Sunday, 16 August 2015

Chromebook killers & other nonsense

The new Acer Cloudbook is described as a “Chromebook killer" by some but this fails to identify the use and niche that the Chromebook fills. It also points to Microsoft's continued failure to see the Chromebook as something more than a budget device that meets light computing needs; instead of producing an alternative to Chrome OS, the response was low-end hardware partnerships with OEMs shipping full Windows (the 32 bit version) but with the license fee for Windows wavered, to keep costs low. With this step the advantages of cloud computing were ignored for full Windows, bundled with a one year Office 365 subscription (Microsoft may be ending the one year Office 365 subscription). According to Microsoft's logic, why get a Chromebook, when at similar cost there is full Windows and Office 365 (you can do more with that!). It would make more sense for Microsoft to identify what makes Chrome OS different and then develop the now defunct Windows RT as a cloud based operating system built around the snappy Microsoft Edge browser, bundled with key productivity apps from the Microsoft Windows store. In other words, this approach would rely on both the Windows store and Edge browser, with cloud based tools synced from a Microsoft account. Around these two points the tools are there for Microsoft to develop an alternative cloud based operating system, if there is only the imagination to make use of the intuitive metro interface and to bundle the Office store apps with OneDrive storage. In its own way, the Lumia phones have taken this direction and run far better with mobile hardware than Android phones.

Chrome OS, in contrast to full Windows, is a stripped down OS that is more than a browser. Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are a different way of computing and one that releases the need for maintenance of a bloated operating system from the user (there is good reason schools are increasingly adopting Chromebooks, as they significantly cut maintenance costs, other than the low cost hardware that Microsoft aims to counter). Chrome OS's virus and hassle free computing works better with low-end hardware, compared to Windows, as the end-user has less to deal with and this removes the clutter for users to then utilise tools that meet their needs (cloud computing is not ready for power-users at this moment). The misnamed Acer Cloudbook is a different computing concept to Chromebooks and meets a different need; it should also be noted that Acer is the largest manufacturer of Chrome OS devices that sell very well.

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