Exclusive First Look: Google's Cr-48 Chrome OS Netbook

Alan Fackler

Hey now! We just got our hands on Google's pilot netbook for the Chrome OS, the Cr-48. It's essentially a netbook running Google's new cloud based operating system. After the video, make sure and check out Gordon Mah Ung's written first impressions about the new OS.  Enjoy!

My Take on Chrome OS Thus far: What Netbooks should have been in the first place

I got my first chance to give Chrome OS Netbook a spin this morning and, believe it or not, I like what I see.  It’s everything the Netbook should have been from the beginning.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never been a fan of NetBooks. It’s not the form factor mind you. Over the years my primary notebooks have included Hewlett Packard’s Omnibook 300, a Fujitsu Lifebook P5020, a Sony Vaio PCG-C1VN and even a Toshiba Libretto. Obviously, I’m not against small notebooks. But Netbooks went against the grain of what the industry is supposed to do: Keep the ball going downfield by giving you more power and more capability for less money. Netbooks instead gave you less power, less capability and they were slow beyond belief.

Netbooks don’t need power, the saying went. All you need the Netbook to do is access your browser, we were told. Unfortunately, as my co-worker Nathan Edwards often says, once you put a full operating system in a netbook, people expect a full OS experience. Which is why I could never get aboard the Netbook bus. They just drove me insane with their slower than frozen molasses speed. If I have an OS available, I’m going to want to take advantage of its rich capability. I’m going to install iTunes, a photo editor and a bazillion other applications that I just might need. On the Netbooks I’ve played with, anything other than the browser is torturously slow.

That’s one of the reasons that I think Google’s Chrome OS Netbook works. It still uses the same Intel Atom chips that have been the butt of my jokes for years, but when you’re limited to just the browser, you don’t mind Atom as much.

To actually call Chrome an OS is being kind. It’s more of a browser with a notebook tacked onto the backend. It’s not just minimal, it’s simply not what any one today thinks of when they think of an operating system. It’s pretty much a browser and that’s it.

The hardware on the Google reference Chrome OS notebook Cr-48 is nice enough but it might as well be a sealed black box. The reference notebook includes a 12.1-inch screen of unknown resolution (you can’t change it or check it in the OS right now.) There’s also 802.11n  and a Verizon 3G CDMA card. Buying a Chrome OS Netbook entitles you to 100MB per month free for two years. Additional bandwidth within the first two years will cost $10 per day for unlimited access.

Getting the Chrome OS notebook up is Simple Jack easy. Turn it on, take a picture of yourself with the included web cam, and log into your Gmail account. You’re dropped into a familiar Chrome tab and that’s it. Mind you, this is a 0.9 beta so changes may come but there’s no desktop, start menu or dock. You literally live in a browser. There is an “app” store but we use that word loosely because they’re just really web pages. Currently, there’s Flash support but no Silverlight support so Netflix is not available right now.

Is it for everyone? No. I firmly believe that the fat or “capable” client will always be with us. But there’s certainly times when the Chrome OS has appeal. Among those I would count the machine klutz types who you know will bork a computer with a real OS on it. I think it’ll be almost very difficult to break the Chrome OS because there’s its so bereft of features. I also like the idea of Chrome OS for a notebook that I am afraid might get lost or stolen. With my current laptop, I’d lose gigabytes of data that could be compromised. With Chrome OS, everything is in the cloud so the loss would fairly minimal.

So overall, I actually like what I see so far. It’s not perfect and a lot has to be fixed, but I think it’s a good start so far.

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