You might not have noticed it but Chromebooks are one of the hottest selling notebooks in the market. Yes, even Amazon’s two of the top five best selling computers in the past 100 days have been Chromebooks. Trumping both Apple’s Macbooks and Microsoft’s Windows 8 laptops made by Toshiba, Dell and HP.
Chromebooks are powered by a highly customized version of open source Linux built by Google. It is an OS that facilitates hosting content online aka the cloud. As the name suggests, it is a customized version of Google’s extremely popular Chrome browser with access to thousands of native apps.
So instead of Microsoft Office, one can use Google Docs or similar online offerings. Instead of Photoshop, we can modify our photos using the online Chrome plugin Pixlr. Essentially, whatever we need is made available on the fly online.
Chromebooks do offer local storage, albeit limited. The idea is to use Dropbox, Google Drive and other similar services to store content in the cloud. Not locally.
Kind of opposite of a typical Mac OS or Microsoft Windows.
But who would want such a device?
Well, believe it or not, there is a market for it. The road warriors, the college and high school students, and sales people constantly moving from office to office. The kitchen computer just to quickly watch some news, look up recipes or even listen to music.
Most of the enterprise software has already shifted to the web. It is just easier to give employees Chromebooks and let them access content on the go. Completely online. No need to store any local data and no need to worry about viruses corrupting data, losing information with an unsuspecting hard drive crash, or even horrendous laptop theft. Even if the hardware dies, we have all the critical information online which is safe and accessible.
The ChromeOS that powers these chromebooks is still in its early stages. And therefore, it does have many limitations. But over time, it will improve and incorporate many features that will make the transition to cloud world even smoother.
Chromebooks are pointing to a new future of desktop computing. A future where data no longer resides locally but is stored in trusted cloud environments. Be it our personal photos, or official communications or even our health information. It’s all in the cloud.
There are skeptics who do not trust the cloud and believe the information security is ripe for theft. But then most of us never really trusted Windows to be virus free and crash proof.
We should not expect Chromebooks to overtake Microsoft anytime soon either. In fact, it may not happen in our life times at all. But it will definitely create a niche for itself significantly big enough to keep numerous vendors interested.
If Chromebooks continue to take the top spot in laptop sales, then we should expect Microsoft to bring out their own version of Windows Surface Cloud Edition or something. With Windows Surface RT tablets not selling as hotly as they had hoped, a Cloud Edition of RT would be worth a try.