Thursday, February 06, 2014
What is cloud computing? It is a computer model where a person can access files remotely via the internet. These files can be software applications, videos, games, photos or documents. The ‘cloud’ is a metaphor for all the data stored somewhere on servers. These are called server farms, where you may have 10,000 servers providing the computing power, data centres that can be used for credit card processing, web hosting, and university research supercomputers.

A server farm data cenre (image via
A server farm - welcome to the cloud (image via

Some of the established cloud software applications publishers might be familiar with are digital edition providers like GTxcel (formerly Texterity), MagazineCloner, Uberflip, Zinio, etc. Salesforce, a sales support and CRM application, was one of the first cloud software applications to become popular among the business community. All you need is a login ID and password and you are good to go to use it on any computer, tablet and smartphone.

Acer C720 Chromebook

The Google Chromebook, starting at $269, is an attempt to lower the cost of computers with cloud laptops. The laptops come with the Chrome web browser, Gmail, productivity software, online storage and the Android app store—all the tools you need for the digital world, through the internet via your web browser.

The Acer Chromebook
The Acer Chromebook

The laptop has enough power for everyday use and is powered by an Intel Celeron 1.4 GHz processor. Most laptops today come with more than 2.0 GHz, but since the Chromebook does not need to power as much software it can lose the extra processing power to keep costs down. It uses the Chrome OS, has 2 GB of RAM, a 32 GB hard drive, an 11.6” HD display and webcam. Connections include wireless, Bluetooth, ethernet, USB, HDMI and RGB. The battery has a five-hour life per charge.

My first impression was this was a major change from how I do things on a laptop. Usually all my files are on a hard drive and I can launch my software applications from there. Having to do that in the cloud made me uneasy. However, my uneasiness with the cloud dissipated as I got used to the Chromebook, and I now wonder if I can live without it. With the Google Drive app, Google’s online storage feature, I was able to store and access my files from any computer without needing a USB stick. This feature saved me from buying a $200 network drive to connect all my computers for shared storage. I then installed the Google Drive app on all my computers. Even when I am offsite I can use any computer to access Google Drive via my Gmail account login.

Microsoft’s latest pricing model for its Office 365 Home Premium software package at $99/yr. made me a proponent of using Google productivity applications. It just doesn’t make any sense over the long term to pay $99 a year to use their software, or $249 per PC for the Office Home and Business 2013 package. The Google Chromebook for $269 comes with all the software I need to write, create spreadsheets and presentations, and is a wiser alternative.

Life in the cloud has its conveniences. But to be able to access your files requires an internet connection, so the Chromebook also has drawbacks as there are limited offline capabilities. However, internet access is getting ubiquitous and is available in a lot of public places including the local hockey rink, fast food restaurants, airports etc., so that issue is not that big perhaps.

My daughter, the resident teen geek in the house, actually prefers using a laptop over an iPad due to her dissatisfaction with touch keyboards and the lack of Flash to play games at her favourite games site. Watching video on a laptop was also easier than with a tablet, as you did not have to hold it. Watching Netflix, we found the sound a little underpowered, but once we connected our headphones the sound quality was superb.

The Google Chromebook is a successful first attempt to lower the cost of computing. The price point is well positioned to shake things up with units starting from $269, and it is available from Acer, Samsung, HP and Lenovo, established hardware brands. The Chromebook could be a tablet killer based on price and features alone, not to mention consumer dissatisfaction with touch typing. In comparison, you can get the recently released Dell 8” Windows tablet with no keyboard for $299, or you can get a Chromebook that includes a keyboard but no touchscreen.

Rating: 4 out of 5

In 2013, the Chromebook comprised 21% of all laptop sales in the USA according to NPD, up from nothing the year before, and the next generation of Chromebooks will get even better. Following the ebb and flow of technology is like following the fashion world. What is the latest tech look, and is it a trend or just a fad? Will that look come back? Perhaps in 2014, the laptop will be back in vogue with this new facelift from Google. 

About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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Lorene Shyba says:
Full of terrific information, Thanks!...
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