Published June 23, 2011
Google (GOOG) has been raising eyebrows in the tech world with its new "cloud"-based Chrome OS operating system, but is the world ready for a laptop that needs Internet access to really be used?
"If we lived in a world where we had a ubiquitous, cheap, unlimited, fast, wireless connectivity everywhere and you were never out of touch, it would make sense& but we don't," Wall Street Journal Personal Technology Columnist Walt Mossberg told FOX Business in his weekly All Things Digital segment.
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One of the first so-called "Chromebooks" to be available to the general public is the Samsung Series 5, which has a 12.1-inch screen, offers up to 8.5 hours of battery life, and weighs just 3.3 pounds. Mossberg reviewed the device in his Wall Street Journal column this week.
While the cloud is often considered liberating in how users don't have to have all their photos, music, documents, and programs locally stored on their laptop, mobile phone, or tablet, it can also, ironically, be quite limiting. "We're in a world which I think of as much more hybrid," Mossberg said. People, of course, access their email in the cloud and synchronize their calendars and contacts, but there's much more value so far in terms of programs like iTunes, Adobe Reader, and Microsoft Office, and you can't install any of these sorts of apps on this kind of computer because it has no hard drive and almost no memory, he explained.
Despite the limitations of the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 and others running Chrome OS, Mossberg is quick to point out that this is certainly not the fault of Google, but of the technological environment we currently live in, where we don't always have Internet access at our fingertips. Think of being on an airplane, out of contact, and wanting to look at one of your thousands of pictures you've got stored up on the cloud; they won't be on your local device, he explained.
Apple's (AAPL) iPad lets you store thousands of pictures that don't require you to be connected, but the Chromebook does not, so the timing may not be quite right for a cloud-based laptop. When will it be time? Mossberg sees our current hybrid trend continuing for some time. People don't necessarily even realize they're using the cloud every day when they read and write email in Yahoo! Mail or put their photos on Apple's MobileMe, but the trend is growing, he said.
Finally, Mossberg found the Samsung Series 5 to be underpowered, a bit buggy, and pricey. The model that connects via Wi-Fi and cellular costs $500 and is only powered by a "wimpy" Intel (INTC) Atom processor, he said. For $400 you could find a 15" laptop with a much more powerful processor that does all the same Web apps, but also provides the benefits of locally-stored software and files, he added.