Google updates struggling Chrome OS
By David Bayon
Posted on 22 Aug 2012 at 17:01
Google has issued an update to Chrome OS, the cloud-based software that runs on the company's Chromebook and Chromebox devices - but are the changes too late to win sales?
Updating devices to the latest stable release brings several interface enhancements, including a new apps list, full Google Drive integration, and the ability to add custom wallpapers.
Rather than a full-screen grid of available apps, the new app list is a small box that pops up without obscuring running applications. It's ordered into pages of 16 apps each, and has its own in-built omnibar that searches apps and online, with search results mixed together. You can also pin apps directly to the Launcher - what Google calls the taskbar.
Google has added the ability to save files directly to Drive, rather than saving them locally and uploading them, making it much easier to work on files between devices. Saving a file opens a dialog window with a choice of tabs; choose Google Drive and it gives a neatly ordered folder and file tree that's arguably cleaner than the Drive web interface.
Choosing a desktop wallpaper beyond bundled samples is finally possible, and Google has moved the choice away from the browser and into the same file and folder dialog window.
With a more user-friendly UI and vital offline apps added in the last big release in April, Chrome OS is gradually becoming a viable affordable alternative to a Windows laptop.
Whether that will translate into sales remains to be seen. By January, Google had placed 27,000 Chromebooks in schools in 41 US states, and in June it announced more than 500 school districts in the US and Europe were actively using the devices. Figures haven't been released for consumer sales, but are thought to be small.
In June, Google pushed its Chromebooks into 100 Best Buy stores in the US and an unspecified number of Dixons outlets in the UK. No sales figures have been released, but a study by online advertising firm Chitika of web traffic for a week in June put Chrome OS's share at a negligible 0.0119% - lower even than those using the Sony PlayStation 3 as an unlikely web browser.
Why don't they
sell this operating system so I can install it on my existing laptop?
By revsorg on 22 Aug 2012
I'm just relieved that they've fixed most of the annoying usability issues I have experienced with the Aura update in April.
Now the trackpad responds when a page is in the process of loading; scrolling a loading page doesn't produce unsightly areas of blank canvas; and trying to get the screen back when power-saving kicks-in actually works.
Like Linus Torvalds I am actually quite fond of my Chromebook, but really felt they had betrayed my trust with the Aura update, which really should have been tested much more thoroughly, considering that updates are obligatory with a Chromebook.
Slightly puzzled with the mention of Google Drive in the article, as this appeared a couple of releases ago. It's great, and now it makes sense to have Drive installed on all the rest of my machines. Could still do with image resizing in the photo editor, but apart from that I am quite pleased with the Aura design as a whole.
Still not sure I'd want a tablet, with a Chromebook in the house. Having a keyboard is quite important to me, and finding Wi Fi hotspots isn't that difficult if I do take it away. Can't really see why I'd want to surf on a train or an aeroplane, makes much more sense to read a book if you ask me.
By c6ten on 23 Aug 2012
If you want to run Chrome OS on an existing machine, there's an open-source version at www.chromium.org/chromium-os. There are also pre-built versions at chromeos.hexxeh.net/ which are easy to try out using a USB memory stick.
By WebWomble on 23 Aug 2012
Thanks WebWomble - I tried the hexxeh thing and booted to a black screen on my laptop. I lack the curiosity to persevere with the experiment.
By revsorg on 23 Aug 2012
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