Ignorantium
More reactive than flourine. Funnier than boron.
I’ve always wanted to be a test pilot

I’ve promised a lot of posts about social media lately. I’m working on them. I promise. The problem I’ve had is that my topic keeps expanding. I had originally planned a dainty little post about professional/personal behavior on social media networks. I won’t be the first to cover the topic, but I have some opinions on certain things that are out of step with those held by a lot of people in social media and marketing. After some good conversations with some smart people I realized that I can’t possibly cover everything in a single post. And just when I thought I had the time to work on those posts I got a knock on the door and found this little beauty sitting on my doorstep.

That’s right, I was selected to test the new Google ChromeOS Notebook as a part of their pilot program. Hooray for me! If you’re even a little bit of a geek, getting a box in the mail with a free device in it is a good thing. (Who doesn’t love the smell of new electronics?) And when that device is a part of a highly-anticipated pilot program that lots of your friends want to be a part of, well, that just makes it so much more satisfying. I’ll have more to say about the program and how it has been handled by Google from a marketing standpoint in another post. (Promise #1)For now, let me just say that I like what they’re doing. There wasn’t a huge amount of information packaged with the notebook. I didn’t even receive an email that I had been selected. But the paperwork that is included is hip and irreverent. (They have some funny copy writers.) It makes me want to help Google out by testing their stuff. I’m betting some will find it off-putting, but I think it’s a good way to go about launching this program. As I said, more on that in another post.

So what about the notebook itself? I like it. I probably picked the wrong word when I called the Cr 48 a “beauty.” Honestly, it’s not very pretty. It’s a plain little notebook with no ornamentation, logos or anything. It looks very utilitarian, but that’s not a bad thing. (Google did include a sticker in the box which I immediately stuck on the back of the machine.) It’s what you want,meaning it’s small and thin. It has a little heft to it, but it’s not heavy. Even the keyboard is stripped down. The function keys that you would normally expect across the top have been replaced by web browser keys (e.g. forward, backward, refresh). It includes a few other items you need, like a webcam, mic and speakers for videoconferencing, but it’s a pretty basic little notebook. (The one thing I’m having a hard time with is the touchpad. It’s way too sensitive so that if you rest your hands on it your cursor moves.) From the standpoint of the machine, it’s not a very big deal.

And that’s where I expect to hear a ton of “yawns” out of the technorati. I’ve already read a few reviews that say something like “So what if Google makes a bunch of plain little notebooks? It’s not a ‘game-changing’ design like an iPad. And the operating system is just a stripped down version of linux with a browser to control it all. Boring.” That’s where I think a lot of people may be missing the point entirely. I think this may be a bigger deal than the iPad in the long run. (Let that sink in for a second.) The iPad is an impressive design. I think it’s a great little gadget. It’s entertaining and engaging and fun and cute. (It’s also relatively useless without a “real” computer or as a “real” computer.) The Cr 48 is unabashedly not a gadget. It’s too ugly to be a gadget. But it’s so much more useful. I could never write a blog post like this on an iPad. I wouldn’t even try. With the Cr 48 I’ve already written some client papers, done a presentation and worked on a spreadsheet using Google docs and some applications. It wasn’t perfect, but that had more to do with me and 20 years of habit working on computers. This is a test to see if Google can strip down an open source operating system to the bare necessities, stick everything “in the cloud” and make a real computer for everyone for under a couple hundred bucks (maybe less)–one that can actually be used for work and home. That’s been a goal of open source zealots like me for a long time. I hope Google is wildly successful. If being a part of their pilot program helps them achieve it, I’m in. More to come on my predictions about Google’s long term success later. (Promise #2)

As for the Chrome-browser-as-OS concept I’m still playing around with it. As I said, it’s not perfect (which is kind of the point of a test program). At this point it hasn’t been that difficult an adjustment. It helps that I’ve been using Google docs for a while. I’ll have to save a full review of the OS for another post too. (Promise #3) So much to say.

Full disclosure: If you’ve gotten to this point and you haven’t fully understood, Google sent me a computer to test for free. It came bundled with two years of free limited data service on Verizon. I got something from Google and I must disclose it. (See how easy that was?) That being said, I am under no obligations to Google except to use the wares as much or as little as I want to, report the bugs and provide user feedback as a part of their pilot program.

Photo credit: Google

4 Comments to “I’ve always wanted to be a test pilot”

  1. Thanks for your kind words James!

    We’re excited for any feedback that you or your readers are willing to share. Please give us a shout if you see things that we should work on.

    As for the touchpad, we’re working on it. The hardware is world-class, we just need to get the software that drives it closer to perfection!

  2. James says:

    Thanks! And the touchpad is truly minor. I’ve been working on resetting the sensitivity and we’ll see if that fixes it.

  3. Meyers says:

    I find it endlessly amusing that you are a beta tester….i can see the comments going on for ever :)

  4. James says:

    The future isn’t made by those who know all the answers. It’s made by people who ask all the questions. (I think someone wise once said something similar. If not, I’ll take credit for it.)

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