Welcome back to the Chromebook Chronicles. So much has happened since we last talked. Chromebooks are doing well and have grown in acceptance as a traditional laptop alternative. This is especially true in schools where Chromebooks have become very popular.
New Chromebook Hardware
Hardware-wise, Chromebooks continue to improve, gaining faster processors and improved screens. 11″ screens are still more prevalent than 13″ screens, but more 13″ options are coming online. There is also a trend toward mid-priced machines with more premium build quality and IPS screens.
By far the biggest new in Chromebooks, however, is Android apps are coming to the platform via the Google Play Store. Yes, soon Chromebooks will be able to run full Android apps, natively. This is a monumental shift and also spells the end to “packaged apps“. The next logical questions is, does this mean Android will become the defacto operating system for Chromebooks? I think the answer is yes, but it will take awhile. Either that or some kind of melding between the two, Chrome OS and Android. It would be to Google’s advantage to have one OS. Easier for customers to understand and for developers to create for. Either way, it will take several years to transition.
Android apps are originally designed for phones with touchscreens. Google has come up with a way of making them work on a laptop screen with no touch, but it’s also quite obvious that a Chromebook with a touchscreen would be the best in taking advantage of this new Android app capability. I think we are going to see many more Chromebooks come out with touchscreens for this reason.
One of the most promising out of the gate is the new Acer Chromebook R13. This is not only a touchscreen Chromebook, but a convertible too. In fact, it’s the first 13″ touchscreen convertible Chromebook. Convertible in that it can function as a traditional laptop or rotate the screen and it becomes an Android tablet. This is a Chromebook that takes full advantage of Android on Chromebook capability and is a good look into what the future of Chromebooks will look like.
For me personally, my Toshiba Chromebook 2 is still working well. It’s not the fastest thing on the block, but the screen is still outstanding. Toshiba is no longer making Chromebooks, so upgrading mine is now out of the question. As I think about my next Chromebook, The Acer Chromebook R13 looks very attractive. Why not get a large screen Android tablet in addition to a Chromebook? There has been some suspect about the processor as it is a MediaTek and not Intel, but initial benchmarks look promising. I don’t need the fastest machine anyway, so for me, that won’t be a deal killer.
For Chromebooks, I think the future looks bright. And it looks like Android.