QTIP: What is Chrome OS?
Posted on April 20th, 2017
Is it right for you?
Chrome OS is a free operating system designed by Google that is based on Linux and uses Google's Chrome web browser as its user interface. As a result, Chrome OS primarily supports web applications.
Google announced the Chrome OS project in July 2009, conceiving it as an operating system in which both applications and user data reside in the cloud. The first Chrome OS laptop, dubbed Chromebook, debuted in May 2011. Its capabilities were about those of the much-derided Windows netbook.
In turn, consumer adoption was initially faint, with observers (including me) saying that a browser running on Windows or Mac OS X was functionally equivalent. That was then. In 2017 Chrome OS's near zero cost combined with an explosion of web-based services has made it a leading supplier to education and business. Consumers are getting the message now too.
Chrome OS runs Chrome Apps from the Google Web Store, which resemble standard PC or Mac applications. A wider selection of apps built for Android, Google’s world leading mobile operating system, which now also run on Chrome OS have thrust the platform into the mainstream.
Today Chrome OS is available pre-installed on hardware from Google and mainstream manufacturing partners Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. Laptop features run the gamut from basic to surprisingly complete touch-screen flip models providing full keyboard and touchpad as well as tablet functionality. Desktop models range from stripped-down Chromebox models to full size All-in-One models.
Free versions of Chrome OS are available for installation on older Intel-based desktop and laptops from Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba. Free Chrome OS enables resourceful enthusiasts to revitalize otherwise obsolete hardware.
Chrome OS installation on two 10 year old Dell Optiplex PCs and a 10 year old Apple MacBook Pro went smoothly. But seeing the svelte Chrome OS purr on old hardware spoiled the party somewhat.
Chrome browser only
Chrome OS is simple, stable, fast, easy to maintain
Chromebooks don't have ethernet networking
Microsoft Office, QuickBooks and other mainstay PC and Mac desktop apps not supported
Android and Kindle integration
Limited onboard data storage
Secure against viruses and malware
Awkward printer set up
Integrates Chrome browser, Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Google Drive cloud storage, G Suite business apps on PCs and Mac.
Limited offline apps
Good battery life
Limited iOS integration
Chrome OS can run on many obsolete Intel-based PCs and Macs
While minor, the Chromebook keyboard layout is slightly different than standard PC and Mac keyboards
So, how do you decide if Chrome OS device is right for you? Begin by asking yourself if you can do your primary tasks within the Chrome browser. If you only browse the web, send and read email, use social media, and do basic word processing, even work in Outlook web app, your answer may be “yes".
If you use PC or Mac for accounting applications like Quicken, TurboTax, QuickBooks, or graphic design or video-editing software like Adobe Photoshop, and/or Premier, those apps won’t work on a Chrome OS device. At least for now your answer may be "no".
An option may be to try out a Chromebook. An inexpensive Chromebook can be purchased at Best Buy or on the web for very little compared to the cost of Windows PCs and Macs. You may happily find, as I did, that yours need not be an either/or decision.
As it is for many PC and Mac users who also use an iOS or Android tablet, using a Chrome OS device may be an and decision.
Information from Wikipedia, Google and hardware makers was sourced for this article.