Why I left my MacBook for a Chromebook

The Chromebook has inserted itself into my life in a way I never expected. Sorry, MacBook Pro -- I just don't need you right now

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Printing was the other area that worried me, but that too has been surprisingly easy. I've allowed the copy of Chrome on one of the computers to access printers on our network using Google Cloud Print, and it's now as easy to print from the Chromebook as it is from any of the other computers. As a bonus, I can queue print jobs from anywhere.

The audio and video support is good. Google Hangouts works well for voice and video chat, Google Voice provides easy telephone calling, and the device has great loudspeakers, so music and videos are enjoyable. I've installed Google Music Manager on my desktop machine, and it's made my music collection available in Google Play; I can play anything any time on the Chromebook. I have some Skullcandy headphones with a built-in microphone to use for both communications and music. Naturally, YouTube is supported, as are a number of TV applications, which work well.

The battery life is excellent. I rarely need to connect the charger during the day, despite heavy use, and the device is small and light enough to fit in an unobtrusive messenger bag. One oddity is the video connector. Samsung and Google have chosen to use the Displayport connector (not the same as Apple's mini display port). The Chromebook does not come with adapters for this strange connector, so I had to search for them. I've used the HDMI adapter to watch a music webcast and found it gave good screen resolution, as well as delivering the audio to the TV. I've also bought a VGA adapter to connect with projectors and a DVI connector for monitors in the office.

Great for Google geeks
What's missing? My device has no Bluetooth, but that's included in the new ARM Chromebooks. Apart from that, I'm happy with my device. I had expected to carry a "proper" laptop as well when I was traveling, but I've found the Chromebook entirely adequate. Adapting to it requires a slightly different mind-set, an experience on the same level as switching between Windows and Mac or Ubuntu Unity.

It also requires a willingness to fully embrace Google's cloud services if you're going to get the best from it. But I was already a heavy Google user on my other computers and I've become very comfortable with it. Indeed, I've researched, written, and filed all my stories on both ComputerworldUK and InfoWorld from it for the last few weeks.

It reminds me very much of the experience of adjusting to thin client computing five years ago; the Chromebook is essentially a thin client laptop. I can imagine it fitting easily into a corporate environment, especially using the administrative control features Google sells for business users. Businesses open to using a thin client desktop should be evaluating Chromebooks and Chromeboxes -- they are today's open source equivalent of yesterday's proprietary thin clients and Sun Rays.

I didn't think I'd replace my MacBook Pro with a Chromebook, but the truth is my old Apple friend has been sitting on the end of its Kensington cable in the office for weeks now, occasionally acting as a printer server or a remote application server but otherwise gathering dust. We'll see how long that lasts, but for now it's true: I left my MacBook for a Chromebook.

This article, "Why I left my MacBook for a Chromebook," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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