I will admit to being a technology geek, but I have a good excuse; I make my living working on the Internet. I have always been fascinated with mobile computing and the whole laptop/netbook market niche. Working from a home office can become monotonous, and getting away from my desk can really be refreshing. I need to check on my online businesses about every one to two hours during the business day. Mobile computing provides me a way to do that while escaping the home office.
My Mobile Computing Journey
I have toyed with a number of devices over the years as a means to help me to work from other locations, such as a local coffee shop, my sailboat, or even sitting on the beach. These have included an iPad, a very large tablet phone (called a phablet), as well as several different laptops and so called netbooks (a smaller version of a standard laptop). I love tablet devices, but they don't do well with certain applications such as word processing (which as a writer is a very large part of my day). I have been hearing quite a lot about the new Chromebooks. If you are not familiar with them, here is a description from Google -
I have watched the price come down on Chromebooks, and you can now buy one for $199 from Amazon.com. I took the plunge two weeks ago and purchased a Samsung Chromebook for $240 through Amazon. I opted for the Samsung unit over the Acer model for the faster processing speed. I can now report back that I am extremely happy with my purchase.
The Samsung unit is very light (2.4 lbs), but is large enough to include a quite adequate screen size (11.6 in). The keyboard has the feel of a regular desktop computer. It does not have a delete key, but it only took a few minutes to get used to using the backspace key. I love the fact that I can open the computer up and begin working immediately. Unlike my much heavier laptop that takes what seems like forever to boot up with Windows, the Chromebook goes from hibernation to being fully powered up in about 2 seconds.
Working In The Cloud
Some people are terrified of storing data online (the so called cloud), but this really is the future. Of course, when I am writing a book I will likely make a backup of my manuscript on a thumb drive (or even store a copy directly on the Chromebook, which has a small amount of hard drive storage space for this purpose). Cloud computing is great for collaboration, which provides a means of online sharing and editing of documents from different locations.
The Google Chrome OS Gives You Access to Thousands Of Free Apps
The really neat thing about cloud computing, which is the foundation of the Chromebook, is all of the free apps you can access. For example, there is one app that allows me to connect to my desktop computer from the Chromebook. This app is free, while typical remote connection services charge as much as $20 per month. I also love the fact that my Chome apps follow me. Since I already use Chrome as my browser on my desktop, my apps are available to me on either computer. I found a wonderful 'to do list' app that allows me access to my list on either computer. You can also tap into a wide variety of other apps; most are free. For example, while Microsoft Office will cost you between $100 and $150, Chrome provides free apps that do all of these functions.
Free And Low Cost Cloud Storage
Chromebook buyers get 100 GB of storage, free for 2 years ($5 monthly after that). Google provides up to 15 GB of storage completely free (forever) to any registered user. Critics of the Chromebook point out that you need an Internet connection to access the full computing power of the device. I will concede that point, but in my world there are very few places that I can't find a WiFi network. If all else fails, I can simply activate the WiFi hotspot feature on my cell phone and use that to access the Internet. For me, this is not an issue. It should be noted that there are a number of apps that will work even when you are offline. For example, you can make your documents available for offline access so that you can work on them while on a long plane ride, etc.. (although most planes now have WiFi). Personally, I have not found the cloud based operating system to be an issue for me at all. One additional huge benefit to the online operating system and minimal hard drive is that the unit can run on battery power for more than 7 hours. It also does not get hot like a traditional laptop using a standard hard drive.
For a starting price of $199, this is really a very nice option for people in any number of situations. Students, people with nominal computing needs, or simply those looking for a light weight but powerful mobile computing option. I don't want to sell the Chromebook short. The truth is that it does pretty much everything you can do on a laptop (except run Windows based programs). In my own case, I will undoubtedly always have a desktop computer, but my Chromebook represents a fantastic and affordable choice while I am away from my desk (or want to sit out on my back porch, etc...).