August 17, 2013

What is a Chromebook & How it can be useful for Indian users

If you ask me How popular are Chromebooks in India, the answer would be not at all. The term Chromebook is not at all familiar among Indian users. There are mainly 3 reasons for this lack of awareness -

1. Chromebooks are not officially available in India.

2. Not many web users are interested in tech products.

3. Very few Chromebook owners in India (low visibility)- I have been in the Capital region for the past 3 years and i am yet to see one.

So to begin with, lets start with a brief intro of Chromebook.

What's a Chromebook

A Chromebook is a personal computing device that has Google Chrome OS as its operating system. Google Chrome OS comes from Chromium open source project. It basically consists of Chrome Browser as its core component. Chromebooks are designed mainly for web usage - everything we do in this revolves around the browser. Since its a Google OS, most of the work is done by using Google Apps ecosystem i.e Gmail, Drive, Google+ and etc. Browser extensions are an integral part of a Chromebook much like we use them in Chrome browser.  Recently, Packaged Apps have also been added to Chrome browser.  A packaged app behaves as a native app that can use many of the system features.

Now once a user is familiar with what Chromebook is, a question pops up instantly in his mind and that is...

Why would i care for such a device ?

Even after knowing what Chromebook is,  a common internet user will  laugh it off saying “a laptop type device that's useful only if its connected to internet, yea rite “.  And from a non tech user’s perspective, the ques is quite sensible. Why would someone want a device that works only when we have internet connection, when he/she could add another few bucks and get a basic laptop or even a good tablet. To get the just answer, one has to consider the below points-

1. Superb Ecosystem- Chromebook revolves around Google ecosystem. Chrome OS’s Start-up & Shutdown are super fast.

2. Single sign in- You just have sign in with your Google account and there, you have all your settings, bookmarks, extensions and apps configured onto the machine instantly.

3. Data security & Cloud Storage- Since all your data and settings are backed up in cloud, you don't have to worry about data loss. Suppose you lost your machine somehow. Now to get back your data, all you have to do is to sign in with the same Google account on a different Chromebook. ASAT

4. Better than netbook- Netbooks were the past, but Chromebooks are the future. There are numerous factors which shows Chrome is better than netbooks. For one, its backed up by Google; secondly , it offers an optimum performance, portability and compactness; thirdly, consistent updates to the OS. In Future, we could see a possible merger of Android and Chrome and this can be a huge advantage for Chromebooks.

5. Cost & Compactness- For 200$ or so , one could get a Chromebook. 12 inch screen size along with a physical keyboard provides you the right mix of on the move computing device.

One  major Constraint & How to tackle it

Always On Connectivity-  Apart from packaged apps and few offline apps, Chromebook will require an internet connection. If and when Chromebook launches in India, this is going to be the major deciding factor. Unlike western countries, internet connectivity in India is still in its nascent stage. WiFi hotspots are rarely available and 3G is yet to catch up. To tackle this situation, followings measures can be taken-

1. Google can tie up with 3G Data card providers to program the devices so that it can run on Chromebooks. When Google starts selling Chromebooks in India, it can provide a data card along with a basic internet plan. This way, the user won't be undecided.

2.  Tie up with different shops, schools, colleges and govt organizations to provide wifi internet.

3.Internet Server Providers and Mobile operators can also provide Wimax connectivity for Chromebooks. Here is how Malaysian carrier ‘Yes 4G’ is doing.

4. For those who have smartphones with Wifi tethering, you can use this functionality to create wifi hotspot.

Where all can we use Chromebooks

Apart from personal use, Chromebooks can very useful for schools, colleges, govt organizations and etc.  Chromebooks can be deployed in schools for educational purposes. Not only is it easy to operate, but it is also cost effective. Same goes for internet labs in colleges and other organizations.

For those who have Chromebooks or wish to buy one, below are few helpful links-

Recently, Chromebooks were launched in Singapore and Malaysia. Hopefully, it will come to India soon.