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Why Chromebooks are a Stupid Idea

On the surface, there are admirable qualities to be found in Chromebooks, the Chrome OS-powered netbooks Google announced the other day.

For example, the forthcoming Samsung model will boot in eight seconds and run for 8.5 hours on a single charge (supposedly). And without that pricey, slow-booting Microsoft operating system, it'll cost a lot less than similarly-spec'd netbooks: $499 for the 3G model and $429 for the Wi-Fi-only version.

Um, wait a minute. Last time I checked, you could buy a pretty kick-ass laptop for around $429 (and BYO aircard if you want 3G). You know, one with storage. And a decent-size screen. And a processor with some muscle. And an operating system that runs all the software you own. And like. And use.

Actually, it's neither the hardware nor the OS that bothers me about Chromebooks. It's the entirely cloud-based nature of the beast, the need to have an Internet connection if you want to access any apps or data. (I know there will be some local workarounds, but ultimately these netbooks hang their hats online.)

The problem with a pervasively online PC is that -- duh -- sometimes you can't get online. Just yesterday I had trouble getting my aircard to work, and that cost me almost a whole day of productivity during a cross-country road trip. And in my home office, my Internet connection has suddenly turned flaky: it works for half an hour and then cuts out for 5 or 10 aggravating minutes.

I can only imagine the aggravation of wanting to retrieve or compose a document on my Chromebook and not being able to because there's no accessible Wi-Fi or 3G. If I'm offline with a regular laptop, I still have my apps and data.

I used to rip on netbooks for being slow, cramped, and not much of a bargain. But at least they were functional. Chromebooks strike me as netbooks without the functionality. I cannot ever envision buying one.

What about you? Do you like the cut of Chromebooks' jib? Or do you agree that cloud-based PCs have no place in business? Let's hear from you in the comments!

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