Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cr-48 Review: Part Two

After fully charging last night I fired up the Cr-48 at 0640am to see how it would fare in real world use. The first issue was the Verizon 3G, in that it didn't have any. I completed the online form, entered my credit card info for authentication, received the Verizon confirmation then I waited...and waited...and waited. No joy. I used the toll free number in the email and called customer service, had to reset the 3G modem with the use of a command line terminal and was shortly on my way. I asked the customer service rep if this was happening a lot and she was more than happy to tell me that the recent Cr-48 activations were not going so well. Especially after the string of information filled with forward slashes and numbers have to be followed verbatim over the phone; she sounded as if she had already repeated most of these steps at least a hundred times.

That was really the only drama on the way to getting up and running. Since my company email uses IMAP and a proper email client like Thunderbird, I cannot check email on my Cr-48. But I can do everything else like access DropBox, Twitter via the Seesmic app, Gmail, Google Reader, Documents, Salesforce, and the real web. I did try to view a short Hulu video and was reassured that while this machine is sleek and light, it is most certainly not a multi-media rig. So leave your Hulu shows to your PC or Apple TV/Roku box.

It is now 3:03pm and the battery is only at 47% with moderate use, in and out of standby. Keeping in mind that this is essentially the Chrome browser I did not do anything that I didn't already do on my other PC's. I got more use to the keyboard and the shortcut keys that are documented in the box as well as many of the same shortcuts in Chrome.

While it's fairly useful, I am struggling to understand who the target audience for this kind of device is. Those of us who willingly signed up for the Cr-48 prototypes were expecting the type of user experience we were in for but the average corporate/consumer PC user will not tolerate online only usage, an invisible filesystem, and doing without the occasional offline application or two. What they will like is the almost instant on/off capability, simplistic tabbed UI, and single focus use. If this ever makes it to the OEM's like Acer, Dell, and HP there will have to be some way to manage these unless they are true "netbooks" and just accessing webapps. So if they are lost, stolen, or destroyed all of the data still lives in the cloud and the user is simply just issued a new unit. No fuss no muss.

I recently sold my iPad in favor of a Samsung Galaxy Tab and I feel that the Cr-48 most closely resembles the former except with a keyboard. Like the iPad, the Cr-48 has a lot offer but it's still keeps feeling incomplete somehow. But even with obvious shortcomings, I applaud Google for making brave moves into the traditional OS space while at the same time, changing our ideas of what it means to compute.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cr-48 Review: Part One

I remember Google's announcements a few weeks ago for Android 2.3, Google Chrome OS, and the Cr-48 but I was not fully up to date on the latter. Last week I read a post where one could go onto Google's application page and request one. A full week has passed now and my Cr-48 showed up this evening.

After a full hour with Google's latest creation, the Cr-48, I am left wondering how and why Google decided to build this true "netbook". In the past two years I have owned everything from the first Asus EeePC 701, HP 1100 Tablet PC, to my current Acer netbook, and two full-size laptops by Dell and IBM respectively. And even though the netbook monikers were attached to the Asus and the Acer, they were actually miniature laptops computers, one with a crippled Xandros Linux experience and the other a woefully out of date Windows XP instance scaled down to size. But netbooks? Not really.

With only Google Chrome OS, the Cr-48 may just be the first real netbook in that there are no native applications, no visible file system, and no waiting to boot up or down. Upon boot the user is presented with a short introduction then, much like an Android phone, only one's Google username/password is needed to activate the unit.

So far the keyboard is straightforward mimicking a MacBook Pro's chiclets with a row of keys above the number row that gives direct commands like: volume up/down, fullscreen, brightness, power button, etc. The Cr goes in and out of standby just by opening and closing the lid. In fact, regaled in all flat black this looks like a leaner, meaner version of my Thinkpad T60 but without markings it is the geek version of a "blacked out" sports car built for stealth AND speed. The top and bottom has a rubberized feel as does the palm rest. The trackpad requires the biggest adjustment as it takes a two-finger touch to simulate a mouse right-click. But even this change is welcomed. Whoever Google teamed with to create this device left out all of the bling factor but by doing so, made it look better than most of the high-end laptops out in the market today. Did Google build this to actually push cloud computing or to simply go on the offensive for its browser market share? Maybe I'll ask them next time I'm out in Mountainview ;-)

With Google's Chrome Browser out for a while now, it is more of the same here. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. All of my Chrome apps, extensions, and settings were ported into my Cr-48 and were ready to use in about a minute.

I will post the second part of this review as soon as possible but so far the Cr-48 seems to be "nothing but Net".

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Us 2.0

After re-reading this post about Joshua Topolsky's pitch for a "Continuous Client" and the with recent developments of Google's announcements of Chrome OS and Android 2.3/3.0, I believe we are just on the edge of Convergence Overlook. Google is creating two branches of computing platforms simultaneously: Android and Chrome OS. Even in Beta forms, there is no other company making the level of noise around pure online applications like Google has. Even in the beginning, when the first G1 came out in 2008, there were precious applications available in the Android Market because of the lofty visions of browser-based apps akin to Steve Jobs' claim in 2007, for the iPhone. Fast forward to the eve of 2011, and Android applications like Google's Chrome to Phone, Gmail, Talk, Voice, Maps, and even Skype now keep me connected from my PC, Android phone, and my Galaxy Tab.

It is not a coincidence that all of the above services are developed by Google with one exception, Skype. Along with Google, Skype has realized it's not the device or even the UI that matters, it's the connectivity and quality of service (QoS). If the QoS is usable and helps productivity, then users will flock to applications that keep them connected seamlessly.

In fact, I believe the OS of the future will be the Browser. Not in its current form however, but with AJAX, HTMLx, RIA, and yes even Adobe products like Air/Flash, the Web will be The computing platform carved into personal and corporate niches using various security permissions. Think about Facebook and Twitter for a moment, online communication is becoming as important and even more so than face to face as a medium that requires almost constant feeding and watering. And we are all complicit given this latest Forrester report that says Americans spend just as much time online as we do watching television.

All of this is making us a more mobile society but also more fragmented personally while being more connected socially. So with this new convergence and a possible blur between our real and online personas, which will you choose? It is already a balancing act for those of us who try to nurture both and I contend that the Continuous Client will not help us any better in the Future. The versions of You and Me and effectively "Us 2.o" still depend on who we really are and who we project ourselves to be.

So is the Continuous Client a computer interface or me and you?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Best of Christmas

This morning my wife and I were discussing the gifts that we recently purchased, and are in the process or purchasing for our five children. The youngest is seven with the oldest being twenty-two.

With so many children, we strive to spread out the quantity and cost of gifts equally. There are so many things out there that we would to purchase to make our children feel like they are having a "good" Christmas.

We have done the Black Fridays and the Cyber Mondays. We have shiny new metallic objects that makes us feel as if we are arriving as well as some new threads to show off in 2011.

But the most wonderful gift that we can give this year is the re-channeling of Christ's love and then demonstrate that love to my family and others.

It has become a cliche but after the boxes and wrapping paper are tossed out with the refuse we cannot let those things represent the Christmas holiday. I fear that commercialism is wringing the life out of days we hold sacred now because of door busters and close-out sales, but this cannot be.

This is my responsibility this season.