Chromebook

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Chromebook
Chromebook-logo.png
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook.JPG
Samsung Series 3 Chromebook
Product type Personal computer - Notebook
Owner Google
Introduced June 15, 2011 (2011-06-15)
Website www.google.com/chromebook/

A Chromebook is a laptop running Chrome OS as its operating system. The devices are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and data residing "in the cloud". A Chromebook is an example of a thin client.[1][2][3]

The first Chromebooks for sale, by Acer Inc. and Samsung, were announced at the Google I/O conference in May 2011 and began shipping on June 15, 2011.[4] Lenovo, Hewlett Packard and Google itself entered the market in early 2013. In addition to laptop models, a desktop version, called a Chromebox, was introduced in May 2012. In December 2013, Samsung launched a Samsung Chromebook specifically for the Indian market that employed the company's Exynos 5 Dual core processor.[5]

Chromebooks are primarily sold both directly from Google and from the company's retail partners. By 2012, schools had become the largest category of customer. That October, Google broadened its marketing strategy to include first-time computer users and households seeking an additional computer. Critical reaction to the device was initially skeptical, with some reviewers, such as then New York Times technology columnist David Pogue,[6] unfavorably comparing the value proposition of Chromebooks with that of more fully featured laptops running the Microsoft Windows operating system. That complaint dissipated later in reviews of machines from Acer and Samsung that were priced lower.[7] In February 2013, Google announced and began shipping the Chromebook Pixel, a higher-spec machine with a high-end price tag.

In October 2012, Simon Phipps, writing in InfoWorld, said, "The Chromebook line is probably the most successful Linux desktop/laptop computer we've seen to date".[8] From January to November 2013, 1.76 million Chromebooks were sold in U.S. business-to-business channels.[9]

Design[edit]

Samsung Chromebook Series 3 with bottom panel removed.

Chromebooks are shipped with Google Chrome OS, an operating system that uses the Linux kernel and the Google Chrome web browser with an integrated media player.[10][11] With limited offline capability and a fast boot time, Chromebooks are primarily designed to be used connected to the Internet.[12] Instead of installing traditional applications such as word processing and instant messaging, users add web apps from the Chrome Web Store.[13] Google claims that a multi-layer security architecture eliminates the need for anti-virus software.[4]

Support for many USB devices such as cameras, mice, external keyboards and flash drives is included, utilizing a feature similar to plug-and-play on other operating systems. Like the prototype Cr-48, Chromebooks have a specialized keyboard complete with buttons for opening and controlling multiple browser windows, as well as a Web search button which replaces the caps lock key (caps lock being activated by pressing both alt+search).[14]

An analysis of the Samsung Series 5 components by iFixit in June 2011 estimated a total cost of $334.32 representing US$322.12 in materials and US$12.20 in labor. With an initial retail price of US$499.99 that also pays for shipping, marketing and research & development and retail margins, the profit margins on the Chromebooks are quite thin, requiring a large production run to make a profit.[15]

While Chromebooks are designed to be used when connected to the Internet, users are able to access Google applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google Drive in offline mode. Chromebooks also come with a built-in local music player, a photo editor, and a PDF and Microsoft Office document viewer that are functional without internet access. Other apps with offline support include Amazon's Cloud Reader, the New York Times App, and Angry Birds.[16][17] Google Play video content is available offline using an extension to the Chrome browser.[18]

Coreboot[edit]

All Chromebooks besides the first three boot with the help of Coreboot[19]

Sales and marketing[edit]

Google secured a long list of development partners working on hardware Chrome OS, including Acer, Adobe, Asus, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Toshiba,[20] Intel,[21] Samsung,[22][23] and Dell.[24] Chrome OS for Business had been led, from its inception, by Rajen Sheth, best known as the "father of Google Apps". His strategy for marketing Chromebooks centered on the total cost of ownership, which he claimed could be "dramatically" reduced by lower maintenance, management and security costs, even if hardware costs remain unchanged.[25]

The first two commercially available Chromebooks, the Samsung Series 5 and the Acer AC700, were unveiled on May 11, 2011, at the Google I/O developer conference. They were to begin selling through online channels, including Amazon and Best Buy in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain starting June 15, 2011; however, Acer's AC700 was not available until early July.[26] The first machines sold for between $349 and $499, depending on the model and 3G option.[27] Google also offered a monthly payment scheme for business and education customers at $28 and $20 per user, per month, respectively for a three-year contract, including replacements and upgrades. Verizon offered models equipped with 3G/4G LTE connectivity 100-200 MB of free wireless data per month, for two years.[28][29]

Google's early marketing efforts relied primarily on hands-on experience: giving away Samsung machines to 10 Cr-48 pilot program participants along with the title Chromebook Guru and loaning Chromebooks to passengers on some Virgin America flights.[30][31][32] At the end of September 2011, Google launched the Chrome Zone, a "store within a store", inside the Currys and PC World superstore in London.[33] The store had a Google-style look and feel with splashes of color all around the retail store front.[34] Google said it was planning to open more Chrome Zones in the UK over the next few months.[35]

In addition to these marketing strategies, Google Chrome has created several "Chromebook minis" that demonstrate the ease of use and simplicity of the devices in a comical manner. For example, when the question "How do you back up a Chromebook" is asked, it is implied to refer to data backup, but instead, shows two hands pushing a Chromebook back to the end of a table. This is followed by the statement, "You don't have to back up a Chromebook," showing how all data is stored on the web.[36]

In an article published on ZDNet in June 2011, entitled "Five Chromebook concerns for businesses", Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols faulted the devices for lack of virtual private network capability, not supporting some Wi-Fi security methods, in particular Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) Enterprise with Extensible Authentication Protocol-Transport Layer Security (EAP-TLS) or Cisco’s Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol (LEAP). He also noted that its file manager does not work, the need to use the undocumented crosh shell to accomplish basic tasks such as setting up a secure shell (SSH) network connection as well as serious deficiencies in documentation.[37]

In one of the first customer reviews, the City of Orlando, Florida reported on their initial testing of 600 Chromebooks as part of a broader study related to accessing virtual desktops. Early indications show potential value in reducing IT support costs. End users have indicated that the Chromebook is easy to travel with and starts up quickly. One stated that "If I just need to stay connected for emergencies, I take my Chrome," but when traveling for business she would still take her laptop. Orlando does plan to continue to use the Chromebooks.[38]

A Paradise Valley Unified School District student using a Chromebook as part of the organization's pilot project

On November 21, 2011, Google announced price reductions on all Chromebooks.[39] Since then, the Wi-Fi-only Samsung Series 5 was reduced to $349, the 3G Samsung Series 5 was reduced to $449, and the Acer AC700 was reduced to $299. By January 2012, commercial sales for Chromebooks were flat, with the exception of the education market. Google had placed nearly 27,000 Chromebooks in schools across 41 states, including "one-on-one" programs, which allocate a computer for every student, in South Carolina, Illinois, and Iowa.[40] As of August 2012, over 500 school districts in the United States and Europe were using the device, as well as universities, corporations and government facilities.[41][42]

The updated Series 5 550 and the Chromebox, the first ChromeOS desktop machines, were released by Samsung in May 2012.[43][44][45][46] While the two lowest cost Chromebooks emerged later in the fall: the $249[47] Samsung Series 3 and the $199[48] Acer C7. The following February, Google introduced the most costly machine, their Chromebook Pixel, with a starting price of $1299.[49] All models released after May 2012, include 100GB-1.09TB of Google Drive cloud storage and 12 GoGo WiFi passes.[50][51]

By January 2013, Acer's Chromebook sales were being driven by "heavy Internet users with educational institutions", and the platform represented 5-10 percent of the company's U.S. shipments, according to Acer president Jim Wong. He called those numbers sustainable, contrasting them with low Windows 8 sales which he blamed for a slump in the market. Wong said that the company would consider marketing Chromebooks to other developed countries, as well as to corporations. He noted that although Chrome OS is free to license for hardware vendors, it has required greater marketing expenditure than Windows, offsetting the licensing savings.[52]

In April 2013, Intel said that its Bay Trail chips will be used in a series of inexpensive touchscreen laptops primarily running Google's Android operating system. The move would create a direct competitor to Chromebooks (as well as Windows 8 laptops) using Google's other operating system.[53] A year later, the product category had not gained traction.[54]

During the first 11 months of 2013, 1.76 million Chromebooks sold in the United States, representing 21% of the U.S. commercial business-to-business laptop market. During the same period in 2012, Chromebooks sold 400,000 units and had a negligible market share.[9]

Chromebook models[edit]

Chromebooks
Available Brand Model Code Name Processor Battery RAM Screen Resolution Weight WWAN Touch
2010-12[55] Google Cr-48 Mario Atom N455 8 hours 2 GB 12.1 in (30.7 cm) 1280×800 3.80 lb (1.7 kg) 3G
2011-06[55] Samsung Series 5 Alex Atom N570 8.5 hours 2 GB 12.1 in (30.7 cm) 1280×800 3.06–3.26 lb (1.4–1.5 kg) Optional
2011-08[55] Acer AC700 ZGB Atom N570 6 hours 2-4 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 3.19–3.20 lb (1.4–1.5 kg) Optional
2012-05[55] Samsung Series 5 550 Lumpy Celeron 867
Core i5-2467M
6 hours 4 GB 12.1 in (30.7 cm) 1280×800 3.02 lb (1.4 kg) Optional
2012-10[55] Samsung Series 3 Snow (Daisy) Exynos 5 Dual 6.5 hours 2 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 2.43 lb (1.1 kg) Optional
2012-11[55] Acer C710 Parrot Celeron 847
Celeron 1007U
4 hours 2-4 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 3.04–3.20 lb (1.4–1.5 kg)
2013-01[55] Lenovo Thinkpad X131e Stout Celeron 743 6.5 hours 4 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 3.92 lb (1.8 kg)
2013-02[55] HP Pavilion Chromebook Butterfly Celeron 847 4.2 hours 2-4 GB 14 in (35.6 cm) 1366×768 3.96 lb (1.8 kg)
2013-02[55] Google Pixel Link Core i5-3427U 5 hours 4 GB 12.85 in (32.6 cm) 2560×1700 3.35 lb (1.5 kg) Touchscreen
2013-10[55] HP Chromebook 11 Daisy Spring Exynos 5 Dual 6 hours 2 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 2.26 lb (1.0 kg) Optional
2013-10[55] HP Chromebook 14 Falco Celeron 2955U 9.5 hours 2-4 GB 14 in (35.6 cm) 1366×768 4.07 lb (1.8 kg) Optional
2013-10[55] Acer C720 Peppy Celeron 2955U 8.5 hours 2-4 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 2.76 lb (1.3 kg)
2013-11 Acer C720P Peppy Pepto Celeron 2955U 7.5 hours 2-4 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 2.98 lb (1.4 kg) Optional Touchscreen
2014-01[55] Dell Dell Chromebook 11 Wolf Celeron 2955U 10 hours 2-4 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 2.90 lb (1.3 kg)
2014-02[55] Toshiba CB30 Leon Celeron 2955U 9 hours 2 GB 13.3 in (33.8 cm) 1366×768 3.30 lb (1.5 kg)
2014-05-12[56] Samsung Chromebook 2 11.6" Peach Pit Exynos 5 Octa 5420[57] 8 hours 2-4 GB[58] 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366×768 2.60 lb (1.2 kg)
2014-05-12[56] Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3" Peach Pi Exynos 5 Octa 5800[59] 8.5 hours 4 GB 13.3 in (33.8 cm) 1920x1080 3.10 lb (1.4 kg)
2014-??[55] ASUS Chromebook C200 Squawks Celeron N2830 2 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366x768 2.5 lb (1.1 kg)
2014-07[60] ASUS Chromebook C300 Quawks Celeron N2830 2 GB 13.3 in (33.8 cm) 1366x768 3.1 lb (1.4 kg)
2014-08[61] Acer Chromebook 13 (CB5)  ? Nvidia Tegra K1 11–13 hours 2–4 GB 13.3 in (33.8 cm) 1920×1080 and 1366×768 3.31 lb (1.5 kg)
2014-??[55] Lenovo N20 Clapper Celeron N2830 8 hours 2 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366x768 2.8 lb (1.3 kg)
2014-??[55] Lenovo N20p Celeron N2930 8 hours 2 GB 11.6 in (29.5 cm) 1366x768 3.1 lb (1.4 kg) Touchscreen

Google Chromebooks[edit]

Cr-48[edit]

Cr-48

At a December 7, 2010, press briefing,[62][63][64] Google announced the Chrome OS Pilot Program, a pilot study and the first Chromebook, the Cr-48 Chrome notebook, a prototype, to test the Chrome OS operating system and modified hardware for it. The device had a minimal design and was all black, completely unbranded although it was made by Inventec,[65] and had a rubberized coating. The device was named after Chromium-48, an unstable isotope of the metallic element Chromium,[66] and the participants were named Cr-48 Test Pilots. Google distributed about 60,000 Cr-48 Chrome notebooks between December 2010 and March 2011[67][68] for free to participants and in return asked for feedback such as suggestions and bug reports. The Cr-48 was intended for testing only, not retail sales.[69][70][71]

The Cr-48's hardware design broke convention by replacing certain keys with shortcut keys,[72] such as the function keys, and replacing the caps lock key with a dedicated search key,[73] which can be changed back to caps lock in the OS's keyboard settings. Google addressed complaints that the operating system offers little functionality when the host device is not connected to the Internet, demonstrated an offline version of Google Docs, and announced a 3G plan that would give users 100 MB of free data each month, with additional paid plans available from Verizon.[12][74]

The device's USB port is capable of supporting a keyboard, mouse, Ethernet adapter, or USB storage, but not a printer, as Chrome OS offers no print stack.[75] Adding further hardware outside of the previously mentioned items will likely cause problems with the operating system's "self knowing" security model.[76] Users instead were encouraged to use a secure service called Google Cloud Print to print to legacy printers connected to their desktop computers, or to connect an HP ePrint, Kodak Hero, Kodak ESP, or Epson Connect printer to the Google Cloud Print service for a "cloud aware" printer connection.[77]

The Cr-48 prototype laptop gave reviewers their first opportunity to evaluate Chrome OS running on a device. Ryan Paul of Ars Technica wrote that the machine "met the basic requirements for Web surfing, gaming, and personal productivity, but falls short for more intensive tasks." He praised Google's approach to security, but wondered whether mainstream computer users would accept an operating system whose only application is a browser. He thought Chrome OS "could appeal to some niche audiences": people who just need a browser or companies that rely on Google Apps and other Web applications. But the operating system was "decidedly not a full-fledged alternative to the general purpose computing environments that currently ship on netbooks." Paul wrote that most of Chrome OS's advantages "can be found in other software environments without having to sacrifice native applications."[67]

In reviewing the Cr-48 on December 29, 2010, Kurt Bakke of Conceivably Tech wrote that a Chromebook had become the most frequently used family appliance in his household. "Its 15 second startup time and dedicated Google user accounts made it the go-to device for quick searches, email as well as YouTube and Facebook activities." But the device did not replace other five notebooks in the house: one for gaming, two for the kids, and two more for general use. "The biggest complaint I heard was its lack of performance in Flash applications."[78]

In ongoing testing, Wolfgang Gruener, also writing in Conceivably Tech, said that cloud computing at cellular data speeds is unacceptable and that the lack of offline ability turns the Cr-48 "into a useless brick" when not connected.[79] "It's difficult to use the Chromebook as an everyday device and give up what you are used to on a Mac/Windows PC, while you surely enjoy the dedicated cloud computing capabilities occasionally."[80]

Pixel[edit]

Main article: Chromebook Pixel
Chromebook Pixel (WiFi)

Launched by Google in February 2013, the Chromebook Pixel remains the high-end machine in the Chromebook family. The laptop has an unusual 3:2 display aspect ratio touch screen featuring what was at its debut the highest pixel density of any laptop,[81] a faster CPU than its predecessors in the Intel Core i5, and an exterior design described by Wired as "an austere rectangular block of aluminum with subtly rounded edges".[82] A second Pixel featuring LTE wireless communication and twice the storage capacity was shipped for arrival on April 12, 2013.[83]

The machine received much media attention, with many reviewers questioning the Pixel's value proposition compared to similarly priced Windows machines and the MacBook Air.[84][85]

Samsung Chromebooks[edit]

Samsung Series 5[edit]

Samsung Series 5.

Reviewing the Samsung Series 5 specifications, Scott Stein of CNET was unimpressed with a machine with a 12-inch screen and just 16 GB of onboard storage. "Chrome OS might be lighter than Windows XP, but we'd still prefer more media storage space. At this price, you could also get an 11.6-inch (290 mm) Wi-Fi AMD E-350-powered ultraportable running Windows 7."[44] On the other hand, MG Siegler of TechCrunch wrote a largely favorable review, praising the improvements in speed and trackpad sensitivity over the CR-48 prototype, as well as the long battery life and the fact that all models are priced below the iPad.[86]

In June 2011 iFixit dismantled a Samsung Series 5 and concluded that it was essentially an improved Cr-48. They rated it as 6/10 for repairability, predominantly because the case has to be opened to change the battery and because the RAM chip is soldered to the motherboard. iFixit noted that the "mostly-plastic construction" felt "a little cheap". On the plus side they stated that the screen was easy to remove and most of the components, including the solid-state drive would be easy to replace. iFixit's Kyle Wiens wrote that the Series 5 "fixes the major shortfalls of the Cr-48 and adds the polish necessary to strike lust into the heart of a broad consumer base: sleek looks, 8+ hours of battery life, and optimized performance."[87]

Samsung Series 5 550[edit]

In May 2012, Samsung introduced the Chromebook Series 5 550, with a Wi-Fi model and more expensive 3G model.[88]

Reviews generally questioned the value proposition. Dana Wollman of Engadget wrote that the Chromebook's keyboard "put thousand-dollar Ultrabooks to shame" and offered better display quality than on many laptops selling for twice as much. But the price "seems to exist in a vacuum—a place where tablet apps aren't growing more sophisticated, where Transformer-like Win8 tablets aren't on the way and where there aren't some solid budget Windows machines to choose from." [89]

Joe Wilcox of BetaNews wrote that "price to performance and how it compares to other choices" is "where Chromebook crumbles for many potential buyers." He noted that the new models sell for more than their predecessors, and while the price-performance ratio is quite favorable compared to the MacBook Air, "by the specs, there are plenty of lower-cost options."[90]

Samsung Series 3[edit]

Samsung Series 3 Chromebook

In October 2012, the Series 3 Chromebook was introduced at a San Francisco event with the Samsung Chromebook XE303. The device was cheaper, thinner and lighter than the Chromebook 550. Google marketed the Series 3 as the computer for everyone, due to its simple operating system (Chrome OS) and affordable price. Target markets included students and first-time computer users, as well as households looking for an extra computer.[91][92]

The lower price proved a watershed for some reviewers. New York Times technology columnist David Pogue reversed his earlier thumbs-down verdict on the Chromebook, writing that "$250 changes everything." The price is half that of an "iPad, even less than an iPad Mini or an iPod Touch. And you’re getting a laptop." He wrote that the Chromebook does many of the things people use computers and laptops for: playing flash videos, and opening Microsoft Office documents. "In other words, Google is correct when it asserts that the Chromebook is perfect for schools, second computers in homes and businesses who deploy hundreds of machines."[6][7]

CNET's review of the Series 3 Chromebook was even more favorable, saying the machine largely delivered as a computer for students and as an additional computer for a household—especially for users who are already using Google Web applications like Google Docs, Google Drive, and Gmail. "It's got workable if not standout hardware, its battery life is good, it switches on quickly, and the $249 price tag means it's not as much of a commitment as the $550 Samsung Series 5 550 that arrived in May." The review subtracted points for performance. "It's fine for many tasks, but power users accustomed to having more than a couple dozen browser tabs open should steer clear."[91]

HP Chromebooks[edit]

HP introduced the Chromebook 11 on October 8, 2013 in the US.[93] In December 2013 it was discovered that some HP laptop cords were overheating while plugged in, forcing Google and HP to recall 145,000 chargers.[94] Sales were halted until they could resume with a redesigned charger in January 2014.[95]

Chromebox[edit]

Main article: Chromebox

Chromeboxes are the desktop variants of Chromebooks. Classed as small form-factor PCs, the devices typically feature a power switch and a set of ports: local area network, USB, DVI-D, DisplayPort, and audio. As with Chromebooks, Chromeboxes employ solid-state memory and support Web applications, but require an external monitor, keyboard, and pointing device.[96]

Alternate operating systems[edit]

Some Chromebooks include SeaBIOS, which can be turned on to install arbitrary Linux distributions, though this requires the use of developer mode.[97][98]

All-in-one PCs[edit]

In January 2014 LG Electronics unveiled its Chromebase all-in-one with a 21.5-inch display at International CES in Las Vegas.[99]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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