COMMENTARY |Google's new Chromebook laptops, coming June 15, promise to make computing easy and fun compared to a normal laptop. And while the iPad's been eating away at sales of lightweight laptops, there are a few reasons you might want to consider a Chromebook instead of an iPad.
Not just a laptop
You know how when you start your computer, you have to wait a whole minute or more before you can click on your web browser? (If you don't know what a web browser is, it's the "E" that you click on to get to the Internet.) Apparently, Google does too. That's why the company made the Chromebook a laptop that's nothing but a web browser. Chromebooks take only eight seconds to start up, and they don't get viruses or give you pop-ups or nag you to install updates.
So, basically, imagine a laptop that's as easy to use as an iPad, and that's a Chromebook. The biggest difference between the two is that a Chromebook uses a keyboard and touchpad instead of a multitouch screen. (You can plug in a mouse, too.)
What about the apps?
Chromebooks will have their own app store -- you can visit it now, if you want. And you can access the apps you install from any computer that uses the Chrome web browser, including a Mac or Windows PC.
Share it with a friend
The reason you can get to your apps from anywhere is because you log into Chromebooks using your Google account, and your apps are all on the Internet. So, if you let your friend use your Chromebook, she can log in using her account and get access to all of her apps and things instead of yours. That means you'll be able to share a Chromebook more easily than you can share an iPad, since everyone who uses a single iPad sees the same apps, including the ones that have your personal data.
3G for free
Not only does a 3G iPad cost more than a regular iPad, you then have to pay a subscription fee to use 3G wireless Internet: The AT&T 3G iPads start at $15 for 200 MB of data per month. 3G Chromebooks give you 100 MB of data per month free through Verizon Wireless -- enough to check on your favorite sites every now and then when you're away from a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Since Chromebooks do everything online, if you already use web apps like Google Docs on your home computer, you'll be able to pick up right where you left off on your Chromebook. Most iPad apps, like Apple's own iWork apps, don't work so seamlessly with your home computer's.
Why buy iPad?
Apple's iPads have their own advantages. In a lot of ways, they really are magical, and their apps are fun ways to do things that a lot of us couldn't imagine using a "computer" for.
Chromebooks aren't really designed to replace iPads. They just might replace your Windows computer or Mac, though. And if you have a computer at home, and were thinking of buying something lightweight to carry around and go on the Internet with, you ought to consider a Chromebook once they're released. They'll start at $349 for Wi-Fi only models, according to PC World, and, again, they'll be available starting June 15.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.