Opinion: How Chromebooks Have Become Better Computers
Compared to most, I am relatively new to the whole Chromebook thing, and like most people before coming face to face with Google’s security-centric OS, I was unsure as to why an operating system that relies heavily on online components has become so popular in both the education and enthusiast market.
Living in an area where internet connectivity can’t be considered “top-notch” has pedaled much of my concern. This is especially due to the fact that among the most touted functionalities of Chrome OS is its ability to synchronize in real time, nearly every single input, click or command.
This feature, as mentioned in several articles I’ve come across. allows the device to maintained a continuous “current state” even if there is the unfortunate circumstance where data is unintentionally erased.
Though Chromebooks aren’t really Chromebooks without their online capabilities, they have, especially in recent times, been evolving away from being merely online-focused devices to an all-around formidable machine.
The first impression you get from most people when you mentioned Chromebooks is that of a cheaply made laptop, with a primary focus on basic tasks and mobile-esque local storage.
As someone who has spent several months with one, I can tell you all of the above is actually not accurate in this day and age particularly those that have to do with how the device functions.
To help you understand, here are some of the reasons why I think the Chromebook has become a better companion than the standard PC/MAC.
Support For Android Apps
Google isn’t the first company that attempted to integrate or combine the mobile and PC worlds into one giant interchangeable mechanism. Microsoft tried it with Windows 8 only to see it fail miserably while Google’s attempt on another hand, seems to be thriving with many arguing that Android Apps on Chromebooks was a union destined to happen.
This is partly due to the fact that integrating mobile apps atop Chrome OS wasn’t necessarily an after-thought – something that impacted the Microsoft’s attempt negatively—since both Android (the operating system that powers smartphones) and Chrome OS (the OS powering Chromebooks) were created using a modified version of the Linux Kernel thereby sharing similarities at their core.
The integration of the Play Store – the largest source for mobile apps — atop Chrome OS has given it the much-needed boost it thereby drastically increasing its value as well as making a compelling case to be considered a professional-grade device.
An argument can be made that mobile apps don’t play well with Chrome OS’ desktop environment which is in part true. And heck, you could as well argue that it doesn’t adhere to the same robust functionalities traditional to its Windows or Mac OS counterparts but you can be rest-assured that Google is addressing these concerns with new technologies in the works.
Progressive Web Apps
Google’s push for universal adoption of Progressive Web Apps is going to impact Chromebooks the most. With the platform’s biggest flaw which according to many is its over-reliance on web apps.
Web Apps are great for what they are — you could get a lot done with just a web plugin for Chrome — but they lack features that are often taken for granted on Macs and PCs.
This notion has pushed the company to invest heavily on Progressive Web Apps. A new platform that is going to bridge the gap between mobile apps and their web counterparts.
What this means for the end-user is that their experiences will remain unchanged depending on how they are consuming content — being it from a full-blown webpage or from the comfort of their desktop — and in fact, the effort being put into how PWA are designed and implemented, users are going to feel more at home with PWA than they would with web pages.
This is going to be a shot in the arm for the entire Chrome platform as a whole as more platforms use Progressive Web Apps as a means of distributing services and content, the need for PC-esque programs for Chrome would disappear since PWA are expected to serve all the features.
The Linux Connection
Linux has and continues to play an intricate role within the Chrome OS Platform. Built upon the Linux Kernel, Chrome OS is, in many aspects, a modified version of Linux, and has seen, especially in recent times, a move from an abysmally-parallel relationship to a more connected one.
This is evident in the number of ways you can run Linux or Linux apps within Chrome OS itself without any “head-scratching” workarounds.
The Linux addition has given Chromebooks so much more flexibility that you can’t find anywhere else and having Linux or Linux-based programs run on Chrome OS, Google is giving its users the ability to explore beyond the boundaries of Chrome OS.
Chromebooks have been well documented to have rigid security measures put in place to reduce the effects of unauthorized access to the data residing within the operating system.
The entirety of the OS revolves around the Browser which in turn is the primary gateway for the user to interact with the OS. whereas any other user-sanctioned interaction with data occurs through web applications (which is secure in and of itself) with both Android and Linux (which are sandboxed ie, isolated from the core Chrome OS system).
Since Chrome as an operating system has inherited several security features from the Chrome browser, it treats apps the same way the Chrome browser does where programs are sandboxed and privilege is separated in a way processes run only within their allocated environments.
This makes Chrome OS and inherently, Chromebooks extremely secure, thereby limiting the effects of internal data tampering as much as possible.
With other platforms having to really struggle with security, Chromebooks have become a safe haven for anyone concerned with the security of their data.
Updates That Don’t Turn Your Device Into A Paper Weight
Updates, especially for major operating systems like Chrome OS play an intricate part as to how well the operating system functions. Not only do they aim to improve how well the service performs, they are also a gateway to add missing features, add addtional security layers, and in most cases, improve overall user experience.
Unfortunately, there are cases when Companies get it wrong with updates they serve for their platforms — think Microsoft’s recent fiasco with its Windows update — where some of their major updates typically does the opposite of their intended job.
Now imagine having to miss deadlines because your computer started messing up due to a recent update. Furthermore, not only are you having to resort to finding workarounds, you are forced to wait as a new update is pushed through to fix a problem created by the previous update, rollback (if lucky) or completely abandon ship (ie a reset).
With Chrome OS, there is rarely a time when updates are at fault for large mishaps – save for the times you’re in the beta or developer channel which again is a rarity – and on top of that, Chrome OS updates are completely automated with a background install for majority of the time.
Chrome OS updates are timely, rarely gigabytes in size, and usually fix problems rather than create them.
Overall, a valid argument can be made that Chromebooks still do have a lot of catching up to do, but one has to remember that Chrome OS is relatively new compared to its rivals. And it is despite this rookie status that Chrome OS has managed to drastically improve our computing experience through and through.