At a time when smartphone makers are going after the next billion users with a focus on first-time Internet users with low-cost smartphones, for some reason laptop manufacturers are going the other direction. Instead of launching affordable and usable laptops with bare-minimum hardware specifications, what we are witnessing is a quest to cram features like touchscreens and whatnot – two Windows 8 laptops I am currently testing out both cost upwards of Rs 100,000. And the cheapest MacBook one can get starts from upwards of Rs 60,000. Also Read - Google's offline dinosaur game in new Olympics avatar: Here's how to can play
Yes, there are cheaper laptops running Windows too, but most of the sub-Rs 25,000 ones are barely usable. What one typically gets is three to four hours of battery life and a non-touchscreen for a UI that was essentially made for touch-enabled displays. Ok, I might be a bit harsh here, but the point is that most of these affordable laptops compromise on the core user experience. Also Read - Best camera phones under Rs 35000 to buy in July 2021: Pixel 4a, Mi 11X, and more
And that is the market Google aims to capture with its latest line-up of Chromebooks that cost between Rs 22,990 to Rs 26,990. In really simple terms, Chromebook has a web browser as the OS and it does everything via the browser. So there are not many native apps and everything works within the browser environment. To get the most out of a Chromebook, one needs to be connected to the Internet but there are several offline apps available now. You need a Google id to login and make the most of the Chromebook. Also Read - Timex Helix Smart 2.0 with temperature sensor, heart rate sensor launched: Details here
So is the Chromebook a Windows PC replacement? The short answer is not yet. The idea of conventional computing where one can have native apps (one cannot run an app like say Skype because it does not have a web app, yet), it does not support most data cards and hardware accessories like printers and well, there is very little you can do on it when you are not connected to the Internet.
But the Chromebook is the future of personal computing. I have been using the Acer C720 Chromebook for the past couple of months. I prefer carrying it when I am traveling rather than my 13-inch MacBook Pro as it is much more portable and does the job for me. But then, I am not the average user as most of my work does happen within web browsers even on my MacBook Pro. In fact, I prefer working on the Chromebook as it has been built for Chrome browser, which otherwise eats up memory on other platforms and requires frequent reboots.
I rarely use my laptop when I am not connected to the Internet. I rarely use any screen (smartphone, tablet and laptop, I don’t watch TV), that is not connected to the Internet. So the premise of the Chromebook being useless in offline mode does not really apply. But even in offline mode, you can listen to music, watch videos and even create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Yes, there are some offline games too.
The thing is, increasingly personal computing is all happening within a web browser and that will be the trend for future first-time Internet users. Just like Facebook, Twitter and Google is considered to be the Internet for most first-time users. There will hardly be anything that would happen offline apart from consumption of content. And the Chromebook would fit that audience perfectly.
Think about it, the same Acer C720 that costs Rs 22,990 in India is retailing in the US for $199 or Rs 12,300. What Google really needs is to bring down the prices of Chromebooks in India to sub-Rs 20,000 levels and the Chromebook becomes the perfect machine for a family to get online. One can easily create multiple user profiles on the same machine and have everyone in the family share the same machine. At that price point no one else can provide a better user experience than what one gets on a Chromebook. One needs to make a lot of compromises on Windows laptops at that price levels and well, Mac does not exist there at all.