Friday Thought: Chromebooks are NOT Netbooks

It is pretty clear from the industry press that a consensus is building that the time for netbooks may have passed.  And when Dell, one of the big 3 PC makers, decides to end all netbook products, the industry takes note.

But when a technophile friend of mine lumped Chromebooks into this category, I had to disagree.  His argument that netbooks came out too early, before the customer was ready for the cloud.  And now, with tablets, smartphones, and other devices, the need is no longer there — you can get more for less elsewhere.

Chromebooks, however, are not netbooks.

Netbooks from Dell, HP, Acer, and others still carry the burden of traditional operating systems, albeit “customized” for a purpose.  So while the cost to buy the device was lower, businesses still needed to carry the full burden of supporting any PC-class device.  And users still expected to run ‘heavy’ apps like MS Office on these devices.  Less capable, less expensive to buy, just as expensive to run and support is not a formula for long term success.

Chromebooks are entirely different … here’s how:

  • Chromebooks run Chrome OS, the first commercial Operating System to be built specifically to support cloud computing environments.
  • Chrome OS is also the first commercial operating system to include encryption and malware protection in the kernel, eliminating need for two layers of third party software.
  • Chromebooks operate on the model that everything you need is in the cloud, that there is little or no need for any local data.
  • Chromebooks give you access to legacy desktop environments and applications not through local installs, but through terminal services, virtual desktop interfaces, and RDP services.
  • Chromebooks run with a near-zero footprint for its users; no need to manage software distribution, patches, and updates.
  • Chromebooks receive profiles and policies with each power up and user login, eliminating the need to create, manage, and distribute system images.

Most importantly, when you purchase Chromebooks, you are not buying hardware, you are buying a service.

Yes, you own your Chromebook devices, but they are one component of the service.  The service includes a management console that empowers organizations to manage user profiles, services, access, and add-ins.  The service also includes a replacement warranty of up to three years.  Chromebooks are as close to a “zero maintenance; zero administration” solution as you can get.

Netbooks give users a familiar, less capable (some might say ‘crappy’) system that still requires all of the administration and maintenance of a full blown PC.

Chromebooks give users a new platform with expanded capabilities, but without much of the expensive and burdensome overhead.

Netbooks may be on the way out; Chromebooks and the service model they bring to the market should be here for the long haul.


7 replies
  1. Selden
    Selden says:

    You are conflating two different market segments, business and consumer. Consumers do not get a replacement warranty of up to three years. While Chromebooks offer organizations some real benefits in reduced administrative overhead, the consumer gets an unfamiliar, less capable (some might say ‘crappy’) and still unfinished operating system that requires more effort for many simple tasks, in exchange for reduced maintenance compared to a full blown PC. While ongoing maintenance requires less effort, restoring my Chromebook involves more effort than restoring my Ubuntu netbook from a backup image (I know this from experience).

    I use my Chromebook far more than my netbook, but primarily because it has a larger screen and keyboard, runs for longer on battery, and has 3G connectivity for those (increasingly rare) times when Wi-Fi is not available. Although a Chromebook meets 90% of my needs, there are times when a “traditional” computer is a requirement; a Chromebook makes a great lightweight supplementary computer, but like the iPad, it cannot replace a traditional computer.

    • Allen Falcon
      Allen Falcon says:

      @Selden … I don’t think I am conflating two markets at all. As a reseller, we only sell to businesses and, yes, there is a five user minimum. Yes, restoring a consumer Chromebook without the Management Console is a challenge that does not exist for businesses (we wiped and restored a Chromebook in about 20 minutes). And, per my other comment, connectivity to a legacy environment is going to be a must for most business users as well.

      My point is that as Chromebooks evolve you will see adoption in education, libraries, and businesses, as the functionality will outpace the cost when compared to netbooks and laptops.

  2. AgilityDog
    AgilityDog says:

    I have several Chromebooks, bought for product marketing use. All I can say is that the concept is crushingly disappointing. We offered to let employees keep the machines as long as they wanted – but got them back in less than a week in every case. I understand that 95% of where we live on the web is in the cloud, but the missing 5% is a bit like the the bathroom in my house. I may not use it all the time, but I can hardly do without it. And yes, let’s not go any further with that metaphore (-:

    • Allen Falcon
      Allen Falcon says:

      AgilityDog — If you are 95% there, you are likely close than many organizations. The key element for many is access to “legacy” applications. For this, an RDP or Terminal Services environment does seem necessary. The good news is that Ericom, Citrix, and other vendors are (and will) provide this capability.

      I’m curious .. which apps and what data is the missing 5%?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.