Although we’ve recently published articles discussing Chromebook’s inherent positives, it would be short-sighted to pretend that the devices are perfect and without flaws.
We at MakeUseOf find Google’s Chromebooks extremely useful – the Chromebook is great for travel, you can work offline with a Chromebook, and it’s possible to dual-boot Linux on your Chromebook. They also provide a simple level of computing to those who don’t want the complexity of traditional Apple or Microsoft machines.
However, here’s a look at three ways Chromebooks can be improved and some workarounds for the meantime…
Whilst Google’s belief in cloud computing and stateless computing is both admirable and visionary, there are some things that will always be best done with physical equipment. Printing is one of these things.
Google’s Cloud Print service is based on the premise that printing can be done from any device, anywhere, at any time, to any one of your cloud-connected printers. The only way to print from a Chromebook is by using this service.
In practice, this means you cannot send print jobs directly to a printer through a USB port. By forcing users to route print jobs through the cloud and into a holding bin Google unquestionably make printing more awkward than it should be. The policy is particularly unsuited to workers or students who take their devices to offices, schools, and universities.
In addition to the practical problems, Google is posing a juxtaposition to its selling point of easy-computing for seniors and the technologically illiterate. Setting up Cloud Print is reasonably straight forward for an experienced user, but would be considerably more confusing to someone who is not technologically skilled.
Chromebooks already require a leap of faith into the unknown, and this is one area that Google could have made simpler and more straight forward.
Workaround: There isn’t a clear work around to this problem. Short of opening the document in Google Docs on your Mac or Windows machine or emailing the document to a machine running Windows or Apple software, it is impossible to print from a Chromebook without using Google Cloud Print somewhere in the process. Nonetheless, if you are trying to use your printer at the office or university it is a simple process for your IT department to enable Cloud Print and share a printer with anyone on the network – this will allow users to print to the device from anywhere in the world, not just their place of work or study.
Google vs. Apple, Apple vs. Samsung, Microsoft vs. Google. Behind the serenity of your phone, laptop or tablet’s screen there is an endless conveyor belt of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits between the world’s leading technology companies. Sadly, as is often the way in court battles between leading companies of any industry, end-users are usually the ones who lose out.
Windows 8 users will already be familiar with the ongoing Google vs. Microsoft war, it is directly responsible for the lack of Google calendar integration with the native Microsoft calendar app. Microsoft have hit back in the war by refusing to develop a Skype app for Google’s Chrome Web Store, and whilst rumours about a possible release have been swirling for more than a year, there is still no definitive word from either side.
Cynics would argue that Google are quite happy without a native Skype app as it forces people to migrate to Google Hangouts. Unfortunately, uptake on Google Hangouts has been slow, and with 300 million users worldwide Skype remains the VOIP and instant messaging service of choice.
Power-users can dual-boot Linux and install a Skype desktop application, but for many users the absence of a native Skype app could be a deal-breaker.
Workaround: In addition to using Linux and Google Hangouts, you could also consider trying newer apps like Appear.in to set up an ad-hoc video chat room, and Plus.im which provides text chat but no video calling.
3. Google Play Music
Google Play Music is service which connects your locally stored music collection with a Spotify-like online streaming service. By using the Google Music Manager, users can upload 20,000 songs for free then listen to them from any device.
The catch? Google Music Manager isn’t available for Chromebooks. This means that in order to use Google’s flagship music service to listen to your own collection through a Chromebook you have to own a either Windows or Apple machine. Similarly, if you download a track directly onto your Chromebook, you have to transfer it onto another machine before you can put it in the cloud.
This issue is not only frustrating for users, but oddly stands in stark contrast to Google’s unspoken philosophy of pulling as many users as they can into their own ecosystem by seamlessly integrating their products.
Currently there is no ideal process for users, and although rumours about a possible drag-and-drop solution have been circulating for a long time, as of today we are no closer to a solution.
Workaround: Use Google Drive or Dropbox to transfer files to a computer that is capable of running Google Music Manager and sync to Google Music from there instead.
Thoughts On The Future
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and in the future we will revisit the topic to discuss a few more issues such as Google Now integration and the native media player.
However, no product is ever perfect. As we said at the outset, we love Chromebooks, and you certainly shouldn’t let these frustrations dissuade you from buying one. Just make sure you check out everything you need to know on Chromebooks before you head to the shops.
What are your biggest gripes with the Chromebook? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credits: Kevin Jarrett Via Flickr