The Google Chromebook Sells Out!

Google’s latest iteration of ChromeOS hardware has very impressively sold-out almost as soon as it went on sale.

The new hardware is attractive for a number of reasons: it’s thin, it’s light, it features a lot of the latest technology like Bluetooth 3.0, USB 3, and dual-antenna a/b/g/n wi-fi (and we know there’s a mobile-wireless version coming soon too).

The coolest feature though is that it does not run on an Intel processor, but rather the Samsung Exynos 5 – an ARM A-15 processor like the kind found in smartphones and tablets! The A-15 is the latest iteration of the ARM design; and the Exynos 5 is a powerful chip with minimal power consumption – so no fans and longer battery life on a thinner, lighter battery.

About 90% of what I do my computers is web-based, such as e-mail, news, blogging, and even working with documents and spreadsheets on Google Drive. So a Chromebook would fill just about all my requirements. The only thing I’d be scared to try is managing my photo & video library or touching up my photos. There’s certainly no reason why a Chromebook couldn’t handle that and software like Aviary proves it possible but I think it will be awhile before we see digiKam ported to a Chrome App and there’s a truly comparable option.

What I can’t wrap my head-around though is why?! I have nothing against ARM-based computers or living my life on-line. But what I don’t understand is why we need another platform? At this point Android is a viable option for a netbook operating system. Chrome (the browser at the heart of ChromeOS) even runs on Android. An Asus Transformer is basically a Netbook running Android. Any Android tablet matched up with a Bluetooth keyboard is basically a netbook.

Even Microsoft with the launch of their Surface tablet and it’s choice of keyboard covers has basically said the netbook market was killed by the tablet market!

I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep repeating it as long as I have to: WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER PLATFORM!

Apple offers developers the burden of iOS and OS X. Google offers the burden of Android and Chrome. Microsoft offers the burden of Windows (in it’s many iterations) and Windows 8 new paradigm and Windows RT (all of which multiplied by the burden of traditional libraries or newer .NET libraries). And then of course there’s the waffling RIM that burdens us with the old Blackberry and the promise of BB10; and a flurry of other platforms like Firefox OS, Sailfish, and Tizen.

It’s not surprising that RIM and Microsoft are having trouble attracting developers to their app stores – developers are all sick and tired having new platforms dropped on them like a ton of bricks and being told “if it doesn’t succeed it’s your fault because you didn’t write any killer apps for it!

So why didn’t Google put Android on this hardware and call it a Nexus NB (for netbook) or Nexus K (for keyboard) or Nexus RT (for Kiss-our-ass-Microsoft)?

As a Chromebook my only interest in purchasing one would be to wipe-out ChromeOS and install ARMedSlack. If it was running Android though I’d be perfectly happy to leave it as is!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

What will replace iGoogle?

In just over a year – on November 1st, 2013 – Google will pull the plug on another service. This time it won’t be some obscure 20% project that only handful of people ever heard about, let alone used. This time it will be iGoogle!

iGoogle is the start page for a lot of internet browsers around the globe. It’s the place where many of us go first thing in the morning to see our new e-mails, our agenda, read the news, and access our Google Drive.

Google seems to think the web has evolved to the point where iGoogle is no longer necessary. And they suggest that mobile apps and Chrome extensions will fill the void. Which I can believe on my phone – I’ve never used the mobile iGoogle homepage on my smartphone. But for my desktop and laptop I have not yet found a Chrome app that satisfactorily replaces iGoogle. And ofcourse you can’t take a Chrome Extension with you when you log in from another computer, or even a different browser.

There are a couple other alternatives too: NetVibes and Protopage. We’ll see if Google changes their mind if the drive to either of these two dashboards heats-up.

NetVibes is the more mature and feature rich platform, while Protopage still has some work to do to smooth things out and fill in the gaps.

Both are based on the idea of feed reading; and NetVibes has a beautiful reader mode that is worth it to make the switch from Google Reader. There are a few quirks to get used to:

  • you can’t easily share, e-mail, or mark an item while viewing the full item – you have to check the item and then access the action menu at the top right – but you there are quick-access icons for this in both compressed header and tiled mosaic views;
  • share options are limited to Facebook and Twitter, whereas Google Reader offered many more options and the ability to define your own; and
  • there’s no starring or tagging, which admitted was of limited usefulness in Google Reader since it became subservient to Google+ but it would be nice if NetVibes offered it.

Hopefully NetVibes will get ambitious and challenge not just iGoogle but Google Reader too – the defacto king of feed reading.

Protopage only displays feeds in boxes as separate widgets, but it is possible to combine several feeds into one widget so you can compress it somewhat. But you can’t streamline it into one continuous feed.

The other thing a dashboard needs is active widgets. Not just the weather or the quote of the day; but e-mail, calendar, twitter and more. Widgets that you can interact with and manipulate the contents of.

In this case NetVibes definitely has the lead over Protopage with a well documented API and easy to use widget showcase. Unfortunately since NetVibes (or Protopage) isn’t hosting any of this data (unlike iGoogle that was hosted by the same people who host your GMail, GCalendar, GTasks, etc.) you need to authorize the dashboard widget to access that data. The essential NetVibes widgets seem to have this ability but the third-party widgets don’t – it’s not part of the API! So you can view your Google Calendar if you make it public but you can’t update it.

Hopefully we’ll see NetVibes and Protopage improve their API’s and either internally or with the help of independent third-party developers build widgets that let us re-create our iGoogle dashboard without having to abandon all the other stuff we have with Google – at least until they discontinue it!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads