Why a Chromebook should be your next notebook

A new generation of Chrome apps make Chromebooks more powerful, and still affordable.

Google has just announced a new generation of Chrome OS apps, and for the first time, Chromebooks may be able to compete against their more expensive Windows and Mac OS X competitors. In a BYOD world where companies increasingly ask you to buy your own portable devices, it may be time to opt for a Chromebook.

Up until now, Chrome apps generally weren't quite real apps --- they were essentially Web apps optimized to run on Google's Chrome OS. So they usually didn't have the speed, power, and capabilities of native Windows and Mac OS X apps. So while they were useful, they were also limited. Yesterday Google announced the next generation of Chrome apps, and this time around they're real apps. The Google Chrome blog claims that the new capabilities:

Brings together the speed, security and flexibility of the modern web with the powerful functionality previously only available with software installed on your devices. (Think apps designed for your desktop or laptop, just like the ones for your phone and tablet.)

As a practical matter, that means apps that let you continue working offline even when you're not connected to theh Internet, that connect to the cloud, that sync across devices and operating systems, and that can even be launched and run in other operating systems, including Windows and Mac OS X.

Why opt for a Chromebook rather than a Windows or Mac OS X notebook? In a word, price. Right now the two notebook top-sellers on Amazon are Chromebooks. At number is is the $249 Samsung Chromebook, with an 11.6-inch screen 2 GB of RAM and a 16 GB solid state hard drive. I've been using one for months, and can vouch that it's a steady and solid performer. At number two is the $199 Acer C710-2833 Chromebook with similar specs. There are drawbacks to Chromebooks, of course. The biggest is that at the moment there's only a limited number of the new generation of Chrome apps. So it might not be quite time to buy one, although given you'll be able to run Gmail and Google Apps, there's still a compelling case for them. If your company still pays for your notebooks, you'll most likely want to go with a more expensive Windows or Mac notebook. But if you're paying on your own, take a long, hard look at Chromebooks, because they'll save you a bundle, can now now run true native apps.

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