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12/10/2010
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Google Chrome OS CR-48 Notebook Reviewed

Google's Chrome OS preview netbook is beautiful and full of promise, but the company's vision for the cloud isn't enough.

Google Chrome OS Promises Computing Without Pain
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Slideshow: Google Chrome OS Promises Computing Without Pain

The Cr-48, which I obtained through Google's Chrome OS pilot program, is beautiful. It might even be mistaken for an Apple product, were it not so defiantly anonymous. It's hard to go wrong with basic black and there's just something appealing about the minimalist, logo-free design.

Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan compares the Cr-48 to an iPad with an attached keyboard. That's an apt summary except that the iPad is a touch-based device. The Cr-48 is a traditional keyboard-driven computer and, despite its aspirations as a mobile device, it really should be used with a mouse.

The ClickPad is hard to get used to, particularly coming from a MacBook Pro, where there are separate track pad areas for cursor movement and clicking. I found that the ClickPad led me to click at times when I didn't want to click and that Web page elements sometimes were slow to relinquish focus when I tried to click on other areas of a Web page.

The iPad has been criticized as being primarily a device for consumption. While there are exceptions, like apps for writing and drawing, the fact remains that you can't use an iPad to create apps for the iPad. You need as Mac notebook or desktop machine with Xcode and a variety of content creation applications like Photoshop.

The Cr-48 is similarly ill-suited for development and content creation, though it's better than the iPad (except when used with a wireless keyboard) for rapid text entry.

Google's Chrome OS netbook shares another problem with the iPad: lack of browser choice. Chrome is the best browser on the market at the moment, in my opinion, but that doesn't mean other browsers are unnecessary. InformationWeek's content management system, Interwoven TeamSite, doesn't work with Chrome (at least the version we're using). Lack of support for Firefox in Chrome OS makes the Cr-48 useless to me for filing news stories. And that's a shame because I'd far rather tote a Chrome OS netbook around than laptop that weighs twice as much.

I also use Safari because, at least for me, Chrome doesn't work well with iTunes Connect, the Web site Apple uses to provide iOS developers with metrics related to their apps.

I suspect future versions of Chrome OS will allow more browser choice. Microsoft already tried insisting that Internet Explorer was inseparable from Windows and that didn't work out so well.

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