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Chromebook: Breaking through the clamshell mystique

Last updated on July 23, 2020

An old Yogi Berra quote could be applied to the notebook market: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Microosft has subtly snubbed the popular clamshell with its first Windows device, Surface, even as it seeks to recreate some of the form factor’s advantages. I’ve ben writing for a while about the lack of interest from Apple and Android device providers in getting their mobile phone operating systems into clamshells. But despite all the challenges facing any new operating system, particularly one as unconventional as Chrome OS, Google and its partners Acer and Samsung had the courage to put it into conventional form factors like desktops (Chromeboxes) and notebooks (Chromebooks).

Indeed, Chrome has become a simple notebook OS alternative to Windows and Mac for consumers, a truer “netbook” than was ever produced by a Windows vendor, even more so than the original netBook from Psion. And in a time that even Microsoft is willing to throw out backward compatibility to take advantage of ARM processors, Chrome has found the mobile home it needs in the new Samsung Chromebook. The battery life may not be up to that of the iPad, but the 6.5 hours of battery life it delivers is at least in a user interface optimized for a keyboard and trackpad-driven form factor.

As James Kendrick points out in this ZDNet piece, Chrome is now becoming more functional offline. This is helpful because, in contrast to his rhetorical ending (“When was the last time your computer was offline, anyway? Probably doesn’t happen all that often.”), it’s still far too frequent. Worse, in at least some scenarios such long, sometimes international flights — it can be a prime productivity opportunity.