I’ve been a big (and somewhat boring) fan of Chromebooks since I first took the plunge with my first back in 2013 (one of the original Samsung models). I’ve had a couple more since then – an Acer which was given to me at a Twilio event in 2014, and then the Asus Chromebook Flip that I bought for two hundred and fifty quid last year.
The Flip is pretty much my perfect laptop. It’s tiny, it’s light and it has cracking battery life. It can connect to a big screen and keyboard if I’m sitting at desk. It has a proper metal case that appears to be fairly robust.
It also has a touchscreen, which I basically never really use, and can be flipped back on to itself to become a pseudo tablet (again, rarely used, but in half-flipped-back mode it makes for a great video viewing screen).
The reason I’ve never really used the touch mode on it is because it’s mostly web-based and the web (for the most part) when used on a laptop-sized screen is fairly unpleasant. I’m a big advocate for browser-based everything, but the larger screen touch experience of the web leaves me cold; it’s either wasting space to make things touchable, or too small to prod.
But this is about to change. Of all of the random rag-bag of announcements out of the Google I/O event last week, the one that really caught my eye was something that’s been rumoured for a while. As of later this year, Chromebooks (and ChromeOS) will support Android Apps. This is potentially a really big deal. If you can get a touchscreen Chromebook for around two hundred quid, and you can have all of the apps in the Android canon running on it, you’ve got a platform that can kill Windows. I’m not saying it will kill Windows – but Chrome OS will then be a platform that has all of the usability required for traditional desktop mode plus millions of installable (for offline) apps that are mostly free. Including Microsoft Office.
I’m running both Windows 7, 10 and ChromeOS at the moment, and I long for the quick simplicity of ChromeOS whenever I’m on the Microsoft products. To be frank, I’m happy without apps, but there are a couple of things (notably – Skype and Skype for Business) that I can’t run on my Chromebook. When it becomes a full-blown Android app platform the gaps close almost entirely. And ChromeOS with Android apps becomes what Windows 8 and 10 were supposed to be (but have never had the app developer support).