Chrome Notebook: Business in the Cloud

“The cloud” is hot – you’d have to have your head buried in sand to have not heard the word “cloud” from the tech sector this year.  Apple has introduced iCloud, Microsoft has Windows Cloud and Amazon has introduced their Cloud Drive product. Although all of these products show great promise, I think that the Google Chrome notebook might be the coolest cloud product so far (given, that my definition of ‘cool’ means ‘getting business done’).  In fact, I’m writing these very words on a virtual machine mock-up of a Chrome Notebook made via Parallels 6.

A Google Chrome notebook is really any laptop that runs Google’s Chrome browser.  Yup, that’s it.  How can an OS be this simple?  Web apps.  The entire Google Chrome way of working is  a cloud-based version of  “there’s an app for that”.  You can use Google documents for your word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.  You can even edit and store photos.  Outside of heavy design work or software development which requires a local Integrated Development Environment, there is pretty much nothing that this machine hasn’t been able to do for me.  Angry Birds is even available for free!

The consumer product is available in several flavors, including both 3g and WiFi models.  Acer makes a couple, Samsung makes a few, and all are less than $500.  The machines are simple, but quick – dual atom processors, 2gigs of ram (non upgradable), and 16gigs of solid state memory.  The unimpressive hardware is forgivable since most of the computing takes place in the cloud; additionally, it makes the machines very affordable.  Geek out to the full teardown over at iFixIt.

The great thing about the cloud is that your business can lose its attachment to physical devices.  The machine doesn’t matter- it’s a throwaway, a burner.  All your work is in the cloud. If your sales rep is on the road and pours coffee into their laptop, it’s no longer an IT emergency.  They can go to the local Best Buy, put $400 on the corporate card, log back into the Google account and keep working.  The rep’s pipeline is there, the sizzle reel is there, their contacts are all there…in the cloud.

I’m not quite ready to let go of my macbook, but I am very impressed with the Chrome notebook.  It embodies the true spirit of mobile productivity.  I had no problem blogging,  social networking, handling money management or any other task I do daily.  The machine only fell down when tasked with heavy design and development work that isn’t common to non-software developers.  Yay cloud.