The new Google Chromebook is basically a small laptop computer that runs the Chrome OS and depends entirely on cloud-based storage and applications. Google is reportedly planning on charging $28 a month for the device. Google does warn that you must have access to a wireless network for the device to operate. There does not appear to be a provision for wired Ethernet, and there's no means of using locally stored applications.
At first look, this sounds attractive. You don't have to depend on a specific computer to do your work - all you have to do is pick up any Chromebook and log into your Web-based apps and do your work. And as long as you're located in an office with good Wi-Fi connections that could be true, provided of course that the current iteration of the Chrome OS supports your cloud computing environment.
Already you can see some potential problems. You can't actually travel with the Chromebook if you plan to get work done while traveling. Worse, unless you know for certain that you'll find a secure Wi-Fi connection at your destination, you'll fare no better once you get there.
While it's true that you can take along a 4G Wi-Fi access point to provide connectivity for your Chromebook, you're already starting to introduce cost and complexity just to get your basic work done.
Meanwhile, you have another choice. You can get a regular, old Windows notebook computer. Hewlett-Packard is offering those to businesses for a lease rate of $16 per month and you get Windows 7 included in that price and you get local storage. If you're worried about data loss, Windows devices will also work with cloud-based applications including Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365, and if you want the Chrome experience, you can download it for free. And there's a plus: If you need to work on a document while you're out of the office, you can. You can either download it to your hard disk or create it there, and transfer it to your cloud-based applications when you get secure network access.
There's also one other concern about the Chromebook computer and the Chrome OS. I've been told by users of this OS that Google's updates are frequent, and that they happen automatically. Google makes a big deal about this, claiming that it is the only OS with such automatic updates. Apparently it hasn't heard about the automatic update features that come with Windows, Mac OS and Linux. But in those latter cases, you have control over the updates - with Chrome OS, you don't.
This version of automatic updating may not sound like a big deal, but in many companies, the updates need to be vetted before they're distributed throughout the company. This is because the IT department needs to confirm that they work with applications critical to the company. If you can't do that, and it's not clear with the Chrome OS that you can, the company could find that it's suddenly cut off from applications critical to its business. Sure, you can assume that Google Apps will always work, but suppose you're using Office 365? Or a custom-developed Web app?
The bottom line is that while the Chromebook is a nice solution for some specific applications, it's clearly no Windows (or Mac or Linux) killer despite the hype. Instead, it's a niche product that will work very well in some cases. But for many businesses, it may not work at all.