NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What was the biggest cost of owning that laptop or personal computer you've had for the last three years? Was it the price you paid ($500 or $2,000), the software you bought or was it that $299 warranty?Most likely it was none of the above. It was time. Let's add it all up, shall we?
With this new Chromebook, this has been fixed. The new Intel Celeron dual-core processor handles all audio/video processing I threw at it. The only downside is that it appears to have reduced the battery life from 8.5 hours to 6 hours, which is too bad but not devastating. The fan is also not as extremely quiet as its predecessor, but then its predecessor had the quietest fan I have heard to date. Finally, the screen shares a key negative trait with Apple's ( AAPL) MacBooks -- it doesn't bend all the way forward, like a Lenovo ThinkPad does. The keyboard and trackpad are now at least on par with Apple's best laptops. I go forth and back numerous times every day, and I give Samsung the slightest edge over Apple here, a first for any laptop to date. The screen is a matte 12.1 incher, which does its job superbly. Yes, an Apple MacBook will give you higher resolution, but the Apple screens have horrible reflections given the glass. Unlike the MacBook Air, the Chromebook has an Ethernet jack.
1. "Chromebooks can't run the apps that I use."
You got me there! It is true that some people need to run apps that don't operate on a Chromebook. Two examples that come to mind are Skype and iTunes. That's just the way it is. Another example is Microsoft ( MSFT) Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but for those there is a counter-argument -- many people are now fine automatically converting those into Google Docs. I have undergone that transition myself and it worked just fine. It may not be for everybody, but for some people it's actually an improvement. Google Chromebooks are mostly for those who live mostly inside the Google cloud, using Gmail and Google Docs. There are hundreds of millions of people who fall into this category. Yes, the world is a lot larger than hundreds of millions of people, but that's still a large market.
2. "Why pay $449 for a laptop when I can pay $100 less for a Windows laptop?" There are two counter-arguments to this charge: A) The simple hardware quality alone of this second-generation Samsung Chromebook is not on par with a $450 Windows laptop, let alone one for $350. I just told you that the keyboard and trackpad is at least on par with an Apple MacBook, which starts at $999 and goes all the way up toward $2,000. Then consider battery life, weight and so forth and it's clear that strictly based on just the hardware, I think $449 is a bargain right there. B) The more important argument is the one outlined at the beginning of this article: Cost is about the time wasted on all sorts of things, not what you put on your credit card the first second of ownership. A Chromebook will save you thousands of dollars over three years that you would have otherwise wasted fixing stuff, talking to tech support and waiting for things to happen. 3. "Why not just use the Chrome browser on any Mac or Windows machine?" Now this is the most devious argument in this whole debate, against which very few people know to argue. I do! Here it is: The fact that a Chromebook uses the Chrome browser (duh!) is irrelevant. The case for the Chromebook would be no different if the Chromebook ran Firefox or Internet Explorer. Yes! Contrary to what everyone seems to assume, it's not about the browser! What's the difference between this or that browser anyway? Nothing vital or relevant to the case for or against the Chromebook, as far as I can see.
The key here is it's about the operating system, not about the browser. Google may even have made a mistake here, in calling the product a "Chromebook." Users are almost led to believe that they're buying a "more limited" PC because this laptop "only runs a browser, after all." It is the operating system, not the browser, that yields the management and security benefits of the Chromebook. That's what generates the savings in aggravation and time. In other words, you don't buy a Chromebook in order to run the Chrome browser. If it ran Firefox or Internet Explorer, it wouldn't have made any difference. It's the operating system that makes this product into a zero-maintenance, high-security, instant-boot computer. If you buy a Windows or Mac laptop, you don't get any of these benefits. Sure, you can of course use the Chrome browser, but so what? Can most people really tell the difference between the three major browsers anyway? My contention is that they cannot. But they can tell the difference between a computer booting up in eight seconds instead of two minutes, and whether they have to waste an hour or two every week on maintenance and troubleshooting, versus never having to waste a second on fixing it -- ever.
Physically speaking, the Chromebox is as close to an identical copy of the Mac Mini as you will realistically get. It can be hooked up to a couple of large displays, keyboards, mice -- the usual stuff. Depending on your computing needs, this would be the ideal computer for fixed work environments such as Wall Street trading desks or anyone else requiring much larger display area, for example, two 30 inch displays with 1080x1920 resolution.