back to article Samsung Chromebook: The $499 Google thought experiment

The most amazing thing about Google's inaugural Chromebooks is that they come with a file manager. It's not much of a file manager, but it's relatively easy to find, and it gives you relatively quick access to the files you've download, or screenshots you've taken, or documents on a thumb drive you've plugged into the USB port …


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  1. Old Handle


    I mean, I read the article, some positive aspects were noted. But I just don't see why anybody would want this. What does it offer that you can't do on a basic Windows or Linux laptop... with Chrome installed? It seems to me you sacrifice the option of running local applications and gain nothing in return. And it's not astoundingly cheap either, I'm not sure it's cheaper at all.

    The only possible advantage I see on the security front, but even there I'm not totally convinced. By giving up the ability to run local applications, you obviously reduce the number of ways your computer can be attacked. Can't argue with that. But since you've moved everything into the browser, presumably if your browser DOES get compromised, that's has bad as having a normal computer completely compromised.

  2. Bumpy Cat

    Call me old school

    But I would not use this as my primary machine. Maybe if I was travelling and needed something disposable (although imagine trying to explain to Customs that there's nothing on here to inspect!) I would consider it. The constant requirement for an internet connection is a bit problematic for daily mobile use, though.

    1. gerryg

      You're old school

      Think Boris bikes and their infrastructure. You don't need to take this through customs. It's stateless. You just need to be able to pick one up where you're going.

      And no, you shouldn't be allowed to work on sensitive data you don't own in a public place (company forecasts, NHS data, government economic policy). If you want to read published data get a Kindle (other e-readers are available) if you want to write billet doux get a personal mob. Perhaps with a e-book reader app?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I thought that leaving stuff on my fileserver and using it via SSH whilst traveling either with my laptop, netbook or the computer at my holiday home was rather old-fashioned.

        1. AdamWill

          it is

          these days, the cool kids make everything a git repository.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: You're old school

        "Think Boris bikes and their infrastructure."

        True, but Boris bikes don't stop working because the road has suddenly disappeared without warning.

      3. Robert E A Harvey

        @ gerryg

        >Think Boris bikes and their infrastructure

        Yes, but you could not run a parcel courier system with boris bikes, because the rack might be empty when you needed one.

        And you shouldn't run a business where the boss can't do any work between hotspots. It would be daft.

    2. gerryg
      Big Brother

      stateless computing?

      You've got no privacy,

      Scott McNealy Jan 1999

      Autarky is difficult to impossible in a modern society. In the end you've got to trust someone.

      Possibly that isn't Google but a lot of the criticism directed at them seems to overlook that the questions regarding privacy and computing were never asked sufficiently often prior to Google.

      I remember an early 90s discussion regarding what I think was the first networked computer system for a government department, in which it had been originally planned to disable the floppy disk drive because the user should not be able to take data out of the system (If only that culture had been established)

      How many laptops, USB sticks, whatever, are lost each year?

      I don't know what the right safeguards would look like but many organisations could benefit from this approach. Dare I say it might offer a solution to the NPfIT problem?

      No, I don't work for Google. Yes it would require attention to interoperability (but isn't that a good thing?)

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        does what it does well

        It seems to do what it does very well.

        Snag is, I don't want something that does what it does.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          My cock does what it does very well

          But the fact is most people want it nowhere near them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Might fit with the 'old-school' concept

      The Chromebook takes me back to the old days of thin clients (dumb terminals) connected to a mainframe. The only difference with Google's take is that it's all based on a really flaky network. Seems like the worst of both worlds - the higher cost of a stand-alone computer, the limitations of having to be joined at the hip with a server, and - as an extra bonus - a network connection that might disappear at any time (cutting off your computing life-blood). Ah, the wonders of modern technology...

  3. Aldous

    i dont get it

    its designed to do one thing well yet it costs the same as atom based netbook that can do everything with much higher storage but can also access google docs etc.

    i just do not understand why anyone would want this? its not exactly lightweight, its not cheap (if they want it thought of as "disposable" it will need to be considerably cheaper) battery life is great but the rest of it sounds like a major ball ache why on earth would anyone want this over a windows/linux atom based netbook other than the speedy boot?

    1. SuccessCase


      Agreed. How on earth can they justify maintaining Android and the Chromebook? Android is light on resources, can do everything Chrome OS can do, but plus is better for offline work and app availability and if they invest in implementing enhanced keyboard only navigation (which they could more than adequately do if they diverted Chrome OS resources) they will gain the benefit of giving Android additional flexibility for working across platform formats. It seems to me Chrome OS is almost a pure subset of Android capability, but the difference in resource consumption and memory footprint (where Chrome OS can theoretically be lighter) is entirely irrelevant to the cost of the final device given where hardware is currently at.

  4. Spearchucker Jones

    "And its security model makes an awful lot of sense"

    Sure it does. As long as you remember that this company's business model is predicated on its customers' information disclosure.

  5. Hilmi Al-kindy

    There are places in the world were an online only computer is stupid

    I live in a country with so many villages that still do not have DSL or 3G access. How would that work for where I live.

    Also, what happened to the nice sense of ownership you get when you get your software, open up the box and read the manuals etc...?

    Don't you get shivers down you spine when you think of all the ways your data can be abused when it is not stored in your computer? Pics of your wife, ohh it's OK if they were looked at for the sake of national security! After all, if you did nothing wrong you would have nothing to hide. At least locally they would have to either hack into your computer or have physical access to it to see your personal stuff. You could also always store your really sensitive private stuff completely offline if you wanted.. try doing that with an online only system except in the most basic ways.

    A few years back there were many cases of government officials stealing business ideas from honest to god hard working citizens, abusing their authority to deny you permits to start your business and then start the same projects themselves, now consider how that would work if you had all your data online and somebody can request access to your files for "national security reasons" Then they would have all the documentation, studies, statistics and business plans you had! Yippy, corruption made easy! and nope a court order being required does not offer much protection if there is enough corruption out there.

    Ohh yeah, have you ever consider what would happen if one day google went bankrupt and they shut down their services? What happens to your data then?

    1. bikerboi87


      You must be a fellow person living in the UK then :)

    2. Rich 30


      You criticise this becuase you dont have a great internet connection? Well this clearly isn't the laptop for you.

      I dont criticise Ducatti because they only make motorbikes and i dont have a motorbike license. Or criticise solar powered calculator manufactures because where i live its dark for 4 months of the year?

      1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: gah?

        But Cade lives near and works in San Francisco ... and it's a fairly short commute ... and if you can't get an internet connection there, the where ...

      2. Anonymous Coward

        @Rich 30

        "I dont criticise Ducatti because they only make motorbikes and i dont have a motorbike license."

        No, it's like criticising someone offering a boat as a replacement for my car.

        It'll get me around great until I run out of water.

      3. Hilmi Al-kindy

        Nope, its like the electric car!

        You see, this is like the electric car, great concept, but it is only practical for a few people because it takes forever to charge up and has very limited range as well as being unable to charge it everywhere you go. Ohh yeah, did I mention that electric cars (in general) are slow (same goes for this particular chrome book)?

        At least with the electric car, you are not worried that somebody will accidentally wipe out all your data or that somehow your data has been compromised! Another issue is, the speed and efficiency of your online apps depends on the reliability of your internet connection. A local app's speed depends on factors in your control like your hardware and how well you care for your machine.

        Might work for some people, but I would not depend on it in my company (oops, construction company dug a hole in the wrong place and cut of the internet from an entire city, all the staff get a holiday till the cable gets repaired) and I am still getting tech support calls from my Dad, because the internet thingi is down and he cant get anything done!

      4. Steven Roper

        Re: gah?

        Would you criticise Ducati and every other vehicle manufacturer out there if they all started pushing bikes and did everything they could to part you from your car? What if Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and GM all stopped making cars and only made motorbikes, so that in the end you have two choices: motorbike or Adam's cart?

        Because this is what Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and every other computer manufacturer out there are doing with this "cloud" bullshit. They all have a vested interest in getting control of your apps and data, which is what this "cloud" shit is really about. It's about the ruling class getting back the control the advent of the internet has taken from them and put in the hands of the common man.

        The future they envisage is one where you have to pay to access your own files, and pay again every time you want to read, add to or edit them. Pay-per-use applications - $1 for each document you type in CloudWord, $5 for every image you edit in CloudPhotoshop. Or if you edit a lot of documents you can now do so for the low, low price of $29.95 per month which lets you edit up to 500 different documents as many times as you like! Want to relive those old memories and view your photos? Only 20c per view per pic! Want to share a file with a friend? Only 50c per file per friend! Etcetera, etcetera. That's where this "cloud" business is going.

        Alternatively, they'll offer a "free" cloud service but the catch is you allow them to scan your files so they can build profiles on you. Profiles that can be used to exploit your weaknesses to push psychologically manipulative advertising and sell you shit you don't need. Profiles that can be used by unscrupulous and corrupt governments to steal your business ideas, or to set you up to save one of their own arses. The possibilities are endless, once these bastards have your data in their hands.

        If you doubt what I'm saying, consider this: What's wrong with selling an application that lets you access your own files, from your own computer at home, securely over the internet? Mobile VPN? That gives you all the benefits of the cloud, like remote access, while keeping the advantages of controlling your own files, like privacy and control of your data. Such applications do exist, but you don't see them being endlessly plugged, or made easy for the average user, by the likes of Google and Microsoft and Apple. Why? Because they want you to store your files on THEIR systems, not on your own. So they can get control of your data. That's the ONLY valid reason for pushing their "cloud" so much. Control, control, control. That's what it's always been about.

        So these fuckers will hold your data to ransom the day they manage to force everyone onto the cloud. If we have even the slightest modicum of a desire for freedom and control of our own information, we will repudiate this "cloud" shit with all the contempt it deserves. They can't sell it if nobody will buy it.

        1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

          @Steven Roper

          You make the most perfect sense I have read in ages, however the average pleb will do what he's told because he wants "shiny things". TV advertising budgets are often larger than the programme's they sit between, because company's want us all to buy shiny stuff no matter what the sacrifice, be it money, mental health, etc. If anyone wants to push people towards the cloud and they have a lot of clout in the mobile market, people will be in the cloud, they will have no choice in it.

          Now remind me again which two organisations want the cloud shite to be big AND have a big market share on mobile devices?

    3. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Wait a minute

      You read the manuals?

  6. jjbd

    I think I like it

    I think this is exactly what I'd want from a netbook. Years ago I had a desktop mac and a windows laptop – what I wanted to do was flick open the laptop when I wanted to do something quickly in email or on the web; but I very rarely did because I knew I faced a slew of updates and syncs before I could get going, and the longer I postponed, the worse that got. Instead I only used it when I needed Windows.

    I don't mind administering my main machine, but I'll happily let someone look after my netbook. I guess I'd want Skype, though.

  7. oopsie

    My Mother

    Sounds like something i'd give to my mother

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Do you hate your mother?

      as title

    2. Ilgaz

      Buy her an iPad

      iPad does way more than this thing and comes with a real GPU and dual core CPU, also got 80% of market.

      Call Apple anything but at least they respect your privacy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yep I bought my mother an iPad

        I tried to get her into using a computer for years so I could send her regular emails and photos of grandchild etc. But we are talking here serious computer illiteracy. Have you ever tried to teach someone to use a computer who is incapable of even clicking a mouse button without having a spasm of "I can't do this" fear and moving the mouse 5 inches whilst clicking? Let me tell you it's not easy and I have to admit after hours of patient trying across multiple attempts, I gave up. It was clear the whole exercise would draw a blank because she simply didn't enjoy it because she found it so difficult. If that basic motivation isn't there its' a non starter.

        Got her an iPad and it was wonderful to watch. She could use it immediately. I mean really use it. I was simply stunned and hugely impressed. But more than that, she enjoys using it. Plays scrabble, reads her emails, gets piccies of her family, accepts schedule items to track when family events are planned and is now daily contributing to the demise of the printed book and newspaper. Say what you like about the iPad but the fact it passes the "so easy my mother can use it" test so spectacularly speaks volumes.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          How about 3-years-olds?

          My son still does not get that when viewing a DVD on a laptop, he can pause/continue the movie with the big space bar, even after watching me do it all the time.

          But if he manages to get at my iPhone, he'll be watching youTube videos in seconds...

  8. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Too expensive for what it is

    If this was 100 USD it might sell, crippled though it is. At 500 USD I can't see many people bothering.

    Android and ARM based notebooks will do a lot more for less.

  9. Paratrooping Parrot

    Too many negatives

    This costs $429, which means that we in the UK will be charged £429 for an Atom powered laptop that cannot do anything without the Internet. I bought an i3 laptop for only £300 and I can do many things on it without needing the Internet.

    If it is to be disposable, then it has to be much cheaper, about £100. Although in this day and age, we should be reducing the amount we chuck away.

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      Apart from wondering what the point with this machine is...........

      ............I also have to say that your point about the likely price in the UK is (if you will forgive me!) right on the money. When one notes that one can get a pretty decent netbook for that kind of money or indeed, for example, the Asus Transformer *with* the docking station at that price point one ends up with a feeling that Google did not exactly think this one through in the commercial sense.

  10. ~mico

    I only see a netbook here...

    A netbook with castrated... sorry, customized Linux OS and more or less secure bootloader (how secure - remains to be seen). It might be marginally more stable and better optimized (due to company having to deal with few hardware brands) than an average netbook, but I doubt a casual user will ever notice the difference. What this user will undoubtedly notice, is his frustration from not being able to do simple things he is used to being able to do on his netbook.

    Maybe, just maybe, if this chromebook had some distinguishing features... like, better display, longer battery life, lighter weight, maybe ARM processor (does the browser actually need an Atom CPU?) and global unlimited wireless data plan... maybe it could have been of some use. Until then... I'm skeptical

  11. mark l 2 Silver badge

    too expensive

    For these limited machines to make any dent in regular netbook and laptop sales they need to be at least half the price than current.

    They could have reduced the cost by putting in an ARM processor instead of intel and a smaller SDD as after all if its just running a linux kernel and chrome why do you need 16GB if you aren't installing local apps?

    Switching from Intel to Arm chip should also give them longer battery life

  12. TonyHoyle

    Way too expensive

    It's a crippled laptop.. for £400. It does nothing to justify that price.

    Had they priced it at the £150 the early netbooks went for (before the manufacturers started getting greedy and killed the concept stone dead) it might have had legs. For £400 you can get a reasonable HP Laptop (G62-451SA came up on google).

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Wasn't the manufacturers

      It was Microsoft who killed the cheap netbook along with the inability of the public to adapt to Linux, largely because the salesmen giving them away with mobile broadband contracts failed to mention it was a different OS.

      1. Steve Knox Silver badge

        Who killed the netbook?

        If Microsoft's OS pricing killed the netbook, then why does this one (which comes without said OS) cost MORE than MS-based ones?

        1. Bilgepipe

          Yes, Microsoft killed the netbook

          Steve Ballmer was really quite public about his intention to make netbooks much more expensive than they were at the time by increasing the ransom - sorry, price - he charged OEMs for his shitty software.

          So setting aside the fact that many people didn't know what they were getting when they ordered a Linux netbook - which is a different problem entirely - yes, Microsoft killed the netbook. The price of this Chromejunk thing isn't relevant to that fact.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Giles Jones

        Giles; Either MS really has a secret dastardly mechanism for reaching inside people's heads and flicking a "don't buy" switch every time the consider buying a non Microsoft product or you are a moaning Minnie who sees each consumer (which includes you) as a mere tool who can't help but be to used by big corporations

        Now which is it?

  13. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge


    According to this search 55 users have paid $1000 each for the AdBlock app. meh!

  14. petur
    Thumb Up

    RE: Why

    Well, I find myself wanting to access some of my data from more and more different locations and machines. And about every time I use my netbook, I end up first logging into my server to get the files I want. The end result is that the files I need to use on my netbook are now in Google Docs.

    The only reason I won't buy this is the lack of specific things like watching the occasional movie or transferring and editing pictures while on the go.

    But they are getting close to replace my netbook use-case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You need ..

      an operating system that lets you access your remote server like a local disk on your File manager - with the full security of SHH.

      Linux does this

      1. Ilgaz

        So does Windows and OS X

        The webdav with https is the way to go. It is there for almost forever.

  15. ChrisF18
    Thumb Up

    Not now, but the future for the majority

    When Google services offer offline modes, and the price comes down (I think the magic sweet spot for me would be £169), I'm certain this would all parents / grandparents would ever need. We need bash prompts, IDEs and compilers, high-powered native gaming, and other CPU intensive applications. We are not the target audience.

    For the target audience, with the exception of needing a new printer (and pending the inevitable changes around HTML5 and pricing), I really can't understand the weaknesses. Hell, even I'd get one for browsing in the living room (I'm not a tablet fan). Give it 12 months, and lets see what happens.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only 12 months?

      Given the UK (and many other places) poor reliability for broadband and mobile Internet access, these are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

      Maybe in 3-5 years, if (and that's a big if) the network infrastructure has evolved enough, might such a system succeed.

      Not my poison though. Gimme a thick client.

  16. jonathanb Silver badge

    Probably not suitable for work use at all

    Surely if a workplace wanted machines for remote working with nothing stored locally, they would install a Citrix or rdp client rather than chrome? There are plenty of desktop thin client terminals around that do this, and possibly even something in laptop format.

  17. Marvin the Martian

    Moving goalposts is good.

    Especially if you put the goalposts very close together and very very far behind our team, it can only be a good thing for us, no?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      As opposed to adding a really fat goally

      as in the case of anti-virus software in the MS world

  18. Giles Jones Gold badge


    This is just a hobby for Google. There is no market for it other than Internet cafes.

    It would be better as a tablet OS but people prefer Android for that due to the amount of apps.

  19. nick47

    Certainly the best looking Atom based machine so far.

    I hope other manufacturers follow the design examples here. How I long for a £199 "netbook" that looks like a proper laptop! Sometimes you don't need processing power but you can't beat having plenty of room for your windows or your fingers!


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