Kenny Sahr

Chromebooks are the Rodney Dangerfield of laptops; they get no respect. They are the best selling laptops in the US yet no one dares write about their rise. The consumer cloud revolution is now in 5th gear and major changes are afoot.

Let’s take a quick look back before we look forward.

The CR-48, designed by Google and manufactured by Inventec, was the first Chromebook. It sported an Intel Atom Processor 1.66GHz, 2 GB of RAM and a 16 GB hard drive, courtesy of SanDisk. Only 60,000 CR-48s were ever manufactured and most found their way to card carrying geeks. With its pure black color, the CR-48 looked like a prop from The Matrix.

The Acer C7 and the Samsung Chromebook were among the earliest commercial Chromebooks. The Acer C7 had a 320 GB hard drive and a short battery life of 2-4 hours. A November 2012 review of the Acer C7 prophesized, “either way, I’d have second and third thoughts about buying a Chromebook.” The current best selling Acer C720 has a miniscule 16 GB hard drive and 8.5 hours of battery life. While the C7 took 18 seconds to boot, the C720 boots in 7 seconds.

In 2011, MIT Technology Review offered “6 reasons why Chromebooks are a bad idea.” The writer goes onto say they won’t work with your iPod, they’re too expensive, people aren’t ready to trust the cloud, they’re a goldmine for hackers, Google can’t do hardware and support and finally, Google gets too much control.

The early Chromebook reviews remind me of Rolling Stone Magazine’s Led Zeppelin album reviews from the 1970s. They “waste their considerable talent on unworthy material,” the original reviewer of Led Zeppelin I wrote. It sounds like a Chromebook reviewer lamenting why a billion dollar company would waste their resources designing a $199 laptop. Rolling Stone eventually had to rewrite the reviews in a nod to Led Zeppelin’s over 130 million in certified sales and the same will happen in 3 years to Chromebook reviews. Here’s why and what to expect:

The streets of the consumer cloud revolution are lined with plastic and lithium, not gold. Chromebooks have cheap screens, loud trackpads and some of them look like reincarnated Commodore 64s. Chromebooks aren’t durable goods like your laptop, refrigerator and washing machine; they have more in common with your $29.88 Home Depot Multi-Purpose Tool Set than the $1,499 Alienware 17 laptop.

Future consumer cloud marketing will resemble gimmicky retail marketing. Today’s Chromebooks typically come with 100 GB of Google Drive space and 12 free Gogo in-air internet passes (wifi while flying in the real clouds). The Chromebooks of tomorrow will include dinner for 2 at IHOP, a Target gift card and a one month subscription to Netflix. The consumer cloud marketing gurus will quickly align themselves with their newfound customers.

In the consumer cloud revolution, the new boss will not be the same as the old boss.The trendsetters in the consumer cloud are Walmart shoppers and not 6 digit earning early adopters, who will be dethroned. (They will continue to set enterprise and 5 star digital trends.) 2014 will be the year that Joe Schmo ascends to the cloud and the Chromebook is his vehicle.

7 of the top 20 selling laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks, including the #1 and #3 spots. Where are the headlines? Something huge is happening; consumers are embracing Chromebooks and the cloud like never before.

Google may have been first, but as you read this, a handful of dividend paying high tech companies and a startup or two are designing consumer cloud hardware. Remember the old retail rule of thumb? A lot more companies make the cheaper stuff than the high-end stuff.

The sky is the limit in the consumer cloud revolution. The consumer cloud revolution will be crazier and more earth-shattering than the analysts predict. After we hit the $99 Chromebook on Black Friday 2014, I expect we will see the $50 advertiser supported Chromebook. The student Chromebook of 2015 will be bundled with ads and free offers. The $49.99 Chromebook may not self-destruct when Johnnie moves out of the dorms, but it will be disposable.

I leave you with the most exciting aspect of the consumer cloud revolution. Unlike the enterprise cloud revolution, which is evolving at the speed of caution, the consumer cloud revolution, and with it, the Chromebook, will unfold at the speed of light.

This article was written on an Acer C720 Chromebook.

Kenny Sahr

Why own one mobile device when you can own three? There are two models for mobile device ownership. The first is the One Device Lifestyle. Most of my friends at Nubo go by this. Almost everyone here owns a smartphone that sports a 5 inch screen. A recent NY Times article made the case for the marriage of the smartphone and the tablet (“phablet”).

Have you ever seen someone talk on a phablet? They look like aliens from Star Trek. Only a few years ago, engaging in an animated conversation with earbuds in your ears surrounded by strangers was weird; today it is the norm (even if it’s not my style). There is a strong case to be made for owning one large smartphone/phablet. In this article, I will make the case for owning 3 mobile devices.

I Love My Tablet

I use my tablet a lot more than my smartphone. I love reading CD reviews on before I fall asleep. When I listen to music in the family room, it’s nice to open a casual game on my tablet and do two passive things at once. I can’t focus on a Stan Getz saxophone solo while whacking zombies or dragons on my PlayStation 3.

When I ride the train, it is a lot easier to read the news on my 10 inch Galaxy Tab than on a smartphone. Sometimes I get in a few games of backgammon or a few clicks on Paradise Island. The screen size makes a huge difference and I see my life as “Before Tablet” and “After Tablet.”

The Smartphone Compromise

My smartphone, on the other hand, is less important to me. It is essentially a phone with a few apps. I like the GPS “where is my bus” type apps that we have here in Israel. When I have time to kill, I open my CNN app and read the news. But I don’t want a huge smartphone that barely fits in my pocket. In fact, I like being able to forget about it most of the day.

I own a Galaxy S1 Mini and plan on upgrading to an S4 Mini once the price hits the $300 range this summer. My S1 Mini lacks a quality screen by today’s standards, but it quietly hibernates in my pocket when I’m not using it. My socks are worth more; who’s gonna steal it?

My Third Device

For a third device, I recommend a cheap laptop or Chromebook. I bought the Acer C720 Chromebook this month. Why? My Chromebook lets me go online and write from a cafe or on the couch at home. When I am inspired to write at home, I have to run to my PC. For $199-$299, a Chromebook is the perfect third device.

A Chromebook may not have a touch screen (though some do), but make no mistake – Chromebooks are mobile devices. With 11.6 inch screens and weighing 1.25 kilos (2.76 pounds), Chromebooks allow mobility for very little cost. Unless you really need it, skip the expensive and heavy laptop which you will hesitate to take with you.

The 3 Device Bottom Line

A $350 tablet plus a $300 smartphone followed by a $199 Chromebook will cost about the same as a $500-$900 killer smartphone. But you don’t have to buy all 3 at once. Today, my smartphone is nearing the end of its lifecycle. My 10 inch Galaxy Tab 1 is two years away from retirement. A Chromebook or internet-focused laptop should last for years.

If you go with the 3 device lifestyle, you can plan on buying a new device every year and a half to two years. Skip the hardcore smartphone and gain the advantage of a 10 inch tablet and a lightweight laptop.

This article was written on an Acer C720 Chromebook.

Kenny Sahr

What is the best selling laptop on Amazon? What is the cheapest laptop on Amazon? 10 points if you answered “the Acer C720 Chromebook” to both of those questions!

When the first Chromebooks came out in 2011, like most of you, I ignored them. What’s next, Google spaghetti sauce?! The first Chromebooks were a work in progress, to put it nicely. Thomas Edison’s first lightbulb didn’t win any design awards either.

Acer Chromebook – Value For $199!

The Acer C720 costs $199 at Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon. It features an Intel Celeron 2955U 1.4 GHz, 2 GB of SDRAM, a 16 GB solid state hard drive, an 11.6 inch screen, two USB ports (USB 2.0 and 3.0), one HDMI port and 8.5 hours of battery life. The screen resolution is 1366 x 788 and its dimensions are 11.34 x 8.03 x .75 inches, or 28.8 x 20.40 x 1.9 cm. It weighs 2.8 pounds (1.27 kg). In simple English, this means we’re dealing with the size and weight of a thin notebook.

What the Acer C720 doesn’t feature is most interesting; it doesn’t come with Windows, it can’t run Office, there isn’t much you can do with it offline and you won’t be playing anything beyond casual games.

Upon first boot, it took me less than a minute to run the initial setup – choose the language, input language and connect to the family wifi. I logged in on my personal Google account and had access to Gmail, Google Drive and the Chrome web browser. Speaking of booting, the Acer C720 boots in an astounding 7 seconds!! There’s no need to turn it off as it comes out of “hibernation mode” in a split second. The 2 GB RAM version is running fine for me; I’m glad I didn’t spend the extra $50 for another 2 GB.

Acer also makes a touch model – the C720P costs $299 – but I skipped it. I don’t think touching a screen in front of me (as opposed to a tablet screen on my lap) is going to make for a delightful user experience. When I want touch, I’ll go with my tablet. One user interface is enough.

Acer Chromebook – No Way Home

I think the Chromebook is the coolest thing since the Big Mac, but there are a few downsides. I miss having the Home, End, Delete, Page Up, Page Down and other keys that a Windows keyboard has. There are 2-3 key combinations for each of these, but it’s sort of like learning how to do the triple jump on a new video game – it takes time. The Caps Lock key is replaced by a Search key. I had to bookmark the key combos. As a writer, I often have to click on Home and End and hope Acer and Google “let us go Home easier” next time.

I’ve never used a trackpad for more than a few minutes at a time, but I can imagine that Chromebook trackpads won’t win any awards. The chiclet keyboard is fine by me. I’m typing faster every day I use it. The screen is nothing special – my Galaxy Tab screen is much better, but I don’t plan on watching a lot of HD videos on my Chromebook. It’s fine for the occasional YouTube videos and perfect for web browsing and text editing.

The only other issue I have with the Chromebook is the user login process. Like most people, I have two Google accounts – one for work and one for personal use. The OS forces me to logout when I want to switch users; I can’t have tabs open with both accounts at once. I read that they’re working on fixing this in future versions of Chrome OS. Good idea.

The Chromebook Miracle

For $199, I didn’t expect a miracle. Besides James Kendrick’s Chromebook articles on ZDNet, most Acer C720 (and Chromebooks in general) reviews are lukewarm. They read like legal warning labels – “your Chromebook will not run Windows software, it will not donate money to the Bill Gates Foundation and it won’t let you spend $2,000 in upgrades over its lifecycle.”

Experience tells me to pay more attention to the street than the elites. 7 of the 20 top selling laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks. The Acer C720 is #1 and the Samsung Chromebook is #3. The Chromebook is the perfect laptop for students, writers and people who need a “no frills web experience.”

Most Chromebooks go for $199 to $299 and the prices will continue to go down. Chromebooks are ready for prime time and the Acer C720 is a worthy “webtop.” If you haven’t read about the Chromebook revolution, now is the time!

This article was written on an Acer C720 Chromebook.