The Google Netbook

I have always been quite pleased with my Google Nexus One, so when I heard about the Google Netbook, the Cr-48 I was quite intrigued.

Unlike the Nexus One, the Cr-48 runs the Chrome OS and not Android. Google have been quite clear, as far as they are concerned, Android is for handheld devices and Chrome is for laptops or netbooks.

Of course the CR-48 is not a consumer device, but a test machine to demonstrate how Chrome will work. Which probably accounts for the “catchy” name.

This is not a powerful machine, it has a single USB port, video out, wifi, 3G. It has a (relatively) large 12.1” screen. It is also quite heavy!

According to WIRED:

While scrolling web pages, playing some web-based games and watching videos from YouTube and the Onion, I noticed some jerkiness and skipping. Flash Player is pre-installed (and presumably sandboxed) but watching Flash videos is a bit of a sucky experience, especially in full-screen mode.

This is certainly my experience with underpowered netbooks in the past, I have found the video experience very poor. One thing I do say about the iPad is that the video experience is very good.

WIRED do say though:

But everything at least works as advertised, and it’s still totally usable.

The key behind Chrome OS is that it is a browser based OS with all the apps you use and main storage in the cloud. Hence connectivity is a key issue. Can see this not been an issue in an institution with good wifi coverage, obviously more of an issue when using such a device outside, on a train or other area without good connectivity.

If the price is right then these devices will be something that institutions might want to consider for using with learners, possibly providing learners with their own device for use in lessons, in the library and at home.

At the moment more often than not, institutions will provide computers in suites, rooms and in the library. This requires a fair bit of infrastructure and support. By providing devices to learners, this negates the need for a large number of computer rooms (some specialist rooms will still to be needed) and also allow learners to use the device when and wherever the learner is. The institution then becomes more of a service provider, delivering an infrastucture that allows learners wireless internet access (and possibly printing). The institutional VLE, Web 2.0 services and communication tools will allow the learner to access learning when they want to, rather than when the institution says they can.

Providing devices to learners costs money, cheap netbooks have been a possibility in the past, but the linux underpowered 7” devices we have seen in the past haven’t really proved that popular with learners. As soon as you make the devices bigger and add Windows, you also add a large price tag too. Will a Chrome powered netbook be the next evolutionary stage of the netbook? Will this be a device that changes the IT culture of educational institutions? Or will it be merely something that geeks like, but no one else uses?

Unfortunately I will probably never see, let alone use the Cr-48 as the pilot programme for the US only. Ah well…

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