Chrome OS Would Play Better in a Tablet

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-12-14 Print this article Print

To do caps, you click Shift, then type your letter, but if you're really set on having the cap's lock button, just go to that trusty wrench button and click settings, then modifier keys to make the search button a cap's lock button. That's what I did. I don't need a search button on my laptop.

Above the normalized QWERTY keyboard are what I call Web control keys. Where these are normally function keys on my Eee PC, Cr-48 has: back and forward browsing keys, a reload button, a full screen key, a next window key, buttons to boost or reduce screen brightness, a mute button and volume buttons, all bookended by the requisite escape key and power button.

These all did their duty well enough. Google also offers keyboard shortcuts, which display when you hot Ctrl-Alt?.

Performance of Chrome OS was fast and enjoyable. Browsing the Web was fine, including graphically intensive Websites such as Google's Chrome Web Store, accessible from an icon on the new tab page in Chrome, worked well for the most part.

All files are stored online in the cloud. The Cr-48 does not store any of that data because there is no hard drive. Chrome users will manage their settings through the Personal Stuff tab under settings when they click the wrench. Users can also provision the Cr-48 for guest access mode so that friends can browse the Web without accessing your data.

When you find an app to download, you just click to install and it shows up on your App Wall in 5 to 10 seconds. I easily installed the first two that struck my interest, NPR Radio for Chrome and HootSuite for social media apps.

Rovio's Angry Birds failed to install for me, however. I notified Google by clicking the bug icon next to the wrench. Feedback will prove invaluable for Google Chrome OS going forward.   

In addition to WiFi, the device has a 3G radio. Google contracted with Verizon to serve Cr-48 users 100MB of data every month for two years. Activating this was as easy as clicking the network button and choosing the Verizon Wireless option, entering a zip code, picking a data option and entering my personal info.

Users who require more than the 100MB monthly data allotment can also choose an unlimited day pass for $9.99, or 1GB for $20, 3GB for $35 or 5GB for $50, all per month.

This is a nice boost for people who want to use Cr-48 without the benefit of a WiFi connection. In effect, the notebook acts like any cell phone served by a carrier. Use and standby time of the machine is eight hours, which held up under our tests running Web apps, surfing the Web, etc.

I enjoyed the Cr-48 as a Web surfing device, but realized quickly I couldn't do any serious work in Google Docs on it until I plugged in a mouse. I just didn't care for the directional pad.  

Assuming this experience will be ported to official Chrome OS notebooks from Acer, Samsung, HP, Lenovo and whomever else launches them, I have a hard time seeing this paradigm proving popular launching in a massive ocean of tablet mania next year.

This is especially true as tablets become more friendly toward the productivity work Google expects us to do on our Chrome OS notebooks. I expect Apple's iPad 2 and Android Honeycomb-based tablets to be better suited for work.

All this is to say that Google would have been better launching Chrome OS in a tablet form factor, turning the funky keyboard into virtual keys that are easy to tap and swipe. Chrome OS is fine; it's the form factor of the new keyboard that's questionable.



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