back to article Windows' cloudy future: That Chrome OS advantage is Google's to lose

Microsoft has changed a lot since Steve Ballmer left. It's hard to imagine Satya Nadella fostering an environment where workers felt they had to hide their iPhones for fear of enraging the boss. Microsoft is contributing so much to open source now it almost feels unfair to mention that Ballmer called open source "cancer". Almost …

  1. sabroni Silver badge

    Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

    Really? I've never used a Chromebook but both my adult children had one and both have gone back to Windows. Both Chromebooks degraded so seriously over the course of 12-18 months that they became effectively unusable.

    That's my anecdote, anyone got experience of long lived Chromebooks that haven't snarled themselves up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

      That's my anecdote, anyone got experience of long lived Chromebooks that haven't snarled themselves up?

      I can give you several - I've been using various Chromebooks as my 'main' laptop for at least 5 years now; first thing I generally do is install crouton and put a 'proper' Linux setup on there; the last time I checked the 'native' Linux support (then in beta ... hah!) the performance was terrible.

      Anyway.

      My 'first' Chromebook, an Acer of some description, was passed down to my father who, to the best of my knowledge is still using it. Suffice to say I've not had to do any parental tech support for quite a while. My 'second' Chromebook was given to my partner when her ancient Vaio reached the point where booting up became more of a miss than a hit; that particular machine, which had definitely been in the wars, finally succumbed to display issues after being dropped one too many times - in the 2-3 years she had the machine I never had to do anything to it. It was replaced, at her request no less, with another Chromebook. That ain't bad going for something that was supposed to be an interim replacement.

      So yeah, whilst there'll inevitably be some outliers, my own experience is that Chromebooks are indeed quite capable of looking after themselves. In addition, a lot will depend on your individual use-case.

      My biggest beef is that despite the fact that ChromeOS is basically a 'crippled' Linux distro and, in all fairness, is pretty good at what it does, I'd much prefer to be able to boot into a full-fat Linux[*] from the get-go rather than have to muck around with chroots.

      [*] - I'm aware it can be done, but it's rather more faff than I fancy right now; one for the future though.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: my own experience is that Chromebooks are indeed quite capable of looking after themselves

        "first thing I generally do is install crouton and put a 'proper' Linux setup on there"

        I know it was the first post on an article about hardware, but I wasn't asking "Can I wipe it and put a proper linux on there".

        I was asking if Chromebooks running Chrome OS degrade over time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: my own experience is that Chromebooks are indeed quite capable of looking after themselves

          And if you'd bothered to read a little further, you'd have found that my experience is that they don't, to whit:

          So yeah, whilst there'll inevitably be some outliers, my own experience is that Chromebooks are indeed quite capable of looking after themselves. In addition, a lot will depend on your individual use-case.

          YMMV, of course.

          Whilst the PowerWash feature is there in the event of serious fuckups, I've only ever used it prior to passing a machine on.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Agreed.

          If the first thing you do when you buy some hardware is wipe and install Linux, you are not qualified to discuss the functionality of that hardware in its original function.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            It's hazy, but I gather that Simon only does that on his own machine. The others presumably are still Chromebooks... until they aren't: don't these boxes still have a rigid end-of-lifetime running ChromeOS, so your PC, however carefully owned, stops being a PC on that date? I suppose then you can install proper Linux again... supposing that you can.

        3. needmorehare
          Thumb Up

          They don't degrade, they go unsupported fast

          I've had ChromeOS devices and I can confirm they stay snappy and don't "degrade" like with proper computers. However, Chromebooks have short lifecycles, where updates and support have historically ended as little as 5 years from the date the product hit the market.

          If you want a cheaper and better experience, you can use Neverware Cloudready to get a longer lifecycle and equal performance from ordinary laptops. It's Chromium OS and it's free for home users.

    2. Chz

      Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

      Our (then) teenager had a Chromebook for a few years, until he broke it. He bought himself a similarly-priced Win10 machine to replace it and regretted it utterly.

      I believe he's now moved on to an expensive Win10 machine, but he'd be the first to say that ChromeOS was a vastly better budget option.

    3. Lon24

      Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

      " I've never used a Chromebook but both my adult children had one and both have gone back to Windows. Both Chromebooks degraded so seriously over the course of 12-18 months that they became effectively unusable."

      My complaint against Chromebooks is the opposite. They don't degrade. My 2013 jobbie went out of ChromeOS support/updates in 2020. It's still perfectly good hardware and performance-wise. Now I ignore Chrome and just use the Crouton - which has support currently through 2023.

      But lack of support of the ChromeOS kernel and other security related stuff on which the crouton sits is bad. And that Chromebook's are locked into ChromeOS - even me as the builder of many systems really don't want to take screwdriver and a Youtube video to tinker with the motherboard to try and liberate the bios.

      I shan't buy another Chromebook because I don't want hardware obsoleted by software. The joy of WindowsXP was when it died you just bunged Linux on it to bring it back to life for as long as the hardware hangs together. I must have half a dozen PC & laptops doing just that.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Now I ignore Chrome and just use the Crouton

        So you don't know if Chrome OS performance degrades over time then?

        That's what I'm asking about.

      2. eionmac

        Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

        "The joy of Windows XP [& Vista & Windows 7] was when it died you just bunged Linux on it to bring it back to life for as long as the hardware hangs together. I must have half a dozen PC & laptops doing just that."

        I maintain a few old Windows machines for charities with a Linux distro of up to date software for them. [Disclaimer: and some 4 or so in my house]

        Main problem now, with all sorts of folk video chatting, many do not have in build cameras and microphones, so need a external USB mic/camera. They live and prosper within the limits these folk want from basic computing tasks

    4. Captain Mainwaring

      Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

      Chrome OS has an excellent factory reset facility called Powerwash and unlike Windows only takes a couple of minutes to complete. I have been using Chromebooks/Chromeboxes for six years and only had to use this facility on 3 occasions on the four different machines that I've owned. If this doesn't work, chances are there's a hardware issue with the machine itself.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

        Someone actually read my post and responded to it!!

        Thanks Captain, I'll see if they tried that!

    5. gfx

      Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

      Depends on your use and expectations, as just a browser my 300(?) euro Toshiba still works.

      It has a 1920x1080 non gloss screen. It's a bit slow. But maybe clean the browser cache once in while or a fresh reinstall.

    6. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Chromebook is particularly good at fulfilling its promise of looking after itself.

      Having recently set up well over a thousand C'books (maybe several thousands. I lost track) as my part of a 34,000 deployment, I can tell you they do indeed degrade and must be completely refreshed and reset after about a year.

      The reset process isn't that hard, but having access to an enterprise level server helps a lot. We had several. Among those resets there were several complete failures. Say one out of every 50-ish. Some of that was due to hardware breakage like screens and trackpads, user abuse and internal drive failure. But mostly, obsolete hardware.

      As I believe a sample of several thousands counts as accurate data these days, and trading notes with the rest of team and seeing similar experiences, then there it is. 34,000 C'books worth of data.

      My experience is that C'books do NOT have long term durability. Roughly, 3 years, tops, but needing refresh resets at least once a year.

      (BTW, the photo looks EXACTLY like my previous workspace.)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and...

    quote

    Chromebook is well defined and stable it'll be an attractive place for third parties to set up shop. It has the potential to become a self-supporting ecosystem with benefits for everyone.

    The biggest beneficiary is Google. All that lovely data being sent their way by each and every one of their locked-in users. The biggest loser here is Microsoft.

    As much as I dislike Google and everything they stand for (slurp, slurp and BB incarnate) Chromebook users can break away from the stranglehold that Microsoft has on users minds. IE is not the Internet.

    Yes, that is old but the perception from most average people is that Windows is the only way to go. Schools don't help by forcing children down the MS Orifice route during large parts of their education.

    The remaining question for me is...

    Do I loathe Google more or less than how much I loathe Microsoft?

    The jury is out on that one. Either way, I intend to carry on using neither of them or their products. The only time I have to use anything of google's is for those silly Captcha things.

    1. stungebag

      Re: and...

      This view of the world is well out of date, but that was obvious as soon as you mentioned IE. As I'm sure you know Microsoft's browser was replaced yonks ago and is now Chromium-based. What you may not know is that Chrome is the universal browser for home users (except on Mac?). As volunteer I meet many older people who use computers and don't think I've met one who uses Edge. They don't know what it is. The unsophisticated computer user these days doesn't know a browser from a search engine from a computer, but they do know that they use Google for almost everything, and they start by clicking that nice round red, green, yellow and blue icon.

      A Windows stranglehold, you say? Have MacBooks ever been so popular? And a very large chunk of those home users that would once have bought Windows now get by with a tablet. Schools, another subject you mention but that I know something about, may well use Office - unless they use G Suite, which very many do.

    2. illiad

      Re: and...

      I was working for a large charity, that decided to use Chromebook, but it was *totally* locked down.. not even a screen saver!!! :O

      do tell the standard Chromebook is better than that... :P

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and...

      "Do I loathe Google more or less than how much I loathe Microsoft?"

      It's like asking "would I like to be hit in the head with a baseball bat, or kicked in the nuts by a mule?"

      In my book, Google is quickly catching up to MS. But for years MS had that "we have to destroy everyone else in order to win" mentality, which Google doesn't seem to have (yet). Google's mentality is "get everyone else to build stuff that we'll use, then make the users pay for it with their eyeballs."

  3. Throgmorton Horatio III
    Joke

    Pun intended?

    "eclectic motor on the driveshaft."

    That would certainly be an unusual choice of motive power, no doubt driven by irony.

  4. The Original Steve

    Disagree

    Whilst they are bloody awful regardless of the OS, the chepeast Windows laptop kicking around is circa £200 or so. Given that most businesses have sucumb to purchasing a subscription for productivity and management (GSuite or M365) that's kind of seperate.

    A poor computing experience regardless of platform choice, but a smooth (in terms of pre-configuration and support) experience can be had regardless if it's Windows with M365 or a Chromebook with GSuite in charge. The management from InTune is actually pretty good to be honest. I miss the advanced stuff in Group Policy, but as an MDM it's fairly solid.

    My own anecdote: I started a new role at the start of the year and was sent a Lenovo X1 Carbon with an i7 and 16GB RAM plus Thunderbolt dock on W10 Ent managed via M365 / InTune.

    My SO started her new job 2 weeks later and had a new Lenovo Chromebook sent to her. Everytime she sees me working she pretty much turns green with envy. Poor trackpad and keyboard, battery life is fairly comprable and she's now paying for a 4G backup SIM / WiFi dongle after we had a broadband outage for 3 hours meaning she couldn't work at all. Coupled with having to use her LOB app via RemoteApp (so still paying MS a licence fee for it as it's hosted on a RDS farm in Azure) I know she would much rather have a "normal PC" to work from.

  5. LDS Silver badge

    Who wants a cloud OS?

    No thanks. We don't need more stinkin' walled gardens where subscription rules and developers need to bend to their overlords taxes on each application they distribute. Where even developing and installing your own software requires a developer subscription?

    Microsoft and Windows may have many issues, but at least you can still run any software you like whenever you like - and write your own with any tool you like. I don't want my desktop resemble my phone, I hate the latter enough already.

    1. Adair Silver badge

      Re: Who wants a cloud OS?

      Nevertheless, the 'Please don't bore me with that IT stuff' user just wants to click and go. For them ChromeOS is as near as we've got on a laptop to achieving that 'nirvana'.

      It may be the manifestation of hell to people who want/need to know what goes on behind the shiny, but for millions of others, it's just what they expect and hope computing should be - as simple as flicking a light switch and requiring as much thought.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Who wants a cloud OS?

        Sure, those people just need a phone with a larger screen. But there are still many people who do far more than filling web forms and typing something in Office(-like) applications.

        And there's the fact we want "digital" citizens and then don't let them learn and understand what being "digital" means - we just jail them into the walled gardens of very few mega-corps.

        In a corporate environment locking down Windows is pretty easy (as long as your system administrator learnt their job and are not just cheap "consultants" hired from an offshore company), and if you keep hardware coherent enough instead of just buying from the salesman who bribes you more even more so.

        Computing can't and never will be easy as flicking a light switch. Until you become the bulb - and someone else owns the switch.

        1. Adair Silver badge

          Re: Who wants a cloud OS?

          I'm not advocating for the 'lightswitch' mentality, I'm saying that it's a substantial reality - whether we like it or not.

          There are huge numbers of people who have no interest in understanding 'IT', and never will have. Just the same as they have no interest in how their car works - so long as it does work, with minimal input from them.

          These are the people the corporates long to have on their books - preferably via monthly direct debit - and who can blame them. Both sides get what they want (mostly).

          It's up to others to make sure the corporates stay on the right side of the ethical line; and the 'users' aware that there are some things that actually do need thinking about, and maybe even doing something about - so long as that doing is little more than flicking a switch!

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Who wants a cloud OS?

            When distributing free laptops to low income family school kids for work from home, Windows has been chosen over CB because the kids are already familiar with it.

    2. ParasiteParty

      Re: Who wants a cloud OS?

      Agreed. Keep my data with me not a large corporate, thanks.

    3. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Who wants a cloud OS?

      The entire premise of the article is personal bias. Calling out Microsoft for being Microsoft, that is Microsoft's desire to keep its customers within the Microsoft ecosystem - tell me what company DOESN'T do that, and I'll sell you a bridge over the Thames for £1.

      IBM. Apple. Oracle. Google. Facebook. Ford.

      Tell me what company doesn't make an initial sale then try to keep you coming back for maintenance, expansion and future purchases of additional products???!

      So Chromebook offers a low-maintenance choice for some users. And Google doesn't try to lock you into their ecosystem, with the added "benefit" of your data being their marketing model?

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Who wants a cloud OS?

        The problem is that many users don't understand the trade-offs they are making. As long as they are getting free services from Google and a cheaper laptop* that does what they want, they're not reading the small print that says *all your datas are belong to us*. And frankly even more more tech-savvy users, I use Google services with as many privacy settings as I can find locked down but it's still extremely difficult to work out what data they SAY they're gathering and even more difficult to work out what they actually ARE gathering.

        That's why we need strong privacy legislation with meaningful** penalties.

        *and this type of user doesn't care about the nuance between laptop, chromebook, tablet with keyboard... for them if it looks like a laptop, it's a laptop.

        **Which for international multi-billion companies means (a) fines with 8+ zeroes after the 1st significant digit and (b) restriction of operation in case of non-compliance (c) public acknowledgement prominently displayed to all users, not some backroom closed-doors 'no acknowledgement of wrongdoing' fine

  6. fwthinks
    Meh

    Apples and oranges

    I don't fully understand the comparison - I see Chromebooks as android tablets on steroids and have a specific use case - basic browsing & productivity . Maybe this is what most people need, but that is different to saying that Chromebooks are better than Windows laptops.

    Maybe where Google are winning, is in convincing people that Chromebooks are equivalent to Laptops. I know people who have bought Chromebooks and then were disappointed in their limited functionality - which suggests that there is a element of hype in their sales pitch. On the other side, you have vendors selling cheap Windows laptops which struggle to do anything basic and make Windows look a waste of money.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Apples and oranges

      Your opinion is far too balanced to be in a discussion about the pros and cons of MS and Google!

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Apples and oranges

      Nailed it. Excellent analysis.

    3. BenM 29

      Re: Apples and oranges

      >>you have vendors selling cheap Windows laptops which struggle to do anything basic and make Windows look a waste of money.

      Coincidentally, I have a case in point here on my desk.

      HP Stream. NIce little windows based notebook - however only 30Gb storage, all full of windows/windows updates/pagefile/hibernation file etc..Office isn't intsalled locally - the device was sold on the premise that one would be using Office365 online.,so no real difference to a Chromebook other than the choice of "walled garden".

      Should never have been sold with Windows, would be an ideal Chromebook....and to those who rage about Chromebooks timing out on support - this Windows machine has done exactly that indirectly - it's storage is insufficient for updates to occur so Windows will fall off support in a couple of months.

      What's that you say? upgrade the local storage? nope can't do that - no access to the insides is possible other than by dismantling the machine completely which kind of defeats the object.

      Time to find a tiny(ish) linux distro and install that - at least it won't run out of space for updates for another few years.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Apples and oranges

        "and to those who rage about Chromebooks timing out on support - this Windows machine has done exactly that indirectly - it's storage is insufficient for updates to occur so Windows will fall off support in a couple of months."

        Wrong.

        What your thing has: The manufacturer made it with specs that don't let the system stay up to date in the easiest way.

        What the other thing has: The system could update, but they've cut it off so you can't do so in any way.

        If we're technical, you can update Windows on your thing by performing a deep clean to remove files, including moving all personal files to external media. That will give you more storage for update files. If that fails, you can reinstall the latest version, which will give you the latest updates. You shouldn't have to go that far and some won't know how to do it anyway, but it's possible to do it without having to recode anything or attempt to hack into locked firmware. Chromebooks are instead killed outright.

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Apples and oranges

      Analysis largely true. I would add that for many users a Chromebooks is a better device for them than any 'normal' laptop OS. And for another chunk, a Chromebook is a better secondary device than said laptop. Particularly at the price point you can get a Chromebook.

      Depending on what you need the device you need ranges from a phone to possibly a beast of a desktop. It is really a matter of finding the device best suited to your needs.

    5. gratou

      Re: Apples and oranges

      You can install MS office from the play store nowadays. So chromebooks do what the vast majority of people use their PC for: browse the net, watch movies, basic office work. The issue sems to be that most people buy a chromebook because it's the cheapest possible PC. And therefore the hardware is usually crap.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Apples and oranges

        Is that similar to the iPad version?

        If so, it is a very cut-down version of Office, which may or may not meet your requirements. Word does everything I want it to do, Excel does not. I don't use PowerPoint.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Apples and oranges

      you made me consider what fruit equivalents we could use for Micros~1 and for Google since "Apple" is already taken...

      I guess Micros~1 is a banana and Google is a pineapple. Or maybe the other way around. Ouch.

      I have yet to purchase a chromebook but the potential of 'just putting linux on it' makes it a worth-while gamble, as long as the screen is big enough. Or maybe, like an inexpensive 'droid slab (i have one 'o those), it becomes "fit for purpose" when used as intended. After reading stuff here, that last part is probably most correct.

      /me needs coffee now

  7. oiseau Silver badge
    WTF?

    Contributing? Surely you jest ...

    Microsoft is contributing so much to open source now ...

    Really?

    How about this: Microsoft is slowly but steadily infecting open source now ...

    Reads like a more accurate description of what is happening.

    Not without stressing that my pointing this out is not in any way an excuse for Google and what they do.

    From a post here at ElReg by AC (20180614) which sums it up quite nicely:

    "Linux, Linux Foundation, R, Git, Atom/Electron, MariaDB, Python, Mozilla, RedHat, Debian, Gnome, KDE, ... are all being "disrupted" by M$. Their trojan horses infiltrate all important open source free software foundations and companies (EEE Nokia style). (M$ is a sponsor to all of these foundations! And Linux Foundation congratulated M$ for buying Github! WTF) ..."

    I find it tragic that you [an ElReg staffer/contributor]do not or maybe just choose not to see it and then spread such BS.

    O.

    1. sreynolds

      Re: Contributing? Surely you jest ...

      Microsoft makes about as much of a contribution to open source as Britain did to the EU. It was an open secret that the only reason Britain joined the EU was to break it up from the inside. Just ask Humpy.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Happy

        Yes, let's ask Sir Humphry.

      2. illiad

        Re: Contributing? EU bad?? LOLOL

        and here we are, out of EU, and they are still behaving badly, proving it was all their fault!! LOL

    2. sabroni Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Microsoft is slowly but steadily infecting open source now ...

      That's exactly how it's supposed to work! It's open source. You don't get to pick who contributes.

      It's quite funny if you think about it.....

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Contributing? Surely you jest ...

      How about this: Microsoft is slowly but steadily infecting open source now ...

      Exactly. Only fools trust Microsoft. Only major stockholders and professional flaks promote Microsoft and downvote accurate statements.

    4. thondwe

      Re: Contributing? Surely you jest ...

      Infecting in the same way as Oracle, Amazon, Redhat, SUSE, Canonical...

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Contributing? Surely you jest ...

      I thought we were calling them "Micros~1" these days...

      What's nice about open source is that if you do not like what they did to it, you are welcome to fix it or contribute a patch to make "whatever that was before" an option so that you can have it back if you want it. A properly managed project would accept "an option to have it back" as a patch and integrate it so as to NOT anger a lot of existing users that agree that "change is NOT always for the better" and want their old "whatever" back. Or it will fork. Like Mate. Like Devuan.

      (My mate desktops running on Devuan systems and FreeBSD look like an old Gnome 2 setup from a decade ago and it makes me very very happy that I _STILL_ have a 3D Skeuomorphic classic desktop)

      github has been moderately stable except recently when they broke the appearance of tags [text now always black unless you have a bleeding edge browser version] and apparently aren't going to fix it so that it's compatible again...

  8. Roland6 Silver badge

    "Google wants to marry Android and Chrome OS"

    You would have thought they had learnt from Microsoft this is an expensive and wasteful exercise.

    Users don't really care if their phone is running the same OS as their tablet, laptop, desktop whatever, they merely want to share data between them and to do so easily, which only implies a degree of functional equivalence, but potentially lots of behind the scenes data sharing.

    What is in some ways irritating is that I can register multiple devices to my iCloud and Google accounts, but neither of them have any way for me to simply denote: these (selected) devices form my personal cloud and thus can share data: and so with a single screen, a few tickboxes and one click of the mouse, I've managed my personal device cloud.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Users don't really care if their phone is running the same OS as ..

      Indeed. Users absolutely tend to buy the devices that correspond to their needs, and only after worry about how to get their data from one device to the next.

      The vendor that will make that possible is going to be the proud owner of its own money-printing machine.

  9. 45RPM Silver badge

    I love the theory of Chromebook - but I find the implementation, in that one has to give so much data to Google and your privacy is as good as non-existent, problematic. Not, it must be said, that I blame Google for this - sure, it doesn’t fit my use-case, but it isn’t evil to want to be paid. We all have to eat.

    I blame the users in many ways. The real cancer at the heart of computing is the idea that software should be free, that only tangible hardware should be paid for. This isn’t a dig at open-source either - I love the stuff. But software, even open-source, does need to be paid for somehow, whether by perpetual license (how old-fashioned), by rental (like Office 365), in a support contract (very Enterprise) - or by significant investment from the people selling the hardware (like Apple) or licensing the software (like Google). So how does Google invest, permitting Chromebooks and Android Phones to be such good value? Well, as we all know, they do it by scrobbling all the data about their users that they legally can and then selling it. Which is fair enough - but it doesn’t work for me.

    I’d love it if users realised that the value of their computer isn’t in the hardware particularly - it’s in the software. What do you want your car to do? Be prestigious and luxurious (the hardware)? Or get you from A to B with minimum fuss (the software)? If people could be persuaded to pay fairly for the software that they use then we might see a world with Chromebooks (albeit more expensive Chromebooks to cover the software development costs) which protect their users privacy, whilst still doing all the wonderful, convenient, things that Chromebooks do.

    Until then, my Chromebook will just be a repurposed old Thinkpad, kept because I’m a software nerd and I love playing with OSes. But it won’t be my daily driver.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Meh

      re: Not, it must be said, that I blame Google for this

      Who do you think is responsible then?

      Oh, why am I even asking? It's el Reg comments, the baddy is always Microsoft.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: re: Not, it must be said, that I blame Google for this

        First sentence, second paragraph - and baddie is too strong a term. Uneducated, perhaps. Misguided, maybe. (Clue - it's not Microsoft, and the baddie is always Facebook!)

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: get you from A to B with minimum fuss

      That's not the software, yet, it's the wetware.

      There is yet no such thing as self-driving vehicles.

      That said, your point about software being more important than hardware is absolutely true. A laptop without an OS is just a hunk of metal and plastic and toxic materials. It's only the magic of software that makes it useful.

      And that software has to be written by people who have the means to eat.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: get you from A to B with minimum fuss

        I didn’t mean to imply that the car gets you from A to B autonomously. I meant it as an analogy. A Ford Model T has no electronic tech at all but gets you from A to B more simply than the alternative - a horse. It’s not very luxurious, but it’ll do the job.

        1. Psmo Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: get you from A to B with minimum fuss

          more simply

          Feed a trained horse and point it in the right direction and they'll get there.

          You evidently don't remember how fragile cars used to be.

  10. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I currently have four desktops and a laptop all running Xubuntu ... but my go-to for browsing and other consumer tasks is my Dell Chromebook. It works superbly, updates regularly (I know that will end) and lasts at least ten hours on one charge. I splashed out the extra for the convertible version, and although I don't use it as a tablet much, the touchscreen means that any Android apps designed for a tablet work well. Phone apps often less so, but only awkward (enforced orientation changes) rather than impossible.

    If I want to fiddle with Linux, it has a full Debian install for playing with, though it's a bit limited. No access to sound, for example (I think that may be changing) and LibreOffice can only open and save in .html, which is weird.

    Overall, though, I'm very pleased with it.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      If you're not aware, and you like Xubuntu, you might want to have a look at GalliumOS for your Chromebook. (i.e. once Chrome OS updates have stopped).

      GalliumOS is based on Xubuntu, and tweaked specifically for Chrome OS hardware.

      Can be a bit tricky to install initially, depending on the Chromebook. On mine, a Lenovo from a few years back, this involved opening the case, finding a screw (which had a large head that electrically bridged a couple of traces on the motherboard). Removing the screw unlocked the boot loader (it was basically read only with the screw in place).

      But once the boot loader had been replaced (which only needs to be done once), everything else was basically just like installing an OS on any normal laptop. Only real issue being hardware support, hence GalliumOS rather than regular Xubuntu. (For ref, my touch pad, touch screen etc all worked out of the box with GalliumOS).

      1. TVU

        If GalliumOS ends up not working then Neverware's CloudReady OS (their version of ChromeOS) is another option to consider.

        Both of those operating systems can be tried/used on older Chromebooks that are no longer supplied by updates from Google.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Thanks, both of you. Note taken.

  11. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Fully agree with this article

    It does feel like there is a real advantage Google has here that it could prop up in the ways listed, and actually for engineers, having it paired with a nice cloud environment that lets you spin out to a dev/blogging/other playground would be pretty compelling.

    Add in education support for schools (already pretty well covered) and universities, and you suddenly have a giant swathe of people who will just use Google stuff, for whom using Word would just be a horribly jarring experience.

    If Google could just decide on things like Hangouts, and then get on with it, remove any auth friction that exists within their identity platform and with interop with others, they would have so many things going for them.

    Interesting times ahead, perhaps!

  12. ParasiteParty

    Send them a letter?

    "If something goes wrong with your Google service as an ordinary user, there's no phone number to call, no email with a guaranteed response time. "

    I wrote them a letter a month or two ago. You know, in a real envelope and with a real stamp. Still waiting for a reply. I wonder if they even know how to open the envelope?

    This is what you get when a faceless organisation doesn't give a cr*p about you.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Snail mail and Google ?

      Do keep us posted on how that went.

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Send them a letter?

      Letter? Silicon Valley. They've moved on I believe. Converted the post offices into boutique vegetable juice bars. Somewhere in Central Asia where Mongolia fades towards Kazakhstan an itinerant musk-ox herder is looking at your envelope wondering if it is somehow usable -- perhaps edible by himself, his dog or his bovine charges. Even if he decides to show it to someone else, that won't happen any time soon.

      I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a reply.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Send them a letter?

      We got DOSed by them a couple of years ago, they were pushing nearly a gigabit of data down out 10mbit pipe at work!

      Phoned them, no humans for 20 minutes, jumping around inside the phone system, with "look up the relevant section on google.com" being repeated every 30 seconds or so, before the system eventually hung up.

      Emailed them at abuse@google.com, postmaster and webmaster. I got 3 robot replies stating that they get so many emails that they are simply deleted and nobody reads them!

      They didn't even respond on Twitter. In the end, I went to our ISP and they put a block on the Google IP address at the border of their network - I'm guessing a badly configured server, somewhere in their datacentre in Silicon Valley (that is where a traceroute of the IP ended up).

      Luckily we were in the middle of swapping ISPs, so I switched everything over to the new IP. A month later, the old ISP wanted money for the DOS protection, so we cancelled it and moved on. But the line and old IP address remained valid for a further 6 months. 4 months later, out of interest, I checked the line again. The same Google server was still bombarding it with data!

  13. Jason Hindle Silver badge

    The whole Android/Chrome OS thing is important

    Apple has absolutely murdered Google (and Android in general) in the the bits of the tablet market that actually matter*. A Chrome OS tablet, with good Anroid compatibility and touch support in general is probably Google's last best chance of making inroads into a space owned by Apple. The Slate was a mess.

    * People who actually pay for apps and content, not to mention enough of a device to work with.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: The whole Android/Chrome OS thing is important

      Personally, I find very few use cases for a tablet - where portability is important they're inferior to phones and where you need more power, control and a bigger screen a laptop is more convenient for me.

      I gave my (Android) tablet away and the only thing I miss it for is its ability to display a full page of sheet music.

      You're probably right that Apple has cornered the market for people who like the comfort of the walled garden. The trick would be to build something for the people that don't, rather than to create an inferior copy - but it will be quite some feat to do it without the revenue from the garden tollgate.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: The whole Android/Chrome OS thing is important

        I'm much the same. I spend most of my time in front of a 43" 4K display and a 34" UWD display connected to my laptop. When I need to be out and about, my phone is fine for emergencies, otherwise I'll get my laptop out or, better still, wait until I get back to my desk and have a real keyboard and a decent sized display to work with.

  14. DS999 Silver badge

    Chromebook's target market may be its downfall

    Yes, getting Chromebook into schools by giving every kid one exposes them to it rather than Windows. Google gets all their juicy data, and gets them indoctrinated into using Chrome browser instead of whatever MS is calling IE these days. But the whole experience gets associated as "school" to them, which could have very negative repercussions later on.

    Because schools are mostly buying on price, you get cheap hardware that's barely adequate to run well - and Google updates to the browser etc. have a higher and higher bar for memory/CPU over time while schools will replace Chromebooks as rarely as possible and spend as little as possible "administrating" them. No matter how well it starts out, many kids will remember the poor experience toward the end with a crufty install on hardware that's no longer adequate, equate it with ChromeOS/Google, and stay far away when they have to make the decision about what to get when they go off to college or otherwise get a choice in what they will personally own.

    1. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

      Re: Chromebook's target market may be its downfall

      Or, if you're techie enough, you realize that *all* of the school activities are running in the browser and will work just as well on a 4GB Raspberry Pi 4B (or a Pi400). At that point, the school issued Chromebook goes on a shelf in a back room until they want it back.

      The person keeping track of the kid doing the schoolwork has sysadmin authority on the Pi and can monitor it over VNC. The Pi has wired Ethernet (lacking on the Chromebook), printing capability (via CUPS to a networked workgroup-grade laser printer), and a full install of LibreOffice. On the hardware end, a better (full) keyboard, trackball, and a much better display (being a full monitor).

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Chromebook's target market may be its downfall

        The Chromebook has the advantage of being able to take home. Unless you drag a keyboard/mouse and commandeer your family's TV, the same is not true for a Pi.

      2. Diogenes

        Re: Chromebook's target market may be its downfall

        you realize that *all* of the school activities are running in the browser

        Really? Tell my Apps Development, Software Development & Design, & Multimedia classes that.

        Yes if I reallly really wanted to, I sure I could find online equivalents for the industry-standard desktop software that I do use, but then I have pesky litlle privacy, cyber security and data protection policies* to worry about, ie I actually have to do a risk assessment for every site that requires registration that has not already been preapproved (eg Kahoot, Quizzlet) or does not use google or ms login.

        *we run both Google & MS clouds, but, as we are large enough, they are local to our organisation and are somewhat "walled gardens" only tangentially connected to the full fat Google & MS clouds.

  15. Nightkiller

    Why throw your lot in with a company like Google whose track record of Attention Deficit Syndrome is so solid?

  16. big_D Silver badge

    Interesting that Google...

    don't actually sell any Chromebooks in their store, in Germany.

    Although I see a dozen or so Chromebooks in the top 50 laptops on Amazon now. Until 2018, I think I had seen 2 in the top 100, when I had searched.

    But Germany is very sensitive about its data and cloud services are still taboo in many companies, certainly the last 5 I worked for have all been strictly against using cloud services to store data, everything has to be behind the firewall.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Interesting that Google...

      ... against using cloud services to store data, everything has to be behind the firewall.

      +1

      Is there any other sensible way to do things?

      But as their thing is to cut costs no matter what, beancounters will disagree but your data stands a much better chance.

      O.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Germany

      Germany?

      Isn't that the country where StreetView basically doesn't exist?

      And where getting on for half of the economy is still dependent on family-owned (not share-holder controlled) businesses?

      Is that a coincidence?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chromebooks

    So if Google is doing such a crap job, how come 50% of schools in the US use Chromebooks and Microsoft are accelerating the release their equivalent of a Chromebook? I use the phrase lightly as it will just be a crippled form of Windows, married with a clunky back end.... Microsoft are being crucified in the education space currently.

    Ask teachers who use both if Office 365 or Google Workspace works better in a classroom? In my experience there is a consistent Googley reply from the majority.

    Chromebooks are prevalent in education as they have long battery lives, are easy to manage, allow collaboration, do not require the skills of an 'expert' to support, are easy to use and are one of the few devices which have lower case keys on their keyboards (kids learn lower case first and the majority of keyboards are in upper case). They are also cheap to buy, run and support and can be locked down easily. Why wouldn't you use such a device? Kids love them. I speak as someone who has rolled out thousands to over 100 sites.

    Google does not slurp education data - their terms of service prevent this, nor do they advertise to kids. And in this sense they are no better or worse than Microsoft.

    The reason why Chromebooks have a failure with some people in the domestic market is because they buy a cheap machine and then get surprised when it doesn't have Windows on it. Is this Google's fault? Or pay £150 and wonder why the machine is fragile, plasticy or slow. There's no accounting for stupidity.

    No they don't degrade with time and they don't stop working, they just stop getting updates, like Macs and Windows machines. And like both, there are software alternatives to extend their life. The latest Chromebooks are shipping with 8 year planned lives.

    They are fast, stable, boot up quick, run Android and Linux. What's not to like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chromebooks - What's not to like?

      "What's not to like" is that they render the vested interests of the legacy Wintel world, and its associated IT Departments and such administrivia, largely irrelevant.

      Bring it on :)

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