Although I didn’t find the little Cr-48 on my doorstep until about 9 December 2010, some aspect of the machine have just turned two years old. I last used the bundled 100 MB/month Verizon data on 28 November 2012, and when it didn’t work on Friday 30 Nov., I had a word with the Verizon folks and learned that my two year Cr-48 data plan expired on 29 November.
It’s not like I rely on the Verizon plan very often, but I’m using 3G right now—at a mildly remote youth camp in Marin County that doesn’t have WiFi in the building. I realize how accustomed I’ve become to having that little backup of 100 MB/month, and although my phone is humming with Android 4.1.2 Jellybean, the T-Mobile data just doesn’t cover this area so hotspot wouldn’t help. But here’s how much I value the old plan: it was always there with no marginal cost. Now that my two years of Cr-48 pilot use is up, my only data options from Verizon are $20 for 1 GB over 30 days, and I think it’s $30 for 5 GB over 30 days and something even more. So it’s not like I use 3G often enough to even get much value out of the $20/month plan. Everywhere I use the Cr-48 the most, I either have WiFi access, or I have a wired connection that I can plug my router into. It’s these remote camp-out weekends where I might want to use either Verizon, or T-Mobile through Android mobile hotspot. I actually found one camp where Verizon data didn’t work, but T-Mobile did—and I was very happy to have the hotspot capability!
Anyhow, I really have gotten to like this Chromebook. When I’m teaching, it’s getting heavy use every week. In the past semester when I’ve had a teaching hiatus, I use the Chromebook to read manga almost every night—probably seen over 10,000 pages in the last four months. Basically, I’m using it like it was a Kindle ;^)
But I was so pleased to see that the Chromebook $250 price point has been pierced with the Samsung Series 3. I was bowled over to see Acer take one of their Windows chassis (Pentium, 320 GB local disk, and Windows-style keyboard) and blow it out as a $200 Chromebook. Perhaps best of all has been to see the Samsung show up with Verizon 3G for 2 years at $329—suggesting that the Verizon plan has a marginal cost of $35/year for two years. I truly wish that Verizon would offer something like an “extended warranty” where subsequent years of 100 MB/month for third and fourth years with Chromebooks.
Here’s my key observation about Chromebooks after two years on the keyboard: by turning over much work to the Cloud, and not relying much on the performance of the local hardware, the machine gets obsoleted more slowly. Where a power workstation is a fine candidate for replacement after about three years, and smart mobile phones are downright stale after just 18 months, somehow the Chromebook paradigm has got the little device in an “ageing gracefully” sort of state. Sure, I’m ready for something new (see below), but my Cr-48 is just about ready to start its new life as a kitchen internet appliance.
What should one call it if a (Cr-48) Chromebook is used to order a new (Acer) Chromebook through the Google Play Store? Is that how Chromebooks reproduce? Will the new Acer, already arrived, be considered a meta-Chromebook? So many angles to ponder. ;^)
The long-discussed convergence of Android and Chrome OS really seems like it would take a step forward in an interesting way when we start getting hardware that makes the transition from netbook-grade (like the Cr-48 and its descendants to date) to ultrabook-grade (as with a touch screen). Since as of this holiday season we are starting to see some nice Asus touchscreen 11.6-inch Windows notebooks at $500, just maybe the WiFi-only touchscreen Chromebooks can drop in at around $350. One can always hope!
Anyway, to maintain my ongoing logging, here’s where the Cr-48 has gotten to at this point:
Release: 3196.1.0 (Official Build) dev-channel x86-mario
Processor: Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU N455 @ 1.66GHz
Hardware Class: IEC MARIO PONY 6101
WebKit: 537.19 (@134183)
Build Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
So this is the dev channel, and now I wonder if Cr-48 updates will go on hold, in favor of a dev channel on the newer generations of hardware. I wonder, will there be something like a Nexus Chromebook to follow on the Cr-48? Will this be the touchscreen version?
One last thought this evening:
What will the next two years bring? At this point, we’re transitioning from pretty much having a single Chromebook device available, to having the first couple of ones from Samsung, and now there’s two new ones from two manufacturers. Think back to what this stage was like for Android and there’s a point that matches. I’ve watched too closely to believe the hyperbole that Android has been on track to stomp iOS since 2008. It wasn’t like that from my perspective—it was a really slow start with just the G1 phone. I got mine in 2009 and it was a piddling user share that we had. Then there were a couple of models, maybe the Motorola Droid to really boost popularity, and that was when, 2010? I guess my point is that these new $250 Chromebooks are analogous to the arrival of the Moto Droid in Android world.
‘Nuff for now.