Google ChromeBooks for Education and Business

Last week there were some exciting announcements made at Google I/O and while it should be interesting to see how some of these projects will turn out, ChromeBooks is finally making its debut. The ChromeBook is the commercially available version of the Cr-48 Laptop I received a few months ago.

If you have not heard about this hardware yet, the basics are:
  • 7 second boot time and instant on from sleep mode
  • 8 hour battery life with wifi
  • Designed for cloud storage, very little if any local storage
  • Can be leased for about $20/month to schools and businesses or purchased for a few hundred dollars.

When I have worked with teachers on implementing technology in their classrooms the number one complaint is how long the computers take to start and the second problem encountered with laptop powered classrooms is battery life. Both of these cease to be concerns with ChromeBooks

You might ask how is it to work without a hard drive and all of your favorite programs? I would honestly say that I only miss it about 20% of the time. Which means for all of my basic needs: Internet, Email, Blogging, Calendar, Editing Lesson Plans/Documents the Chromebook is great. I appreciate that I can have an idea during a meeting and quickly jot it down. Not to mention all of the time where a task requires more than a phone's small keyboard.

Now walk with caution. There are a couple of caveats that one should consider before plunging in.
  • If you use a software like Photoshop or Premier you will not find an alternative in the ChromeBook (yet). There are many applications added to the Chrome Web Store each day to replace one of your installed programs. However, evaluate your needs and see if it the ChromeBook works for your situation.
  • If you wish to purchase a ChromeBook rather than lease it, the initial machines are retailing for a few hundred dollars. I am sure like any other technology, after the initial excitement dies down the price will drop dramatically.
  • I see these Chromebooks not replacing laptops but supporting alongside them. I would imagine a small computer to student ratio where some students are working on the ChromeBooks on an assignment that can be completed via cloud tools like Google Apps while other students might be editing a video on a standard laptop. This divide might go away as more developers start creating web based alternative programs.If you are interested in developing for the Chrome OS, you will greatly help out this process. 
The Market will show whether or not this will change the world or be considered ahead of its time. There are so many examples of technology that simply didn't catch on and we will have to see where the ChromeBook stands. Unfortunately it will likely come down to price, marketing and support.