With Windows and iOS dominating the operating systems of desktop PCs and laptop computers, my guess is that the answer to that question is a very solid ‘no’. And yet there is another alternative; one that is slowly making inroads into personal computer use, if not quite yet into the business world.
Chromebooks have been around for a few years now. For anyone unfamiliar with them, they run on Google’s Chrome operating system, bypassing Microsoft and Apple completely. They were devised primarily for the low end of the market, suitable for first-time computer users and households wanting an additional machine. And they work entirely from the web.
So no wifi = no (or little) functionality.
Given their value proposition, early models were criticised for poor build quality, with many reviewers recommending that people were better off spending a little more money on a cheap laptop with more features.
But things have changed in the last 18 months. There are now several available models with high spec screens and all-round better hardware, and these are serious contenders if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced laptop.
But can you run a business from one?
To be clear, that means no Microsoft staples like Outlook, Excel and Word. It means no ability to install and run additional software. I intend to find out.
Welcome to the Chromebook experiment.
One of the many decisions I faced when setting myself up as an independent consultant recently was whether I should go down the Windows laptop route or the Apple Macbook route. I decided on neither, and am writing this from a shiny new Chromebook.
I made the decision for several reasons.
I may have forecasts in place, but it’s very early days for me and I don’t how how much revenue I’ll generate in the next six months. I’m very mindful of keeping my costs as low as possible. The Chromebook I’ve purchased only cost me around £300, despite having it shipped from the USA.
I’m going to be travelling around a lot between offices and clients, and I wanted a laptop that is light and compact. My Chromebook weighs just 1.4kg and is only 19mm thick. And check this out – the battery lasts more than a full working day on constant use without needing to be charged.
OK, so cost and mobility are important to me, but that’s no good if the machine doesn’t do what I want! So I was looking for a laptop with a high res, decent-sized (at least 13”) display and a decent keyboard.My Chromebook’s 1080p full HD display and webcam are probably the best I’ve seen on any laptop, while the machine boots in 8 seconds. Yes, that’s correct – I can be online and working less than ten seconds after I turn it on. That’s three times faster than an iPad.
Given my need for mobility, I wanted to work entirely from the cloud. As an Android devotee, I was already embedded in the Google ecosystem, and so using Drive for my storage made perfect sense. The added 100Gb of free cloud storage that Google threw in with my purchase was an additional incentive, and with the Google Docs suite dealing easily with Microsoft Office files, this was the final piece of the puzzle.
That all said, this is an experiment and I go into it with my eyes open. It will present challenges (and already has, in fact) . For a start, there’s no Skype or Photoshop. And what should happen if I need to download software to a machine that works entirely from the cloud and has next-to-no local storage?
Over the next few weeks I’m going to write about my Chromebook experiences. The good stuff, and the bad stuff. And one way or another, in a couple of months’ time we’ll know whether it’s possible to run a business without Microsoft and Apple.
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