The Recent Growth of Chromebooks: Right For You?

I have written often about Chromebooks, the low-cost competitor to Windows and Macintosh laptop computers. (My earlier Chromebook articles can be found by starting at http://goo.gl/LoScjt.) I purchased one of the first Chromebooks and still use it often. As Mark Spoonaur writes in Laptop Magazine:

Whether it’s because of their very affordable prices or an aversion to Windows 8′s complexity, more and more shoppers are buying Chromebooks. There are some valid reasons to choose a Chromebook over a Windows machine, including a very intuitive interface (it’s largely browser based), a lack of upgrade headaches, and less worrying about malware. And while Chromebooks have limited offline capability, there’s a growing number of apps that work without a Wi-Fi connection.

In fact, sales of desktop and laptop computers have been declining in the past few years; but ABI Research found that, in the most recent quarter, Chromebook shipments increased by 67 percent, quarter over quarter. The research company expects that, year over year, Chromebooks shipments will double. (Details may be found at http://goo.gl/dT2nBb.) ABI Research Analyst Stephanie Van Vactor made a statement that “Consumers are hungry for a product that is cost effective but also provides the versatility and functionality of a laptop. The growth of the Chromebook market demonstrates a niche that is gaining traction among consumers.”

Chromebooks have always sold well amongst consumers and in the education market. Even before the autumn school buying season started, Google sold a million Chromebooks to the education market. Google is also making a strong push for Chromebooks for use in businesses with its Chromebooks for Work initiative. (See http://www.zdnet.com/google-targets-businesses-with-chromebooks-for-work-7000034472/.)

Chromebooks are very price-effective. Prices start at about $200, and a top-of-the line Chromebook can be purchased for less than $350. One example is the $329 Toshiba Chromebook 2. The under-3-pounds laptop includes a gorgeous 1080 pixel screen and surprisingly powerful speakers tuned by Skullcandy. The battery lasts nearly 8 hours on a single charge. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 and many other computers often operate faster than competitive Windows and Macintosh laptops because they are unencumbered by anti-virus software that always slows a computer and also because of the use of solid-state disks used in place of the typical hard drive.

NOTE: Solid state disk drives are also becoming popular in Windows and Macintosh laptop computers, but not at prices under $350 for the laptop.

Like all Chromebooks, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is impervious to viruses, and it boots up in less than 10 seconds. If I were to replace my aging Chromebook today, I would purchase the Toshiba Chromebook 2. However, new Chromebooks appear almost weekly. My selection today of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 as the “best Chromebook for my needs” might change at any time as new models appear.

Early Chromebook users were hindered by a lack of applications in general and specifically for us, in genealogy. However, that is now changing. Cloud-based applications have become popular amongst all operating systems, including Windows, Macintosh, Android, and Apple iOS, as well as Chromebooks. Since the Chromebooks are designed primarily for use with cloud-based applications, this explosion has been instrumental in their growing popularity. In particular, genealogists can now take advantage of a growing number of cloud-based genealogy programs. Chromebooks work well with MyHeritage, Ancestry.com. WeRelate, WikiTree, and with The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, a name that is often shortened to “TNG.”

Indeed, TNG is a rather full-featured cloud-based replacement for the genealogy program that is presently installed on your Windows or Macintosh computer. It is a powerful way to manage and display your family tree on your own website, all without generating any static HTML. Instead, your information is stored in a database, and the pages are created on demand. All you need is a website and TNG.

The TNG web site can be your own, private genealogy database that is visible only to you, or you can optionally share it with others you give permission to access. It is one of the few genealogy programs that is truly multi-user: you and your invited relatives can view and even update data simultaneously, something that is impossible with most Windows and Macintosh genealogy programs. TNG is an excellent tool for use by family organizations or any other effort where multiple people may be working on the same genealogy database, possibly even at the same time.

Creating a TNG web site is very simple—even simpler than installing a genealogy program in your own Windows computer’s hard drive. The TNG web site at http://www.tngsitebuilding.com/ lists one company that will install and host all the software for $4.99/month (or less if you pay annually). All you need to do is open a web browser, connect to the web site, and start using it.

You can learn more about TNG at http://www.tngsitebuilding.com/.

All in all, Chromebooks are an excellent choice for many people although not for everyone. Chromebooks are a great choice for anyone who is not a computer expert or even for experts who simply want a low-cost laptop to use when traveling. They are very popular amongst adolescents, senior citizens, and all other adults who do not care to learn the inner workings of Windows or even Macintosh. The Chromebook is undoubtedly the easiest laptop computer to use today. Yes, it is even easier to use than a Macintosh.

There is also a desktop version that is called a Chromebox. A Chromebox is identical to a Chromebook except that it sits on a desk, connects to a desktop monitor, uses an external keyboard and mouse, and obtains its power from a wall outlet. For some reason, Chromebox computers have never become as popular as Chromebooks.

If you already own a Windows or Macintosh computer and are comfortable with it, you probably won’t want a Chromebook or Chromebox except possibly for travel. After all, you have already overcome the learning problems of your operating system and probably are comfortable with whatever you have today. The Chromebook offers little appeal for you, other than low price. However, if you are thinking about Christmas lists for your adolescent children or grandchildren, for an elderly relative, or anyone else who wants a computer but doesn’t want to be involved with frequent software upgrades, virus issues, or other computer maintenance frustrations, a Chromebook can be an excellent choice.

If the primary need for a lightweight laptop is to send and receive email, to do instant messaging, to use web sites, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation programs (similar to PowerPoint), Facebook, and Twitter, and to play games, a Chromebook may be an excellent choice for you. Not only is the price of the Chromebook itself attractive, but a very high percentage of the Chromebook apps are available free of charge. Chromebook applications may be found at https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/1056325?hl=en and at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/apps.

You can learn more about Chromebooks at http://www.google.com/chrome/devices/ and at https://www.google.com/chrome/devices/chromebooks.html.

8 Comments

How does a chrome book do with photo editing? We’d like to dump 2,000 pictures from a recent trip into a laptop and select, crop, edit and arrange about 100 of them for a coffee table book.

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Every article I have read puts the chromebook far behind the windows and mac platforms, except in schools where cost is definitely an issue. According to IDC, the chromebook presently holds about a 1% market share and they don’t see it hitting 2% until 2017.
In terms of functionality, the chromebook, as you pointed out, is a cloud based machine, which puts in more in line with tablets and smart phones than laptops and PCs.

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Does the Toshiba Chromebook come with a bunch of adware/malware like the Toshiba laptop does with Windows 8? I’m speaking of junk from Toshiba and not Microsoft.

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    I haven’t had my hands on the Toshiba Chromebook yet so I cannot say for sure. But, of the two Chromebooks I have owned and the five or six others I know of that are owned by my acquaintances, none of them were full of adware or any other form of obnoxious advertising. Perhaps some other Chromebook owners can jump in here and describe their experiences with their Chromebooks.

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How are chrome books better for travel? I assume you need internet connections to get them to work. But when I travel, I’m normally not near an internet connection. How do you get your email without an internet connection?

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    Wi-fi connections are available in many places for travelers. Airports, bus stations, train stations, on board Amtrak trains and on many commuter trains, and even in mid-flight on many airliners. Last week I flew from Florida to Massachusetts and had wi-fi availability all the way: on the shuttle bus going to the airport, at the airport, in the air (after we took off), and on the shuttle bus in Massachusetts.

    When traveling in an automobile, assuming I am not the driver, I turn on “tethering” in my cell phone and share the cell phone’s Internet connection vis wi-fi.

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I needed a laptop that ran Windows since I need to be able to remote in to my work computer. I wanted something lighter, faster and more versatile then my Dell Inspiron 15 (1998). In August I purchased the Dell Inspiron 11-3147 2 in1 convertible. It has a touch screen and folds back on itself so you can use it like a tablet. It can be hooked up to an external monitor when you want a larger display. I would recommend this laptop for anyone who wants a very portable laptop that runs Windows.

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