J.R. Raphael at Computerworld has a great, straightforward set of questions for anyone who isn’t sure if a Chromebook would be a good idea for them. (It will also give you a good idea of what a Chromebook is if you don’t know already.) It actually helped me clear up some things in my own mind about how useful or feasible such a thing might be for someone like me, who’s been devoted to Macs for more than 10 years. Yes, I could certainly see myself doing most of what I generally do on my computer from a browser interface, with only a couple of caveats, one of them being huge.
The smaller (but deal-breaking) caveat is audio production and video editing. If I had no interest in recording my own music or podcasts (oops), and if I never had a need to edit video (which is rare but crucial), that’d be no problem. Certainly, things like podcasts and very light video editing can be done from the web, but you’d never choose this over a dedicated app on a powerful machine. Not now, anyway. So for me, that outright rules out a Chromebook, but on a functional level, not a philosophical level.
The larger philosophical issue I have is one that perhaps is a relic of “old school” computing, and maybe I just need to let it go: Local storage for my digital media. My photos of my family and whatnot are precious and plentiful, and I don’t subscribe to any music streaming services, so my large music library is whatever I have on my local drive. (Don’t worry, I have on-site and cloud backups of everything, severally.)
I can’t abide the idea of trusting all of it to anyone’s cloud service. Nor do I like the idea of putting everything into a digital dusty attic, some external hard drive that sits somewhere in the house and rots, or fiddling with SD cards and USB drives.
Bringing up this concern on a Google+ thread for Raphael’s article, folks pointed me to ways you could manually upgrade a certain model of Chromebook from a 16GB to a 128GB SSD. And that’s all fine, but it’s so fiddly and hacky. The whole point of a Chromebook is supposed to be the way it does away with the baggage of Olden-Times computing: open it up, turn it on, log in, and all your stuff is there in seconds. No worrying about upgrading the OS or individual apps, no fussing with configurations, no managing storage, etc. The last thing you’d want is to then have to open the damn thing up and carefully attach some piece of internal hardware that costs almost as much as the computer itself did. That’s fine for geeks, and even fine for me if I had to do it, but it’s just too much for what the Chromebook is intended for.
So, in short, Chromebooks would need to be able to handle at least minimal media production as well as have far more internal storage for media files. Then we can start to talk.