Google is taking aim at the PC market with its increasingly better offerings of Chromebook hardware. Now the search giant is also touting “family safe” as one of its selling points.
If you are using the beta channel version of Chrome, you now have access to monitor and control what other users access through the browser/operating system. “Let’s say you’ve recently purchased the new HP Chromebook 11 and want to share it with your son. He’ll be able to use your Chromebook as a supervised user. This means once you’ve created a supervised user for him on your Chromebook, you’ll be able to visit chrome.com/manage to review a history of web pages he has visited, determine sites that you want to allow or block, and manage permissions for any blocked websites he has requested to view”, says Google’s Pam Green.
The feature is called “Supervised Users” and has been in testing in the Canary build for sometime. Canary, if you aren’t familiar, is the cutting -edge version of the browser that customers can opt for — at their own risk.
Yesterday on the Chrome blog, Google announced that new Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP, and Toshiba were on their way. Arriving in the next few months the new Chromebooks are based on Intel’s Haswell chips rather than the current ARM processors and the chip’s low power consumption will double the battery life.
These new Chromebooks are (roughly) the third iteration of the laptops and it’s great to see new entrants, Asus and Toshiba, joining the party. HP’s new Chromebook 14 will be out before the holiday season, cost $300 and come in a range of colors. Although Acer will be bringing out a new model as well, there’s no news on whether Samsung will be refreshing its line-up. The eye-watering expensive Pixel seems to remain the only touch-screen model in the range but that could change as details emerge on the new models.
Google quotes that in the sub-$300 computer segment, Chromebooks have taken a little less than a quarter of the market and around 5,000 US schools have also provided Chromebooks to students. For a product that’s just 2 years old, it’s pretty impressive.
I’m looking forward to the new models as I’m currently using a Samsung Chromebook to write this article and I’m bought into a web and cloud-centric view, especially for people who actually want to get stuff done wherever they are. Neat, low-cost, instant-on devices with a keyboard make Chromebooks very handy to have around. More apps are appearing, particularly business ones and if you haven’t considered a Chromebook in the past, you might want to consider one.
Today at Breakfast with Sundar, Google announced ChromeCast. This is a single dongle with a slimmed down version of Google Chrome browser. You can connect with any mobile device and push music, TV shows or movies. Android or iOS – PC or Mac with Chrome installed.
From Netflix to YouTube. Pandora to your library on your mobile phone. Even pictures and video you created on your mobile device or computer will send to ChromeCast and play on your TV through the HDMI port.
“It Just Works,” states Rishi Chandra, director of product management at Google.
ChromeCast allows you to watch on the TV while you still surf on your device. It does not take power from the device to run (depending on what you push) so your phone can go into sleep mode. GoogleCast turns your device into a remote control.
ChromeCast also comes with Google Cast SDK for developers, which will launch later today.
Chromecast will cost $35 and comes with 3 months of Netflix. You will be able to get ChromeCast at Best Buy, Google Play or Amazon.
How This Changes the Set Top Box Wars
In the last few years, we saw the fight for the HDMI port. Apple TV, Boxee, Roku and Google TV have been fighting for Over the Top Television options. However, with ChromeCast, you basically removed the set top box and turned whatever device in your hand as the remote.
It also turns the TV into a smartTV for $35. All you need is your remote and your controlling device.
There have been hints and rumors circulating for several weeks that Google would bring its popular Now feature over from Android and into the Chrome web browser. Now, pun-intended, it seems is that time, but only a little bit.
The latest build of Canary, the development channel version of Chrome, has been updated to version 28 and with it comes a Now feature that users can enable. Canary can thankfully be run side-by-side with a stable or beta build of the browser so that users are not forced to run it full-time — a good thing since it can be buggy at times.
Today, when I fired up Canary build 28 and accessed chrome://flags I found the ability to enable Now (it is disabled by default). You will need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the Flags page to find it, as it is the last entry. Click “Enable”, but do not get your hopes up yet. It is early, and so far it does exactly nothing. The Google Now server URL still remains secret, rendering the service useless for the time being.
Still, this means the service is coming to your computer, though I expect it to be less useful here than on an Android device that moves around with you, but it remains to be seen what Google may add to a computer version of it.
Finally, there is a use for all those photos of cats that people have been posting into social media! I mean, other than the current uses, which are either to make people smile, or to give a person something to post onto their Facebook page. No matter what form of social media you are using, one thing remains constant – there will be cats!
Another thing that is extremely common is for new parents to post lots and lots of photos of their new babies onto their Facebook page. This makes a certain amount of sense. Most people have “friended” several members of their family on Facebook, and posting a few, adorable, photos of the new addition to the family is more economical than printing out all those photos and mailing them to one’s relatives.
Sometimes, though, the new parents go a bit overboard, and post more image of their baby than most people want to scroll through. It’s not that the baby of your relative, or friend from high school, isn’t cute, but the overexposure has led to you desiring a break from seeing his or her baby face all over Facebook. Unfortunately, one cannot ask for less photos of Junior to be posted without committing a social faux pas
A company called Unbaby.me has the solution! It is designed for people who are using Chrome. Add Unbaby.me to Chrome, and configure the extension. Refresh your Facebook page. All those photos of the “little one” will now be replaced with cats.
The plug-in will scan through your Facebook feed for words and phrases like “cute”, “adorable”, and “first birthday”. It will automatically replace the image connected with these types of words with a photo of a cat. If your relative is posting multiple photos without adding a text description it might slip through the cracks, and not be replaced by a cat.
What if you don’t like cats? You can mess around with the settings to have Unbaby.me show you photos of something else – like dogs, cars, or bacon. Personally, I am curious if the plug-in would be useful in removing all those political images that are cluttering up my Facebook feed.
As of today Google Chrome browser is now available on iOs devices. Now you can sync your tabs between your computer, any android device you have and your iOs device. So if you open a tab on your Chrome browser on your desktop, it will be available under Other Devices on your mobile device in almost realtime. I did have to refresh the page for the new url to show up. You go from tab to tab by swiping with one finger and the edge of the page. Like any Chrome browser you can search or type in a url from the same search bar. You can also search in incognito mode. Which means it will not show up in your search history. To get to the incognito tab, other devices, bookmarks, find in page and settings just tap on the icon with four lines in the top left hand corner. You can also email a page directly from the browser by tapping the same icon and then email.
I think that most users will not notice the speed differences, after all we are talking about at the most seconds. The biggest strike against the Chrome browser on iOs is it isn’t the default browser. Unfortunately only Apple can fix this problem and they are unlikely to do that.
Google announced they are dropping the price of the Chromebook by 30%. Some Chromebooks will be as low as $299. But questions still arise if a Chromebook is in your holiday wish list, when you can get a Kindle Fire, nook Color for less. Even the iPad could be in more stockings than the ultra-portable laptop.
Chromebook came out back in June as Google’s answer to a PC that didn’t have a complicated OS to it. You would load the Chromebook up to a Chrome browser; inside, all your applications would be in the cloud and the data you create would also mostly reside in a cloud drive. However, if you were in a 3G deadspot or didn’t have Wifi, then your work would be rather limited.
Competing with a Tablet
Chromebook’s price drop is pretty much an attempt to counter the prices of the Kindle Fire and nook color tablets, which debuted to the general public last week at $199 and $249 respectively. The tablet – which you could connect a bluetooth keyboard and mouse – could technically become a more functional notebook than a Chromebook itself. And with prices at $100 lower than the device, will a Samsung or Acer Chromebook even be in your holiday purchase radar?
What is Chromebook’s Market?
Chromebook has to figure out where their niche is going to be. Maybe as a laptop for the kids, or a machine you can keep in the kitchen to call up recipes or as a kiosk in a public place? Back in September, I saw the Chromebook lounge in the San Francisco Airport. Those kiosks would be great for people that have hours to wait but don’t have a computer to check their Facebook profiles or email on.
Remember when the Netbook was a popular item two years ago? What happened to that? The answer is the netbook disappeared fast. You can still get a netbook, but just like the Chromebook, why should you spend $300 or more for a device that is the same speed and power as a Kindle Fire or nook Color?
So now we can start to see the impact of these two new tablets are bringing to the holiday shopping season. Chromebook has to compete with something more compact and useable. Google has not released any data regarding Chromebooks sold, but a DigiTimes report (premium content site) says it all:
“In June 2011, Acer and Samsung launched their Chromebooks ahead of other PC brand vendors, but by the end of July, Acer had reportedly only sold 5,000 units and Samsung was said to have had even lower sales than Acer, according to sources from the PC industry.”
What does that mean to Chromebook? Simply: It’s time to drop prices and hope the Chromebook will sell well in Q4.