was the big argument, get an iPad instead.
Although we found that over the years, an iPad does still not really come close to being a full-time computer replacement in the same way that a Chromebook can be for what you would previously use a Windows laptop for.
Even more interesting when I started diving into the history of some of those very first Chromebooks, I remembered some things that I had not thought about in many years.
Google actually had their own prototype version of a Chromebook the year before 2010.
There was code named the CR 48.
And you had to sign up to be basically a beta tester for it.
And Google said at the time This is not for the faint of heart.
A lot of things won't work, right?
You're going to find the whole Chromebook experience, you know, potentially mystified, and it's funny because that's exactly the opposite of how Chromebooks ended up working.
They were not for the faint of heart.
They were exactly where you would send those people because they frankly just weren't they were very difficult to **** up and they were fairly, Be easy to use, if you understood the basic concepts of going on a web browser, and going somewhere online.
But back when I started writing some of those early features on what it's like to live full time in a Chromebook as early as 2013, I was still a skeptic.
There were a lot of things Chromebooks are doing well, and if you only have so much money to spend on a laptop, Either you'd get a better overall experience with a Chromebook rather than a plunky super cheap Windows laptop.
That said, I was not sold on this being your full time computer.
Maybe it was a travel machine, a secondary machine or machine for kids.
But it wasn't really the one thing you You were gonna buy.
It took until about 2017.
Before I changed my mind on that when you started to have the first Chromebooks that can access the Google Play Store, and that would let you run Not every but almost every Android app.
So it was like having all of those iPad quality, really nice mobile apps, whether it's game stuff, productivity stuff, art stuff, things like Instagram.
And you could actually run these on the Chromebook desktop.
Now they ran from a little enclave within the chrome OSI was dedicated to Android apps.
And, it just exploded the functionality.
Also, back in 2017, you had the first Chromebook, that I thought was a real contender, to be as good as a mainstream laptop, and that was the Samsung Chromebook Pro.
It had a nice design.
It was $550, which is a little bit at the higher end, of the scale for Chromebooks, but it had 360 degree hinge.
And a touchscreen and a high resolution kind of forward looking in that it had a three two aspect ratio display, which is something laptops used to have a long time ago then got away from now we're actually getting back to them again because they're so useful for doing office work at home, and we're seeing more and more of those.
So it ended up being Machine with great design, very good components good performance.
And then you added the ability to run all those Android apps.
And suddenly I was sold on using a Chromebook as your main machine.
But that doesn't mean that the world went all in on Chromebooks just yet, even though they've remained some of the best selling computer products.
If you check the Amazon listings of what the best selling computers were every week, very often you find a lot of Chromebooks in there, largely because they were the least expensive laptops, you could buy.
But then 2020 happened.
And once everybody because of COVID was [UNKNOWN] working from home and trying to do remote schooling.
A big problem people ran into was you needed one computer per household member.
You couldn't have a laptop that you had and maybe you shared with The kids and you and your spouse and with the kids all shared one, everyone's got to be in their own remote classroom.
Everyone has their own work from home jobs to do so everybody needs a laptop.
The most affordable way to do that is for almost everyone or even everyone in the family to get their own Chromebook.
You can invest a few $100 per person, you could go for a fancy and frankly have $500 is still a pretty fancy Chromebook.
There's been a few that have cost a lot more, 1000 more than that.
That's the exception rather than the rule.
That's because throughout 2020, a lot of the tools that people use Google Classroom Room, Gmail for word resume for meetings, other video chat and video meeting platforms.
They all work great on a chromebook.
So it turns out that the the less expensive thing that you could buy and afford to get for everyone in the family It was actually something that worked great at the things you needed it to do.
So whereas before I might've recommended a mid-price windows laptop or a Mac book air, as the default laptop should look at and then figure out where your needs take you to something more expensive, less extensive.
We're finally at the point where you could say a Chromebook is really the default you should start with.
And then if it turns out you need Higher resolution screen you need to be able to play specific games on it.
You need to install apps like Photoshop, or Illustrator, or premiere, or something very specific like that.
Then you can look to a Windows machine or Mac OS machine.
But if you look at it closely, you'll find that a Chromebook probably does everything you needed to.
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