Opinion

Anthony De Rosa

Google raises Internet appliances from the dead

Anthony De Rosa
May 11, 2011 20:31 UTC

A decade ago, we wondered what happened to the product that Google just announced. The Chromebook, Google’s version of a netbook, finally has the ecosystem and infrastructure to support it. Many have declared the PC age on its deathbed, with mobile on the verge of overtaking its marketshare. Google simply believes the PC will evolve, into the cloud and beyond local based storage.

Google will make their notebooks, running entirely on their Chrome OS, available in June, partnering with Acer and Samsung for the hardware and Verizon for connectivity. Samsung will charge $425 for a Wifi only version and $499 for one that includes 100MB data service. Acer’s version will cost “$349 and up.”

The notebook has virtually zero boot time — hit power and you’re on. The battery is said to last an entire day. Your files, entirely in the cloud and accessible anywhere, have built-in security. Updates to software, purchased in the Chrome App Store, will be automatic.

Some of Google’s strongest and most widely used apps: Gmail, Docs, and Calendar, will be available online and off, within the Chrome OS. This is where Google will attempt to eat into Microsoft’s bread and butter: Outlook and Office. While many large corporations use Outlook for their email, and Office for their documents, the flexibility that Google’s free versions of these applications, which don’t require a download and can be accessed anywhere, are an attractive alternative.

These Google applications are, however, already readily available on existing hardware like your laptop or work computer. In order for Google’s post-PC device to succeed, it will need to attract a market that cannot or does not want a fully functional notebook computer, and have been unimpressed with the netbooks that have come before it. What exactly will the Chromebook bring to the table that isn’t already available over the web with existing netbooks, at virtually the same price?

Is this the end of Skype as we knew it?

Anthony De Rosa
May 10, 2011 17:03 UTC

The first time I used Skype I was in awe. The video quality, the effortlessness it allowed me to see and hear my family far away over my laptop computer screen was magic. It was even more magical when I tried it on my iPhone — a Dick Tracy moment. And it was more impressive than FaceTime because it allowed me to talk to anyone with Skype, not just with those who had an iPhone.

Today, Skype will likely begin to be lost in the maw that is Microsoft. Sure, Microsoft still remains one of the most valuable companies this country has ever produced but aside from the XBox, it hasn’t been on the leading edge of innovation in many years. Apple, Google and companies like Facebook and Twitter are seen at the forefront of the digital age. Microsoft, in comparison, seems like the once great star athlete, a Michael Jordan attempting to regain some glory by playing minor league baseball.

The best case scenario here is that Microsoft rolls Skype into a product like Kinect, which hasn’t quite taken the world by storm, and becomes a simple, easy to use videoconferencing device for the living room, that takes us beyond just hunching over our computers to interact with our friends who are far away.

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