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16 Jun 12 iOS and Android app helps you get more from your battery


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology — whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.

Adrian has authored/co-authored technical books on a variety of topics, ranging from programming to building and maintaining PCs. His most recent books include “Build the Ultimate Custom PC”, “Beginning Programming” and “The PC Doctor’s Fix It Yourself Guide”. He has also written training manuals that have been used by a number of Fortune 500 companies.

Adrian also runs a popular blog under the name The PC Doctor, where he covers a range of computer-related topics — from security to repairing and upgrading.

Article source: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/ios-and-android-app-helps-you-get-more-from-your-battery/20809

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15 Jun 12 Is Chrome OS Ready for Prime Time?


Are you ready for Chrome OS? Will your kids use a cloud-based computer? Picture: zcopley/Flickr

JR Raphael has posted his take over at Computerworld on the new Chrome OS and Chromebooks after spending the last two weeks with his head in Google’s cloud.

His personal perspective on the Chromebook’s evolution:

After two weeks of using Google’s evolved Chrome OS on the new Chromebook and Chromebox, personally, I’m sold.  I have no doubt that I’ll replace my old first-gen Samsung Chromebook with the new model and use it heavily for portable computing, both around the house and out and about…

What about Android tablets? I still have one — and use it — but to be honest, I find myself reaching for the Chromebook more often lately…

And Raphael is even considering Chrome OS for a desktop replacement:

Based on my experiences with the new setup, I’m actually tempted to move even further and embrace Chrome OS as my primary desktop platform, too, by way of the Chromebox.

How could he be so sold? One biggie, which I think could herald the dawn of personal clouds replacing PCs:

Startup speed aside, the Chrome OS systems make a lot of things about traditional computing environments feel outdated: the cumbersome setup and installation procedures; the annoying and time-consuming OS upgrades; the need to manually update applications over time; the need to use antivirus software (and the accompanying likelihood and potential consequences of infection); the reliance on complicated drivers; and the inevitable bogged-down, slowed-down effect that always seems to happen to PCs after you’ve had ‘em for a few months.

Chrome OS doesn’t have any of those hassles. It’s just about getting online and getting stuff done, plain and simple. Most of the annoyances that have long accompanied computer use are nowhere to be found.

Raphael’s final take:

So, in summary: It’s been an interesting two weeks living in the cloud — enough so that I’m thinking about turning my vacation into a permanent residence.

Read JR Raphael’s full adventure with Chrome OS at Computerworld and have your say: Will you ditch your Mac or PC for Google’s cloudy OS? Will your kids be using a cloud-based PC?

Article source: http://www.wired.com/cloudline/2012/06/chrome-os-prime-time/

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14 Jun 12 Is Chrome OS Ready for Prime Time?


Are your ready for Chrome OS? Will your kids use a cloud-based computer? Picture: zcopley/Flickr

JR Raphael has posted his take over at Computerworld on the new Chrome OS and Chromebooks after spending the last two weeks with his head in Google’s cloud.

His personal perspective on the Chromebook’s evolution:

After two weeks of using Google’s evolved Chrome OS on the new Chromebook and Chromebox, personally, I’m sold.  I have no doubt that I’ll replace my old first-gen Samsung Chromebook with the new model and use it heavily for portable computing, both around the house and out and about…

What about Android tablets? I still have one — and use it — but to be honest, I find myself reaching for the Chromebook more often lately…

And Raphael is even considering Chrome OS for a desktop replacement:

Based on my experiences with the new setup, I’m actually tempted to move even further and embrace Chrome OS as my primary desktop platform, too, by way of the Chromebox.

How could he be so sold? One biggie, which I think could herald the dawn of cloud base PCs hitting the prime time slot:

Startup speed aside, the Chrome OS systems make a lot of things about traditional computing environments feel outdated: the cumbersome setup and installation procedures; the annoying and time-consuming OS upgrades; the need to manually update applications over time; the need to use antivirus software (and the accompanying likelihood and potential consequences of infection); the reliance on complicated drivers; and the inevitable bogged-down, slowed-down effect that always seems to happen to PCs after you’ve had ‘em for a few months.

Chrome OS doesn’t have any of those hassles. It’s just about getting online and getting stuff done, plain and simple. Most of the annoyances that have long accompanied computer use are nowhere to be found.

Raphael’s final take:

So, in summary: It’s been an interesting two weeks living in the cloud — enough so that I’m thinking about turning my vacation into a permanent residence.

Read JR Raphael’s full adventure with Chrome OS at Computerworld and have your say: Will you ditch your Mac or PC for Google’s cloudy OS? Will your kids be using a cloud-based PC?

Article source: http://www.wired.com/cloudline/2012/06/chrome-os-prime-time/

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14 Jun 12 Chrome OS reviewed: The final verdict on Google’s cloud platform


Today, I’ll get my head out of the cloud.

I’ve spent the past two weeks, you see, using Google’s Chrome OS. I called it my Chrome OS experiment: I wanted to dive in head first and experience what it was like to live completely in Google’s cloud-centric world.

I used a combination of the new Samsung Chromebook (Series 5 550) and the new Samsung Chromebox for the bulk of my computing needs, both in the office and out. Day by day, I detailed different parts of my journey — ranging from my thoughts on the hardware to my impressions of Google’s reimagined software and what it’s really like to work with Chrome OS offline.

You can visit each of those chapters for my in-depth thoughts on the topics. Today, I wanted to put it all together to share some final conclusions after two weeks of life in the Chrome lane.

So grab your favorite beverage and buckle up: Our ride starts now.

Conclusion #1: Chrome OS has a come a long, long way.

From both a hardware and software perspective, it’s impossible to overstate just how much Google’s Chrome OS has evolved since its introduction 17 months ago.

Google Chrome OS Chromebook, Chromebox

The hardware — in both the new Chromebook and Chromebox — is finally powerful enough to support a compelling Chrome OS experience. Past generations of hardware, from the Cr-48 test notebook to the first-gen Samsung Series 5 Chromebook, were woefully underpowered and couldn’t keep up with multitasking-style use. As such, it was difficult to embrace them beyond specific and limited circumstances (for me, light traveling and casual around-the-house Web browsing).

The new machines allow us to experience Chrome OS the way it was meant to be experienced — no slowness, no lag, no more hardware limitations holding the software back.

And as for the software? Well…

Conclusion #2: Chrome OS has finally evolved into a true platform.

I’ve been intrigued by Chrome OS since its start, but in the early days, the software had an awful lot of pesky holes. On top of that, it was basically just a series of full-screen browser windows — nothing more — and that one-dimensional environment could feel rather restrictive and jarring to use.

Chrome OS File ManagerWith its newly revamped Chrome OS, Google has truly put the “OS” into the equation. Chrome OS sticks to its goal of being a browser-based, cloud-centric platform — but it now does it in a way that’s far more palatable and inviting to the user. Without abandoning its cloud-centric philosophy, the software also allows for a level of local file management and offline functionality — even simple remote access to Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs — taking away most of the platform’s former liabilities.

Conclusion #3: Chrome OS offers a lot of attractive advantages over traditional PC setups.

As I mentioned, I’ve liked Chrome OS for a long time — but between the hardware and software limitations, it’s always been a limited-use, supplementary kind of system for me. With the latest hardware and software upgrades, that’s no longer the case.

In the time I’ve been using the Chromebook and Chromebox, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how little I’ve missed my standard Windows 7 desktop setup. The Chrome OS systems power up in three to five seconds; once you type in your Google credentials, it’s literally another two to three seconds before you’re in a browser window, online and ready to roll. The minutes-long wait for my Windows laptop to boot up and be ready to use has never felt more archaic.

Startup speed aside, the Chrome OS systems make a lot of things about traditional computing environments feel outdated: the cumbersome setup and installation procedures; the annoying and time-consuming OS upgrades; the need to manually update applications over time; the need to use antivirus software (and the accompanying likelihood and potential consequences of infection); the reliance on complicated drivers; and the inevitable bogged-down, slowed-down effect that always seems to happen to PCs after you’ve had ‘em for a few months.

Chrome OS doesn’t have any of those hassles. It’s just about getting online and getting stuff done, plain and simple. Most of the annoyances that have long accompanied computer use are nowhere to be found.

And let me tell you: As someone who uses computers all day, that is a huge breath of fresh air. For schools and businesses, too, the implications are enormous.

Conclusion #4: Chrome OS still isn’t for everyone.

For all its positives, Chrome OS isn’t going to be the right setup for everyone. If you rely on a lot of resource-intensive local programs — or if you have specific desktop utilities you just adore — you may find Chrome OS frustrating to use. While there are plenty of cloud-based apps available for most purposes, the experience using them isn’t always as good or as complete as what you find on their PC-based equivalents.

For example, even as someone who relies heavily on the cloud these days, using Chrome OS makes me realize how much I prefer the desktop TweetDeck application over its Web-based counterpart (the old desktop TweetDeck app, that is — you know, from before Twitter bought and ruined it). Photoshop is another program where I feel a slight sense of loss; while cloud apps like Aviary do a decent job, they’re just less robust than what I’m used to, and they lack the hotkeys and shortcuts that save me tons of time in my traditional configuration.

For me, I’m finding the tradeoff to be largely worthwhile; I find myself willing to adapt to the cloud apps in exchange for what I gain from Chrome OS. (I also realize that if push comes to shove, I can use Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop feature to remotely utilize Windows-based programs — though outside of basic testing, it isn’t something I’ve done very often.) Depending on your needs and perspective, of course, your mileage may vary.

Chrome OS also requires you to rely primarily on cloud-stored data; if you aren’t comfortable keeping your info on the Web, with services like Gmail, Google Docs, and so forth, the cloud computing concept is definitely not for you.

Conclusion #5: The new Chrome OS devices are no-brainers for anyone using first-gen Chromebooks — and purchases well worth considering for anyone who lives in the cloud and wants a fast computer without the hassles.

No two ways about it: If you have a first-gen Chromebook, you’re going to love the new Chromebook model. It’s everything you like about your current system without the laggy tab-switching and performance limitations. (See this side-by-side comparison video that I posted on Google+ for an illustration.)

If you don’t have a Chrome OS system but do spend a lot of your time in the cloud, meanwhile — relying primarily on Web-based services and storing the bulk of your data online — the new Chrome OS devices are well worth considering.

A lot of people say stuff like: “If you want a system that just runs Chrome, why don’t you buy a Windows laptop and install the Chrome browser? Then it’s the same thing except you can actually run regular desktop programs, too.”

Let me tell you something: Those people are missing the point. Chrome OS isn’t about limiting what you can do; it’s about eliminating the hassles that come with traditional computing. It’s about providing a fast, simple, hassle-free system for people who spend most of their time using the Web and Web-based applications (which, let’s face it, is an increasing number of us in this day and age).

Samsung Chromebook Chrome OSThe big variable, then, is the price: The new Samsung Chromebooks cost $450 for the Wi-Fi version and $550 for a 3G-connected model (which includes 100MB a month of data, no contract required, and the option to get additional data on a pay-as-you-go basis). As I’ve said before, I think those prices are a bit high to attract widespread consumer interest — particularly when you consider the variety of full-fledged Windows notebooks and high-end tablets available in that same range.

That said, I don’t think those prices are rip-offs — far from it. I think you get a lot of value for that money: You get excellent hardware, a lifetime of seamless and automatic software updates, and freedom from costly software purchases (Microsoft Office, anyone?) — not to mention freedom from OS problems and potential tech support expenses down the road. When you consider the overall return on investment and total cost of ownership, it really isn’t a bad deal; it’s just not one that’s going to be immediately eye-catching or an easy sell for the average consumer.

If you’re on board with the cloud computing concept, though, I suspect the new Chromebook — or the $329 desktop-based Chromebox — will make you quite happy.

Some personal perspective

After two weeks of using Google’s evolved Chrome OS on the new Chromebook and Chromebox, personally, I’m sold. I have no doubt that I’ll replace my old first-gen Samsung Chromebook with the new model and use it heavily for portable computing, both around the house and out and about.

What about Android tablets? I still have one — and use it — but to be honest, I find myself reaching for the Chromebook more often lately. The larger screen, outstanding full-size keyboard, and top-notch desktop-like browsing experience just make it an ideal way for me to get online and get stuff done fast. My Chrome extensions give me instant on-screen access to things like my Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Voice accounts. The tablet has its strengths and advantages — that’s for damn sure — but for the bulk of what I do online these days, I’m finding the Chromebook to be a quicker and more effective option and a better all-around complement to my Android phone.

Based on my experiences with the new setup, I’m actually tempted to move even further and embrace Chrome OS as my primary desktop platform, too, by way of the Chromebox. As I mentioned, there are really only a couple of traditional OS programs I found myself missing during my Chrome OS experiment — and the pluses of the platform (including the lack of typical-OS hassles) seem to outweigh their absence. The missing dual-monitor extended-desktop functionality is my biggest sticking point right now; with the way I multitask during the day, I need a second monitor connected to my system. Once that feature arrives, I’m going to take a serious look at making a full desktop migration.

So, in summary: It’s been an interesting two weeks living in the cloud — enough so that I’m thinking about turning my vacation into a permanent residence.

Android Power TwitterDid you miss some parts of my journey? Not to worry: You can time-warp through the full adventure in the box below, all the way from day one through the very end. Chapter to chapter, you’ll find my detailed thoughts and impressions on every part of the Chrome OS experience.

But please: Remain seated with your seatbelt securely fastened. For no particular reason, really. I’ve just always wanted to say that. 

Article source: http://blogs.computerworld.com/cloud-computing/20517/chrome-os-reviewed-google-cloud-platform

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13 Jun 12 Even With a Little Polish, Chrome OS Is Still a Bit Hazy


This year, Microsoft and Apple are both introducing new versions of their operating systems with important changes to their user interfaces, and with a flurry of publicity. A third major company is also overhauling its PC operating system, but you probably won’t hear much about it.

Google redesigned its PC operating system, Chrome OS. While Google is a major rival to Apple and Microsoft in things like search, smartphones and browsers, Chrome OS hasn’t dented the competition in the year since it emerged. It was meant to be radically different than Windows and the Macintosh operating system, a refreshing change for a new era. But it had serious limitations, principally that it ran only apps inside a browser on a handful of special, low-powered laptops called Chromebooks and could do almost nothing when it wasn’t online.

The new version, which I’ve been testing, aims to address some of those issues and it makes some progress. But I still can’t recommend it over a PC or Mac for average consumers who are looking for the greatest versatility in a laptop. I still find it more of an evolving project than a finished product.

Its fundamental limitations remain. Most importantly, you still can’t install your favorite programs, be they Microsoft Office or iTunes or Firefox—only a few thousand “Web apps” that run inside the Chrome browser. And it still only works on specific hardware: that laptop called the Chromebook or—new this year—a small desktop called a Chromebox. The only hardware maker producing the 2012 versions of these machines so far is Samsung, though Google says more are coming.

PTECHjp1

New Chrome OS allows for multiple windows and has a taskbar at the bottom like Windows.

Chrome OS does have some admirable qualities—especially its philosophy of simplicity and of being wedded to the cloud. For instance, because it’s designed to fetch your apps and documents from the Internet, you can replicate your entire computer by just logging in on any other Chrome OS PC. And, if you mainly use the Web and live in the cloud, it may be the ticket for you, especially as a second machine.

Last year’s inaugural version of Chrome OS was little more than a giant browser in which you ran only Web-based apps. The new redesign of Chrome OS, released late last month, represents something of a retreat from that dramatic strategy.

Now, Google is touting the new release for features that make it look and work more like a Windows PC or Mac—for instance, multiple, movable windows; a strip along the bottom that holds the icons of apps you use; a slightly greater emphasis on doing things offline; and greater focus on finding and launching apps. None of this is revolutionary for people used to traditional computers.

What Chrome OS is exactly can be confusing. While it looks and works a lot like the browser of the same name, Chrome OS is a full-blown operating system that, unlike the Chrome browser, can’t be installed on PCs and Macs. Also, Chrome OS is unrelated to Google’s best-known operating system, Android. The latter is meant to power smartphones, tablets and some other miscellaneous devices.

PTECHjp2

Chrome OS still only works on specific hardware: a laptop called the Chromebook or—new this year—a small desktop called a Chromebox.

I tested the redesigned Chrome OS on the new Samsung Chromebook, a model which Google claims has up to three times the performance of the original Chromebook. This laptop has a 12-inch screen, weighs 3.3 pounds and is about 0.8 of an inch thick. I didn’t run a formal battery test on it, but Samsung claims it gets up to six hours on a charge, less than the claims for the MacBook Air or the new Windows ultrabooks. In my tests, the battery easily lasted a full day in light to moderate use. The Chromebook is sold online and costs $450. A model that includes a slow, 3G cellular modem is $100 more. The Chromebox desktop is a small box that comes without a screen, mouse, or keyboard, and sells for $330.

Because it’s primarily meant as a portal to the Internet, the Chromebook has only about as much storage as a smartphone: 16 gigabytes, rather than the hundreds of gigabytes common in other laptops. And it has a wimpy processor, one of Intel’s entry-level Celeron models.

In my tests, the new Chromebook performed well and did everything it promised. Unlike in the first iteration, I was able to use multiple independent windows and to minimize them or resize them easily. I could store frequently used apps, which still run in browser pages, in the bottom strip, similar to the Windows taskbar or Mac dock—again, nothing new there, but a welcome addition.

I was also able to play music and videos, to view and edit photos, and to view (but not edit) Microsoft Office documents. These abilities are a good thing, but also have been long available on other operating systems.

In the next month or two, Google plans to automatically update Chrome with two important features: the integration of Google’s online file-storage locker, Google Drive, right into the Chromebook’s file system; and the ability to edit documents when offline. I was able to test pre-release versions of these features and they worked fine. Google Drive can already be installed and integrated into the Windows and Mac file systems.

In fact, all of the important features of the Chrome OS—which is still at heart just a big browser—are available in the Windows and Mac versions of the Chrome browser, including the ability to run Web apps, programs like Google’s office suite, or Web-based games. Google concedes this, but says that, by making the whole computer a browser, it has simplified the overall experience.

Google has big plans for the Chrome OS. It has built-in features it claims will work great with future touch-screen hardware.

But, overall, I’d say, if you only have the budget for one main computer, you’re better off with a Mac or a PC.

Write to Walt at walt.mossberg@wsj.com.

Article source: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/even-little-polish-chrome-os-010910922.html

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13 Jun 12 Android 4.0.3 update out for T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy S II


(Credit:
Google)

Samsung Galaxy S II owners on T-Mobile can update to
Android 4.0.3, but they may have to jump through a few hoops first.

The latest flavor of Ice Cream Sandwich launched as of yesterday evening for Samsung’s Galaxy S II. Owners of the phone can learn how to install it via a T-Mobile support page. But be forewarned — the update isn’t available over the air (OTA), meaning you can’t download it directly to your phone.

Instead, you have to install it via Samsung’s Kies software, which requires you to download and install the update on your PC and then sync it with your phone.

Beyond offering ICS, the update promises improvements in performance and stability.

But wait.

Before you can scoop up a dose of Ice Cream Sandwich, you’ll need to make sure you’re running at least Android 2.3.6 on your Galaxy S II phone, which is available as an OTA update.

Got all that? Don’t worry. T-Mobile’s page describes all the steps required to reach the peak of Android. But the carrier does warn that if you run into any trouble, you’ll have to call Samsung. “The Kies update through Samsung is not supported by T-Mobile and we are unable to assist with Kies or PC questions,” T-Mobile explained.

Though T-Mobile is trying to be helpful by outlining all the steps involved, this convoluted process clearly shows why Android updates are such a mess. With Google, the device makers. and the carriers all involved in the mix, no one party is truly responsible or accountable for the entire chain of events.

Compare that with the process on iOS devices. Apple is the sole party responsible for all updates. The carriers have no involvement. Apple users can download iOS updates to iTunes and sync them with their iPhones and iPads or download and install the updates directly to their devices.

It is any wonder Android users have to wait so long for the latest version of Android and other updates?

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57451463-93/android-4.0.3-update-out-for-t-mobiles-samsung-galaxy-s-ii/

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12 Jun 12 Google polishes Chrome OS


A year ago, I wrote that the first Chromebooks felt more like a science project than a strategic product. They were interesting but of little practical value. A lot has changed since then, and while I wouldn’t say that Google has developed a truly compelling device, it has shown that the Chromebook and its underlying Chrome OS are evolving.

Chrome OS is Google’s attempt to create a new class of Web-based operating system, designed to work on special devices, the first of which were last year’s Chromebooks. Since then, Google has refreshed Chrome OS (the actual version number is 19) and with partner Samsung has introduced both a new Chromebook and a desktop device called Chromebox. After using both for the last few weeks, my impression is that Google did a nice job of polishing Chrome in ways that help it shine much better than it did a year ago.

The new Chromebook, called the Series 5, has a 12.1-inch display and 16GB of built-in flash storage. You can add a Verizon Wireless 3G radio, with 100MB free per month for two years. There’s a much-improved trackpad (the trackpad on the first Chromebooks was all but unusable), and the device is now powered by an Intel Celeron processor, which dramatically improves performance, especially for things like streaming high-definition video. Pricing is $449 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $549 for the 3G models.

The Chromebox Series 3 is a small, sleek box that takes some design cues from the Mac Mini. It has the same CPU and memory as the Chromebook. It doesn’t include a monitor, keyboard or mouse, but it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support for keyboards and mice, along with DVI and HDMI output. It costs $329.99.

Both devices are good-looking and solid pieces of hardware, though I’d argue that 3.3 pounds is too much weight for a laptop that isn’t really a laptop at all. I could give you more specs, but specs don’t have that much to do with what you’re buying here. What really matters is the updated Chrome OS experience, and the newest version shows just what a difference a year makes.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Chrome OS was that an offline Chromebook was pretty much a brick with a monitor. Google has worked to address that, adding offline access for Google Docs and Gmail. Both are a little rough around the edges, but they do work. Originally, Google eschewed the idea of a file system in its operating system, but it has now abandoned that stance. The current version of Chrome OS is integrated with Google Drive, giving users a convenient way to access, store and sync content across devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones and, of course, Chrome.

Chrome OS can’t do everything a PC or Mac can do, and I doubt that Google wants it to. But in the past year, the company seems to have recognized that users who invest in a Chromebook (or now a Chromebox) are going to expect to be able to do the same things they do on PCs and Macs. Google’s response to that problem has been to integrate remote PC access directly into Chrome OS. This feature is still in beta, but I was able to test the latest version and had no problem connecting to my office Mac and working with it remotely. This feature amounts to a big deal, since it removes a major impediment to adoption.

Because the Chromebox supports HDMI output, I thought it might be fun to connect it to my TV set. It worked rather well. Unlike Google TV, none of my browser content was blocked, and I had full access to sites like Hulu, Netflix and all the major networks. As far as those sites were concerned, there was nothing to block. I’m a skeptic when it comes to Web browsing on a TV set, but the Chromebox does make it easy if that’s what you want to do.

As they stand now, the Chromebook and Chromebox are transitional. They point toward potential that could eventually make them good choices for a lot of people who have embraced the concept of the personal cloud and for whom a PC is but one device among many. It’s a lot easier now than it was a year ago to see how a Chromebook or Chromebox could become a user’s additional screen.

But the price of these machines is going to have to come down for that to happen, and the hardware probably has to move even beyond the slimmed-down aesthetics of ultrabooks. The current versions of both hardware and software do suggest, though, that Google is going to keep trying to get there.

Michael Gartenberg is a research director at Gartner. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Twitter @Gartenberg.

Article source: http://www.cio.com.au/article/427230/google_polishes_chrome_os/?utm_medium=rss&utm_source=sectionfeed

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11 Jun 12 Another Look at Chrome


A year ago, I wrote that the first Chromebooks felt more like a science project than a strategic product. They were interesting but of little practical value. A lot has changed since then, and while I wouldn’t say that Google has developed a truly compelling device, it has shown that the Chromebook and its underlying Chrome OS are evolving.

Chrome OS is Google’s attempt to create a new class of Web-based operating system, designed to work on special devices, the first of which were last year’s Chromebooks. Since then, Google has refreshed Chrome OS (the actual version number is 19) and with partner Samsung has introduced both a new Chromebook and a desktop device called Chromebox. After using both for the last few weeks, my impression is that Google did a nice job of polishing Chrome in ways that help it shine much better than it did a year ago.

The new Chromebook, called the Series 5, has a 12.1-inch display and 16GB of built-in flash storage. You can add a Verizon Wireless 3G radio, with 100MB free per month for two years. There’s a much-improved trackpad (the trackpad on the first Chromebooks was all but unusable), and the device is now powered by an Intel Celeron processor, which dramatically improves performance, especially for things like streaming high-definition video. Pricing is $449 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $549 for the 3G models.

The Chromebox Series 3 is a small, sleek box that takes some design cues from the Mac Mini. It has the same CPU and memory as the Chromebook. It doesn’t include a monitor, keyboard or mouse, but it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support for keyboards and mice, along with DVI and HDMI output. It costs $329.99.

Both devices are good-looking and solid pieces of hardware, though I’d argue that 3.3 pounds is too much weight for a laptop that isn’t really a laptop at all. I could give you more specs, but specs don’t have that much to do with what you’re buying here. What really matters is the updated Chrome OS experience, and the newest version shows just what a difference a year makes.

Addressing Drawbacks, Looking Forward

One of the biggest drawbacks of Chrome OS was that an offline Chromebook was pretty much a brick with a monitor. Google has worked to address that, adding offline access for Google Docs and Gmail. Both are a little rough around the edges, but they do work. Originally, Google eschewed the idea of a file system in its operating system, but it has now abandoned that stance. The current version of Chrome OS is integrated with Google Drive, giving users a convenient way to access, store and sync content across devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones and, of course, Chrome.

Chrome OS can’t do everything a PC or Mac can do, and I doubt that Google wants it to. But in the past year, the company seems to have recognized that users who invest in a Chromebook (or now a Chromebox) are going to expect to be able to do the same things they do on PCs and Macs. Google’s response to that problem has been to integrate remote PC access directly into Chrome OS. This feature is still in beta, but I was able to test the latest version and had no problem connecting to my office Mac and working with it remotely. This feature amounts to a big deal, since it removes a major impediment to adoption.

Because the Chromebox supports HDMI output, I thought it might be fun to connect it to my TV set. It worked rather well. Unlike Google TV, none of my browser content was blocked, and I had full access to sites like Hulu, Netflix and all the major networks. As far as those sites were concerned, there was nothing to block. I’m a skeptic when it comes to Web browsing on a TV set, but the Chromebox does make it easy if that’s what you want to do.

As they stand now, the Chromebook and Chromebox are transitional. They point toward potential that could eventually make them good choices for a lot of people who have embraced the concept of the personal cloud and for whom a PC is but one device among many. It’s a lot easier now than it was a year ago to see how a Chromebook or Chromebox could become a user’s additional screen.

But the price of these machines is going to have to come down for that to happen, and the hardware probably has to move even beyond the slimmed-down aesthetics of ultrabooks. The current versions of both hardware and software do suggest, though, that Google is going to keep trying to get there.

Michael Gartenberg is a research director at Gartner. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Twitter @Gartenberg.

Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/257304/another_look_at_chrome.html

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09 Jun 12 Google’s Chrome OS: The dirty little secret about those new devices


By (@jr_raphael) G+

Google Chrome OS Chromebooks

My first thought when I saw Google’s new Chromebooks was “wow”: We’re finally seeing the hardware horsepower and software improvements Chrome OS needs to succeed.

My second thought was “damn”: They still aren’t getting the pricing right.

Initial appearances aren’t everything, though. It turns out there’s a whole other layer to Google’s Chrome OS reboot, and it’s where the company’s real strategy likely lies.

Google, if you haven’t heard, just unveiled a new series of second-gen notebooks that runs its cloud-centric Chrome OS operating system. There’s the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 3G model, which costs $550, and the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 Wi-Fi model, which runs $449.

Google Chrome OS

I’ve been watching Google’s Chrome OS since its limited launch at the end of 2010 (remember the Cr-48, anyone?). It’s hard to emphasize how far Chrome OS has come since that inauspicious debut: Chrome OS has transformed from a shaky and somewhat limited setup into a full-fledged operating system that’s actually quite nice to use — provided, of course, you’re comfortable living online and using cloud-based applications.

Still, for most shoppers, $450 to $550 is a lot to ask for the type of experience Chrome OS provides — especially when you consider the variety of full-fledged Windows 7 notebooks and high-end tablets you can find for the same price. As I concluded when the first Chromebooks came out, the pricing model is Google’s Achilles’ heel with these systems; if they’d make the devices 200 bucks instead of $500, the Chrome OS concept could really take off.

Here’s the dirty little secret, though: Google isn’t going after the individual consumer with its Chrome OS Chromebooks. Not at those prices. Sure, the G-Team will be delighted when an average consumer decides to pick up its product — and for some of us, the value will be worth the cost — but the true target here is almost certainly the world of business and education.

While the $450 to $550 cost may seem steep from a consumer perspective, for businesses and schools, the Chromebook is part of a bigger package. Full support — both hardware warranty and 24-hour phone service — Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550and enterprise management tools are available for $150 per device for businesses and $30 apiece for schools. That’s an eye-catching proposition: thirty dollars per system, with practically no training required and no need to worry about virus protection or labor-intensive software updates (Chrome’s cloud-based setup is inherently safe from viruses, and OS updates are pushed quietly through the cloud with no need for user or admin intervention). 

It’s a big change from the pricing model Google offered with Chrome OS in the past: The first generation of Chromebooks came with monthly fees for business and school accounts — $28 a month per device for businesses and $20 a month for schools. With the new plan, organizations pay only the single flat fee for the lifetime of each device. 

Consider, too, the fact that Google’s enterprise division just rolled out an optional hosted virtualization solution for Chrome OS account holders. That means business and education users can now gain access to services from nGenx that allow full execution of desktop apps through the Web, essentially addressing the most obvious enterprise-level objection to Chrome OS adoption. Google isn’t publicizing the price of the service but says it comes “at a fraction of the price of current virtualization offerings.”

(Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop beta app, meanwhile, allows individual user-based remote access to any Chrome-connected PC at no extra cost.)

Android Power TwitterGoogle has talked about its desire to bring Chrome OS into businesses and schools before. With its new pricing structure, the company’s ultimate goal is becoming crystal clear. For Chromebooks, the price is right — it just isn’t about the average consumer.

SEE ALSO: The Chrome OS experiment: 2 weeks with Google’s new Chrome computers 

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on , Twitter, or Facebook.

Article copyright 2012 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://blogs.computerworld.com/20242/google_chrome_os_devices

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08 Jun 12 Samsung Series Laptops, Chrome-Based PCs Look to Make an Impact


When it comes to mobile devices and smartphones, Samsung is considered the world’s top-selling company, outselling even Nokia, which held the crown for many years. However, when it comes to PCs, specifically laptops, the company is far behind the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Dell. In fact, Samsung doesn’t even crack the top 5 in terms of shipments. In PC shipments, Samsung ranks eighth worldwide, but the company did grow 7 percent year-over-year, according to Gartner’s 2012 first-quarter report on the global PC market. However, Samsung is looking to change that with the same method it used to take the mobile crown. At a recent New York City event, the company showed off several laptops based on Windows 7 and using Intel’s newer Ivy Bridge chips. In addition, the company is ready to jump on the Windows 8 bandwagon later this year. Samsung is also teaming up with its mobile partner, Google, to offer several Chrome-based PCs, including a revamped Chromebook and the Chromebox—a miniaturized desktop designed for small spaces. Still, does Samsung have the breadth and depth to compete with the other big PC players? Here’s a look at what Samsung is offering for business users, as well as consumers.

Article source: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Desktops-and-Notebooks/Samsung-Series-Laptops-ChromeBased-PCs-Look-to-Make-an-Impact-514440/

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