Showing posts with label Chrome OS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chrome OS. Show all posts

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Why Chrome OS is better suited for the classroom

I want to reiterate in this post on just why the Chrome OS in a tablet form factor makes sense. The key, in my view, is the versatility of Chrome OS that can run on different form factors. Previously I noted my skepticism that a tablet running a mobile operating system can function as a laptop replacement (Apple marketed this idea when it first released the larger iPad Pro). However, with Chrome OS now supporting Android applications, I think it can serve the dual purpose of a laptop and tablet.

Apple's iPad Pro essentially runs a mobile OS and Microsoft's Surface 2-in-1 devices runs a desktop operating system with some tablet features built-in. In contrast, Chromebooks that come in diverse form factors are better suited to make use of two different focuses of a mobile and desktop interface. When required Chromebooks can now run mobile-based applications and for other tasks, there is a desktop interface.

This cross-pollination between a mobile-centric operating system and web-centric desktop operating system offers the best of both worlds in education. In the case of Android, there are useful applications for the classroom, e.g., Google Arts & Culture and Google Expeditions. Further, many Chromebooks now support touch and pen input that could make use of the different features in these applications. The desktop interface, on the other hand, works better for multi-tasking between tabs and extensive writing in Google Docs.

Another issue to consider is that many Chromebook are ruggedised and spill-resistant. To contrast, the Apple iPad requires the extra purchase of a rugged keyboard combo if it is to be feasibly used in the classroom.

Chrome OS has matured into a versatile operating system that works across different form factors. Neither Microsoft nor Apple offer anything similar to Chrome OS and I predict Chromebooks to continue to dominate and expand in the education sector.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Microsoft's version of Chrome OS

Microsoft tends to be one step behind and then attempt to catch up. Not long ago Microsoft ran advertisements that rubbished the idea of Chromebooks. Microsoft’s response to Chromebooks may be seen in, for example, the HP Stream range i.e. to offer Windows 10 on low end hardware. However, while these laptops are functional, with some frustration with the low RAM and storage, the streamlined Chrome OS remains better suited to low-end PC hardware. I previously posted on the need, in this PC connect age, to differentiate operating systems to meet different use-case scenarios. Google understood this early on when they released their first Chromebooks in 2011, despite being ridiculed by some, at the time, for releasing a ‘glorified web browser’.

Microsoft, finally, appear to catch-on with the release of a cloud OS version of Windows. From the information provided this is a version of Windows made specifically for low-end laptops and will come with Office applications, the Microsoft Store and One Drive support built-in. The difference between Windows Mobile and this cloud version of Windows is that it will come with desktop-lite versions of these applications. I think this new operating version of Windows will be an in-between operating system comparable to Chrome OS. However, Chromebooks have developed since their first release, with access to the Google Play now being gradually rolled out. Again, Microsoft will have to catch-up – not only will they need to beef-up the Edge browser to measure-up against the Chrome Store but will also have to increase the catalogue of applications available through the Microsoft Store to at least compare, in some way, with Google Play. At the moment, many of the popular applications are absent from the Microsoft Store.

Friday, 25 December 2015

The Pixel C is meant to be experimental

The Pixel C, on many dedicated technology websites, is being compared to the iPad Pro and Microsoft's Surface range of devices. First, as posted before, it is a mistake to compare the iPad Pro to the Surface devices. Similarly, it would be a mistake to compare the Pixel C to either the iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro. A docked tablet, for enhanced productivity, is nothing new and I don't believe Google intends this to be something different, in that way (docked Android tablets was first made mainstream with the Asus Transformer range). Nevertheless, it can be stated, that the metallic keyboard dock released by Google is genuinely its own product, compared to other manufacturers.

The Pixel C is part of Google's Pixel range, in which full ownership is taken for hardware and software. The Nexus range of products, on the other hand, are partnerships with other manufacturers, with Google taking ownership of the operating system. There is also a difference in purpose - the Pixel devices are more experimental, while the Nexus ones are more finished consumer products. Further, Ron Amadeo, at Ars Technica, may be correct in his speculation that this may have been an experimental Chrome OS convertible device; however, where he goes wrong is to point to the mismatch between hardware and operating system features to then buttress his speculation. I believe this mismatch is intentional and is consistent with what Google aims to showcase with the Pixel products. In other words, the Pixel range is meant to show the potentials of Android and Chrome OS, as is the case with the Chromebook Pixel - the Pixel C is just another example. Further, there appears to be a design in the the current mismatch; for example, from aspect ratio to four microphones, the idea is to future proof upcoming features such as enhanced voice recognition to split screen multi-tasking.

To sum, this isn't meant to be a productivity device compared to Apple's iPad Pro (Apple explicitly markets the iPad Pro as a possible laptop replacement) but is part of Google's attempt to develop both hardware and software, in-tandem, with the Pixel range being an experimental showcase for Android's future direction. Even with this experimental ethos, it can still be argued that the Pixel C, at this moment, is the best Android tablet out there and one that will only get better with future updates

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Acer R11 and the Lenovo 100S Chromebook

Acer announced a flip Chromebook of their own but instead of running an ARM chip, it comes with a Celeron Braswell processor (N3050), 1366x766 display (it is likely that this is an IPS display) and the the 'choice' (1) between 16GB/32GB storage and 2GB/4GB RAM (in the UK the 4GB configuration is the standard option for Asus's Rockchip based Chromebooks; this may similarly be the case with the Acer R11). Other than the Acer R11 flip Chromebook, Lenovo is releasing their own entry level Chromebook (Chromebook 100S) that costs $179 and comes with a Baytrail-M processor, coupled with the regular 2GB RAM and 16GB storage. There will be more costly models with 4GB RAM and 32GB storage; however, what makes the Lenovo 100S Chromebook different is that it is priced similar to ARM based Chromebooks released by the likes of Asus, Hisense, Haier etc., but with a preferable Intel based processor. At similar price, there is a Windows 10 version of the 100S (Ideapad 100S) but comes with a start configuration of an Intel Atom Z3735F processor. I think the Acer 'Aspire One Cloudbook', as an entry level Windows 10 laptop, is a more attractive option with its Intel Celeron Braswell processor at $189.

(1) Choice isn't really choice, as manufacturers, in Europe, tend to release 2GB RAM as standard, with a 4GB RAM model more difficult to find.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The standardisation of Chromebooks

Chromebook specifications, generally, tend to be standardised; the current batch, with some exceptions, adopt the Nvidia Tegra K1 and Celeron Baytrail-M processors (with the recent addition of Rockchip), 16GB SSD, 2GB RAM and a TN panel display. Dell offer something different with their Chromebooks by allowing some choice for the user to configure their device. The latest Dell 11 Chromebook, for example, can be configured in regards to RAM and touch screen. The 4GB version retails for a reasonable £189 and comes with a Baytrail-M processor; the previous generation sells for an identical price but comes with a more powerful Celeron Haswell processor. The plus side, with the newer generation, is that it comes, in the words of Dell, with a "Mil-spec tested for drops, spills on the keyboard and track pad, vibration, heat, humidity, dust and dirt" (the military spec is due to the device primarily being directed at schools). Other manufacturers do offer variants, e.g. 2GB and 4GB, but these are different models and the 4GB version is often difficult to find and when available, retailers can hike prices significantly (Dell, by selling devices direct to users, control the retail price and only increase the price of the 4GB version by £20). In general, Dell offer the best Chromebooks and their new 'mid-range' Chromebook 13 further expands options beyond the present standardisation of Chromebooks.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Chromebook specs comparison chart

This website has an excellent overview of Chromebook devices since their initial release in 2011. It shows a stark increase in battery life, with some Chromebooks now reaching up to 13 hours. In regards to performance, then 2013 saw a performance spike with Octane scores figuring between 11000 - 12000 due to the release of Haswell based Chromebooks, though only a few Chromebooks were released late that year. It is an oddity with Chromebooks that prices fluctuate more with RAM and display, then with performance (this probably due to the relative scarcity of Chromebooks with an IPS display and/or 4GB RAM). For example, the HP Chromebook 11 with an IPS display, powered by an Exynos processor, retailed at a similar price to the Acer C720 that came with more than a 50% performance increase.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The problem of underpowered Chromebooks

The main advantage of Chromebooks is in cloud based web apps that require minimal maintenance by the end-user. With a stripped down and simplified computing experience, there is a mistaken assumption that Chromebooks work well with low-end hardware offering performance better suited to mobile level devices. This is further confirmed by manufacturers that market the idea of Chromebooks as a secondary device for 'basic' computing needs. Thus most Chromebooks offered by retailers  come with lower end Celeron processors bundled with a meagre 2GB of RAM that suffice for the marketed light use scenarios. However, Chromebooks can be more than this and the growing web based tools require more memory, other than an adequate processor that briskly renders and loads large documents from the cloud.

Late 2013 saw a number of Chromebooks with Haswell Celeron processors that offered very good performance, even with 2GB of RAM. Since then, however, the trend has been a move to ARM based processors (Exynos, Rockchip RK3288 and NVIDIA Tegra K1) and Celeron Baytrail-M processors (N2830 and N2840) that require no fans and extend battery life but offer near 40% decrease in performance compared to the Haswell Celeron. This move compromises the hassle free computing that Chromebooks are meant to offer with, at times, sluggish performance and longer rendering of documents through Google Docs. While Chrome OS is a stripped down cloud based operating system, it is closer to a desktop experience that can be throttled with mobile class hardware. The next step from manufacturers seems to further expand in the use of ARM based processors and low-power Celeron Braswell chips that offer no performance improvements over Celeron Baytrail-M (in fact, performance with Braswell is less than the chips they are replacing).

Seeing the continued trend with underpowered but power efficient chips, then it makes sense for Google to optimise the working of their native apps (Google Docs, Youtube, Google Music etc.) with chip-sets offered by Chromebook manufacturers. Of course, the ideal case scenario would be to complement this optimisation with more powerful processor chips that provide a performance bump to handle most web based applications e.g. Intel Celeron Broadwell based processors.

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.