Considering Acer nVidia K1 Chromebook

Talked about for nearly a year the nVidia Tegra K1 Chromebook arrives via the Acer Chrombook 13 (CB5-311).

How will this Chromebook stack up against the competition? The newly announced nVidia Shield Tablet gives us a glimpse of what the K1 is capable of.

Despite the largely similar clock speeds compared to the Snapdragon 800 we see that the Tegra K1 is generally a step above in performance. Outside of Apple’s A7 SoC and x86 SoCs, NVIDIA is generally solidly ahead of the competition.

When it comes to GPU performance, there’s really no question: the Tegra K1 is easily the fastest in all of our GPU benchmarks. It handily beats every other ARM SoC, including the newest generation of SoCs such as the recently introduced Snapdragon 805 and its Adreno 420 GPU. It’s worth noting that the Snapdragon 805 is likely aimed more at smartphones than tablets, although we are looking at its performance in Qualcomm’s tablet development platform here. Until we get a look at Snapdragon 805 power consumption we can’t really draw any perf/watt conclusions here. Ultimately, the only thing that can top the Shield Tablet is Surface Pro line, which uses more powerful laptop-class hardware.

Source: AnandTech

For $279 you get the following.

  • NVIDIA Tegra K1 Quad Core 2.1 GHz Processor
  • 2 GB DDR3L SDRAM
  • 16 GB Internal Storage
  • 13.3-Inch Screen, NVIDIA Kepler GPU with 192 NVIDIA CUDA cores
  • 1366 x 768 pixels Screen Resolution
  • Chrome OS
  • 802.11 A/C WiFi
  • 13-hour battery life

For $379 you get all of the above and the following.

  • 4 GB DDR3L SDRAM
  • 32 GB Internal Storage
  • 1920 x 1080 pixels Screen Resolution
  • 11-hour battery life

As good as the above looks, I do not expect the early reviews to be kind.

CPU Performance

The first complaint will be the anticipated K1 Google Octane score of 7628 (some are suggesting it may achieve 8000). The new Acer C720 (Core i3-4005U, 4GB RAM) boasts an Octane score of 14530. The Acer C720 (Celeron 2955U, 2GB RAM) boasts an Octane score of 11502. Admittedly this added power comes at the expense of battery life but the rated 7.5 hours from these Intel powered Chromebooks is adequate and many feel an Octane score of 11000 is the minimum required to support a quality Chrome OS user experience.

TN Screen Panel

Manufactures are reluctant to offer IPS screen panel options. The reason is the Education market and cost. Education is a big driver in today’s Chromebook market and TN quality displays are considered adequate.

Build Quality

For a laptop priced at less than $400 unibody polycarbonate plastic is acceptable as long as it doesn’t flex or bend. Historically Chromebooks from Acer have been criticized for their build quality.

Saving Grace

GPU Performance

As noted in the Shield Tablet review the Kepler GPU is best in class. Assuming the keyboard and track pad perform well and the TN panel does a reasonably good job in displaying content, the GPU could move this Chromebook to the head of the class.

Gaming

You don’t really think of a Chromebook as a gaming console but if you are targeting a teen to young adult audience, gaming may be the item which closes the deal.

We game on all our devices, so why should a Chromebook be any different? With the upcoming launch of addicting games like Miss Take and Oort, along with the promise of great titles thanks to the adoption of WebGL in Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5, the future of Chromebooks is looking really fun.

Source: TegraZone

Are you considering the Acer nVidia K1 Chromebook? The standard and HD models are up for pre-order on Amazon.

Is The HP Chromebook 11 Dead? (It’s Back)

Happy Chromebook

Update

Without fanfare the HP Chromebook 11 is sliding back into circulation. I think this is a good thing as other manufacturers are queuing products for introduction in the coming months.

The timing could not be worse as the $3.00 charger which this device so disparately depends is allegedly prone to over heating. It is hard to say how many of the chargers are defective but like a fire alarm, when the alarm sounds you leave the building.

At the time of this writing the HP Chromebook 11 does not exist. Removed from the retail shelves of stores like Best Buy and erased from the Google Play store.

I spoke with Google about this matter and the long story short is they are trying to figure out what to do.

The sad truth is no matter how this spins, it will not end well as the biggest shopping season of the year is upon us. Right now the #2 HP Chromebook 11 has been replace by the ASUS Transformer Book T100TA Window 8 convertible on Amazon’s best seller list. Not long ago the top four best selling where Chromebooks.

Problem #1 – Reasonable doubt

In the minds of many consumers who may consider purchasing a HP Chromebook 11 in the future the product is flawed.

Problem #2 – Resolving the issue

Profit on this type of product is part cost of goods and part processing. For inventory on hand, someone will have to reprocess each item and replace the charger.

For inventory in production, old chargers will have to be discarded and replaced with new.

Problem #3 – Convincing the public the problem is fixed

This is related to problem #1. If the new charger resembles the old how will I know its not the same? My advice would be to make sure the new charger looks different even if its a small bright colored label attached to the cable.

Problem #4 – Satisfying current owners

As a Chromebook 11 owner I really don’t know much about what is going on and the risks of using the device.

  1. Does my charger get warm? (Yes).
  2. Will it erupt into flames and cause a fire? (Don’t know).
  3. How will Google make this right? (TBD)

Google’s advice is don’t use the charger. Ok – I guess that means I share the adapter provided with my cell phone, find another adapter, or purchase a replacement. If I use another adapter and damage my Chromebook is that my bad or Googles?

And last – as fast charging is the mitigation to poor battery life using a cell phone charger is not the best solution.

The official info is posted to the following links.

Chromebook Blogspot

Chromebook Support Page

Chromebook Pro

Dev Chromebook

With brisk budget Chromebook sales (Amazon’s top four best selling laptops) the latest gossip is Google is focusing on 2014 performance Chromebooks targeted toward developers and the enterprise.

This is an important step in the evolution of the Chromebook and Google needs to get this right. As it is with cell phones, users often shop hardware before joining an ecosystem. A good example is Amazon who has priced their Kindle tablets very competitively as profits will be made from product sales.

Although tech reviewers cite Chrome OS is an impediment to Chromebook adoption, I disagree. There are certainly other budget laptops available running Windows OS. On Amazon, the ASUS Transformer Book T100 running WIndows 8.1 is the 5th most popular laptop.

Using the ASUS Transformer Pad T701TF and the Microsoft Surface 2 with the keyboard dock as the bar, the price point needs to be $599 or less.

Design Options

To get the design right look to lessons learned from previously Chromebook releases and don’t fix what isn’t broke. For comparisons I am using the newly introduced HP Chromebook 11.

Screen

The number one compliment for the Chromebook 11 is the 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 IPS screen.

The target for Chromebook Pro needs to be a 1920 x 1080 (HD) or 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA) IPS/IGZO screen with good to great Color Accuracy.

Keyboard

The second most complimented feature of the Chromebook 11 is the chiclet keyboard.

The target for the Chromebook Pro should be the same with the addition of back lighting.

Case

The Chromebook 11 case is a well designed vent-less unit weighing 2.3 lb/ 1.04 kg. The magnesium reinforced poly carbonate case is a good mix but I would do something similar to the Moto X as to finish.

The target for the Chromebook Pro should be the functional and pleasing to the eye.

Connectivity

The Chromebook 11 supports 2 stream dual-band 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, and optional 3G/4G LTE.

The target for the Chromebook Pro should be the same.

I/O

The Chromebook 11 supports 2 x USB 2.0, VGA webcam, microUSB for charging/SlimPort video out, and a headphone/mic jack.

The Chromebook Pro should support 2 x USB 3.0, VGA webcam, MicroSD™ Memory Slot, microUSB charging/SlimPort video out, and a headphone/mic jack.

Battery

The Chromebook 11 supports 6 hours of battery operation.

The Chromebook Pro should support a minimum of 8 hours of battery operation.

Processor

The Chromebook 11 has the Samsung Exynos 5250 (dual-core Cortex A15 1.7GHz + ARM Mali-T604 GPU). This may be adequate but it is a hard sale.

The Chromebook Pro should support a high end Samsung, nVidia, Qualcomm ARM SoC or on the Intel side of the fence a Celeron 2955U Haswell or Clover Trail processor.

LG Chrome Device?

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It certainly looks like LG will launch some sort of Chrome device as evidenced by the trademark application submitted recently.

tmWatch writes LG has submitted trademark applications for the following.

  • ChromeOne
  • ChromeStation
  • ChromeDesk

Quoted from the application …

Class 9: Projectors; head phones; mobile phones; television receivers; speakers for television; universal serial bus (USB) drives; monitors for computers; laptop computers; computers; digital versatile disc (DVD) players; portable hard disk drives for computer; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; computer application software; audio receivers; settop boxes; car speakers; speakers for home theaters; audio-video (AV) receivers for home theaters; convertible computers; tablet computers

Coming to the party fashionably late does have its advantages. If LG were to follow HP’s lead and offer a similar quality mid-range Chromebook with a Snapdragon 600 or 800 SoC, backlit keyboard, and all day operation from the battery; I believe this would be an instant success.

LG does have a strong relationship with Qualcomm.

HP Chromebook 11 – Baby Steps

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I will admit when I first saw the new HP Chromebook, I was pleasantly surprised. My first impression was this is a step in the right direction.

The design is a bit retro with glossy elements and appropriately placed rubber strips. Available in black or white, and if you select white you can pick one of four accent colors – Google red, green, blue, and yellow. Although the polish was a conscious decision, it would be interesting to see this design in a matt finish. The corners are rounded and the frame magnesium reinforced to give it a solid feel while remaining light in hand (2.3 pounds, or 1.04kg, to be exact). The construction is solid but you may get a creak or squeak while handling.

The placement of ports is functional with the left edge housing all the ports and connections which includes the following.

  • Combination headphone / mic jack
  • (2) USB 2.0 ports
  • Micro-USB connection (support for SlimPort video out)

The micro-USB connector is used for charging the device and the practicality of this is significant. It uses the same cable included in all Android devices for this purpose. The only drawback to this solution is charging the battery is slow – about 4 hours slow.

As is becoming the standard in Google Chromebooks, storage is limited to 16GB and there is no SD card slot.

This Chromebook is the first budget device to use an IPS panel capable of displaying a 60% Color Gamut supporting a 178 degree viewing angle and achieving 300 nits of brightness. The 1366×768 resolution for an 11.6-inch display is not as bad as it sounds as some will remember this was the standard for the Macbook not so long ago. I would have considered a matte finished to reduce glare, but the presentation will not disappoint.

The Chiclet keyboard is very acceptable with well-placed keys which provided good tactile feedback. The track pad did not fare so well. In some cases it lagged which meant I had to work a little harder than anticipated for the system to register my input. At least two-finger scrolling worked well.

This Chromebook did failed on one key portability test; battery life. The 4 to 6 hours of operation from the battery falls short of the new standard of 8 hours. There is a fall back as there are many spare battery devices on the market designed for smartphones which can be used with this device as a result of its micro-USB connector.

From Google’s perspective, this product may to the ying to the Chromebook Pixel yang – acceptable quality at an affordable price.

I don’t know how HP and Google decided on the retail price target of $279. I can’t help but feel due to the nature of Chrome OS most folks view this as a tablet replacement with a keyboard and not a laptop which probably explains the outcry over the price of the Pixel.

At this price it is difficult to make the right decisions on what to include but for the most part the Chromebook 11 got it right.

I believe consumers are willing to pay more, how about the same price as a tablet with a folio keyboard, for a device that includes the items the Chromebook 11 left out. If I were to introduce a Chromebook 11 Pro I would bulk up the SoC to something like a Tegra 4, improve the trackpad, beef up the battery, matt the glossy finish (Moto X style), and add backlit keys. HP certainly has expertise in this area as evidenced by the Slate X2.

I bet all this can be done for a retail price of $399.

Dual OS Chromebook

Android Chromebooks

It’s not easy being a Chromebook supporter these days. Since the launch of the Pixel on February 21st, Google has not had much to say on the topic of new Chromebook products but Microsoft is about to change all of that.

ASUS Officially Withdraws from Windows RT

A couple of weeks ago, ASUS CEO Jonney Shih announced the company has officially decided to pull out of the Windows RT market. Shih stated in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “It’s not only our opinion, the industry sentiment is also that Windows RT has not been successful.”

Filling the Enterprise Void

Forrester: Enterprises should seriously consider Chromebooks.

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ASUS already has an Android solution on their roadmap named the “Transformer Pad Infinity”. This is a refresh of their current product and the specifications include a 10.1-inch 2560 x 1600 IPS display, a Tegra 4 processor, and 2GB of RAM. Asus promises the tablet will have enough power to output 4K video through its HDMI-out port. It will also include a USB 3.0 port, 32GB of storage, an SD card slot in its base, a 5-megapixel camera, and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. As is normal for the company’s Transformer series of laptops, the dock will feature a full QWERTY keyboard, additional ports, and a battery designed to extend the tablet’s life.

ASUS should move this solution to the enterprise as a dual OS Chromebook convertible. Samsung will offer something similar in the Samsung ATIV Q which runs Windows 8 and Android. Its important to note Acer is also looking to expand its Chromebook offerings.

Why does this make sense?

Using Android on the tablet when its not docked is a no-brain-er. Leveraging Chrome OS when the keyboard is attached adds additional value. Providing a “hot key” option to switch between the two empowers the user to use what ever meets their needs at the moment.

This solution also has the potential to leverage resources. I’m not just referring to hardware, but applications as the entire Google Play store becomes available for download (Chrome OS + Android)!

All agree this is a transition period for the PC industry and if manufactures are looking to get back into the game, they need to think out of the box.

Ubuntu Edge – Risky Business

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Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and its open source sponsor Canonical, is making a big splash in a bid to jump start it’s entry into the mobile space by announcing the Ubuntu Edge.

The Ubuntu Edge is a very ambitious smartphone that will be able to run the Ubuntu desktop operating system alongside Android. While the design is a work in progress, the specs should include a fast quad-core CPU (presumably ARM), 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Additional specs include a 4.5-inch 1,280 x 720 display beneath a layer of sapphire crystal glass, an 8MP rear / 2MP front-facing camera and stereo speakers. Connectivity includes LTE, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and MHL support.

Convergence?

Mark speaks of the convergence of technology when he describes this product. The assumption is the newest mobile processors are capable of delivering an acceptable or better desktop experience.

If I were picking today the following is a short list of contenders in no particular order:

  • Samsung Exynos 5420
  • nVidia Tegra 4
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • Intel Atom Z2580

I have no way to validate this assumption other than look at other products like the Samsung Chromebook which features an Exynos 5 Dual.

The performance of the Samsung Chromebook is so good I forget it’s not an Intel processor inside, which says a lot. Playing 1080p video shows lags at times, but all other video plays just fine. I have no complaints about the user experience offered by the ARM processor.

Source – James Kendrick, ZDNet

Chrome OS leverages the power of internet web servers but Ubuntu in this scenario will have to perform the heavy lifting. I have to question the ability of a mobile processor to adequately run a graphic program like Inkscape.

Putting all of that aside, I am a fan of convergence. In addition to a desktop I own a smartphone, 7″ tablet, and a laptop. I would like to reduce the number of portable devices and I am waiting for either a more powerful Chromebook (not pixel) or a Laptop Convertible like the new ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity. My current strategy is to go with a large phone, remove the tablet, and add a Chromebook or Convertible.

The jury is still out as to whether I am willing to give up my desktop but with the Edge, the assumption is I can.

What Are The Risks?

Time
May of 2014 is a very very long time in this market and a lot can change. The Indiegogo campaign is a marketing stroke of genius, but upon its success the demand will be documented and who is to say someone else won’t bring a competitive product to market sooner. I am thinking of the LG G2 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 as a candidate. Some folks already believe Android is a suitable replacement as a desktop OS. An alternate Google approach could be Android on the phone and Chrome OS on the desktop? With the phone’s built in connectivity this is appealing.

Misdirected Effort
Although stated in the campaign Ubuntu and Canonical are not getting into the hardware business, what other conclusion can one draw. The anticipated build quality of the Edge promises to be very high but what lessons can be learned from the HTC One? Even with millions in sales and carrier endorsements HTC struggles.

Boxed In Marketing
You have to ask the question is Canonical targeting the correct market segment. Other companies believe there is significant pent up demand for the mid-range smart phone. The new Motorola “X” is targeting the middle and rumors say Apple will offer a product which does the same. Canonical software competitors Mozilla and Jolla have products entering the market targeted at the middle.

Another potential challenge is linking the software to a specific hardware product. What options do interested customers have if they like the software but I don’t like the phone? What if they like the phone but their carrier doesn’t support it?

Critical Mass
Is 40,000 phones enough to gain traction for future campaigns? Is 32 million to much? I see this as a challenge. As of this writing it appears the campaign will need to generate a million dollars per day to meet their goal.

Contribute!

I am not going to wait until May for an Edge but I contributed to the project anyway. If you are a user of Ubuntu I would encourage you to do the same. Compared to a Microsoft license, twenty or forty dollar contribution is not too much to ask for the opportunity to support the community which built Ubuntu “13.04″.

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Succeed or not, you have to admit the folks at Canonical and the Ubuntu community take thinking out of the box to new heights and I look forward to their success.

Next Chromebooks

Chromebook Parts

The pieces are falling into place to support the introduction of new Chromebooks. I believe Google will attack the market at the extremes.

The Low End

The Greater Clark County School district will distribute approximately 8,000 Samsung Chromebooks to students in grades 3 through 12 for the upcoming school year which begins August 1st. The Glenbrook High School Board of Education stepped into the digital learning age when trustees agreed to issue Samsung Chromebooks to freshmen, sophomores and juniors starting in the 2013-14 year. According to a blog post by Google, Malaysia has decided to adopt Google Apps for 10 million of its students, teachers and parents. In addition, primary and secondary schools will receive Chromebooks. It is obvious the low end Chromebooks are finding success in the Education market.

It’s no secret Linus Torvalds is a fan of Chrome OS and the recent release of the Linux 3.10 kernel brings much needed support for the ARM big.LITTLE architecture.

Samsung Chromebook

Upgrading the Samsung Chromebook to a Exynos 5 Octa SOC is the next logical step now that there is support for it in the kernel. The other added benefit of this SOC and an interest to wireless carriers is its supports for all 20 LTE bands. The only factor which may delay the release is strong demand for this silicon in other products such as the Galaxy S4.

The High End

You would think Google would have to be out of its minds to release another Chromebook Pixel, but I believe they will. Some of this belief is based on Google’s desire to complete with other major players like Apple and Microsoft.

Chromebook Pixel

Google hacker Dinsan Francis discover Chrome OS code references to a “Haswell” prototype named “bolt” and the code also suggests support for touch screen and 4GB of RAM.

As the Haswell MacBook Air will ship with the new Samsung XP941 SSD my guess is the next Pixel will as well.

Other Potential High End Design Changes

Depending on how far Google wants to take this there are other potential design changes. As Chrome OS currently supports touch screen its not too far of a stretch to visualize a Pixel with a detachable keyboard or a screen which hinges in a manner to morph the unit into a tablet.

Another “thinking out of the box” design consideration is stylus support for precision drawing or support for other business applications.

Wrap Up

As always Google and its partners tend to keep their cards close to their chest but Chrome OS continues to evolve and the market continues to mature in its acceptance of cloud computing. As I think about Apple’s iWorks for iCloud and Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 it appears the other major players may be driving this as much as Google.

Chromebook Marketing 101

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I decided to check out my local Wallmart to see if they had the Acer CR7 Chromebook and they did. However, the presentation was not what I hoped for. For your awareness all of the technology in this Walmart was assembled in a single department which included televisions. On this particular day the sales person was assisting a customer with a television.

The laptop display consisted of a single row of products placed side by side separated by a small collection of cleaning accessories. Unlike the televisions which were running a demonstration video clip, without exception the screens on the laptops were black even though most were powered on. The other choices presented to customers included another Acer and a smorgasbord of Dell and HP units. I would consider all of the units low end with the most expensive priced less than $900.

A quick swipe across the touch pad brought the CR7 it to life but the unit was waiting for a login. Ouch! Remember the single sales person was assisting another customer with a television.

A Marketing Failure

Acer C7 Chromebook - 2

The only way a Chromebook will be sold at this Walmart is when the customer has already made the decision to buy it.

What is Chrome OS?

While the manufacturer is selling the hardware Google needs to be selling Chrome OS. Where is that happening? This is the question Google should be answering all of the time! If it were my decision I would have a web site (viz. Chromebook Experience) dedicated to this purpose where folks can discover the power and flexibility of the OS. Mix the content up with video, audio, and explore different kinds of use cases.

  • Chromebook for the professional
  • Chromebook for the college student
  • Chromebook for the young at heart
  • Chromebook for the elderly
  • Chromebook for Gaming

Make it easy to find! If you type in the phase “what is chrome os” in Google search, the response is underwhelming.

Add Value to the Retail Experience

Every Chromebook on every retail shelf should be wired into a presentation that demonstrates why this is a great purchasing decision. Optionally connect the buyer to the Chromebook Experience page if the internet is available. Help the customer realize the Chromebook is the right choice.

No one will purchase a product they either don’t know about or fails to understand the benefits.

Is Mid-Range Chromebook Dead?

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There has been an eerie silence from the Chromebook camp of late. I hoped to hear some Chromebook news from CompuTex but the news was just the opposite.

One can certainly argue whether the following are tablets or laptops but for this post let’s agree on the term “Hybrid” (viz. a tablet with a keyboard). At CompuTex hybrids were all the rage and you have to consider if the design of the Microsoft Surface isn’t driving the market today.

The following are two good Android examples of the concept.

ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity

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  • 10.1-inch 2560×1600 IPS display
  • 1.9GHz quad-core Tegra 4 processor
  • 32GB built-in storage, SD card slot
  • 2GB RAM
  • 5-megapixel rear, 1.2-megapixel front cameras
  • 4K Ultra HD output over HDMI
  • $500 – $600

HP SlateBook x2

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  • 10.2-inch 1900×1200 IPS display
  • 1.8GHz quad-core Tegra 4 processor
  • 16GB built-in storage, SD card slot
  • 2GB RAM
  • 1080p rear, 720p front cameras
  • $470

Samsung June 20th Product Launch – No Chromebooks

The Samsung June product launch is over and it was a big day for Microsoft with Samsung showcasing the following Windows 8 products.

  1. ATIV Tab 3
  2. ATIV One 5
  3. ATIV Book 9 Plus
  4. ATIV Book 9 Light
  5. ATIV Q

The ATIV Q is a chameleon product running Windows 8 and Android. When asked about Chromebooks, Samsung confirmed it will not be refreshing it current mid range Chromebooks.

The Big Chromebook Back To School Gamble

The result of abandoning the middle ground is Google and its partners have boxed the Chromebook into a dull uninteresting position. In the US, the month of July begins the annual back to school marketing period. Apparently Acer is betting its Google chips on a low cost solution; specifically the Acer $199 C710-2856 with an SSD. The specs are minimal which means it comes with a modest Intel Celeron 847 processor running at 1.1 GHz, 2GB of RAM, and an 11.6-inch LED-backlit display with a 1366×768 resolution.

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The marketing goal is to make this product broadly available at retailers like Walmart, BestBuy, and Staples. If price is the deciding factor it could be very successful but when shoppers walk into these retailers they may very well see competing products like the HP SlateBook x2, Samsung ATIV, or Microsoft Surface. In addition there may be a vast assortment of heavily discounted Windows 8 Ivy Bridge solutions.

Will the value be apparent when surrounded by these products?

The irony of all of this is the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity or the HP SlateBook x2 would have made great Chromebooks.

Ubuntu – A Replacement for Chrome OS

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In the broadest sense Chrome OS is a consumer of Google Services. But it is not alone in this role. This topic has been broadly discussed in the context of Google services for Apple’s iOS and others. I am thinking of Google Maps and Google Now.

I’ve been on the fence relative to Chrome OS; I’m waiting for it to mature to the level where it offers something I can not get elsewhere. In many ways Chrome OS will not be wildly successful until it does.

In addition to being a supporter of Chrome OS and I am also an avid supporter of Ubuntu. I recently discovered if you add the Chrome Browser (Version 27.0.1453.81 beta) to Ubuntu 13.04 something magical happens. View the image at the top of this post as evidence.

I have Ubuntu running with all of my Google Chrome apps docked to the Unity launcher.

If this excites you then the next question becomes how hard is it to make the transformation? The answer is easy.

Install Chrome Beta

I was only able to get this to work using the Chrome beta package from Google. To be clear, Chrome stable from Google or the Ubuntu Software Centre did not work. A little frustrating is the fact the installation of the Google package throws an error.

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Rumor has it a fix is coming, but until it arrives install the dependent “libudev0″ file from launchpad.

  • For Ubuntu 13.04 32 bit click here
  • For Ubuntu 13.04 64 bit click here

Next – download the Chrome installation package from here.

Open and install with the Ubuntu Software Centre by right clicking from Nautilus.

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Add Your Apps to Chrome

When Chrome is installed, the next item of business is to add your apps from the Chrome Web Store. If you have sync enabled, login and they will install from the cloud.

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Update Ubuntu Unity

The last step is to update Unity with your Google Chrome Apps. Open Chrome and go to the apps page. Right click the desired app and select “create shortcuts”.

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Ubuntu will prompt for the location(s) of the shortcut; select applications menu.

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Close Chrome and open Unity and select applications. Scroll through the application list until the Chrome app you just installed appears and click to open. When the Chrome apps loads right click the icon on the launcher to lock it into place. Repeat with other apps until you are satisfied with the result.

Wrap Up

The result of all this is Chrome apps are first class citizens on the Ubuntu desktop. In addition, all of your local apps are available. The advantages of this solution are numerous. For one, your’re not locked into Google hardware if you already have your own or prefer something different. You also benefit from the other features of Ubuntu which include messaging and fast execution. The only disadvantage is this is not Chrome OS.

I will admit I love living in the cloud or on the fringes of the cloud as I feel I have access to whatever I need whenever I want it.

The only issue I have is the lack of apps in some cases. For example, I am looking for an adequate replacement for the graphic applications Gimp and Inkscape. They may or may not exist.

Either way the Ubuntu Chrome solution is a good fit.

Chromebook Yoga

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Thinking about a touch enabled Chrome OS started my brain to consider where Google may be going with the OS and supporting Chromebook hardware. The rumors of a tablet version of Chrome OS has lead some to believe Chrome OS is being fitted as the successor to Android but I believe it is heading in a completely different direction.

Observations From the Trenches

Where I work laptops are quickly becoming a relic and the new norm is keyboard enabled tablets. I believe Microsoft and other manufacturers observed the same thing which lead to the birth of the laptop convertible, tablet PC, or hybrid laptop.

But adding a keyboard to a tablet presents a few challenges.

Use Cases

Keyboard Attached

Chromebook Yoga

The easy part is when the keyboard is attached. Simply put it becomes a laptop and the keyboard is not in the way because it is being used. The engineering challenges become building a keyboard which offers a pleasant typing experience. My experience with the Microsoft Surface RT touch cover is it behaves just the way it looks and the tactual feedback is an adjustment. Some manufactures are offering a raised key cover which is a step in the right direction.

Keyboard Detached

Chromebook Yoga

The problem with many tablet keyboards is; what do you do with them when you don’t want or need them? Whether its “blue tooth” or “physically connected” an undocked keyboard quickly becomes excess baggage.

Introducing the Chromebook Yoga Concept

The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga makes so much sense for a Chromebook it hurts. The design concept is fiendishly clever and incredibly functional. Lenovo must agree as they already have three Yoga models; 11, 13, and the just announced 11s.

For Google the implementation is easy as the design is fully cooked waiting for the installation of the OS. In this scenario the value of a touch based Chrome OS becomes blatantly clear.

Opportunities for Improvement

I strongly suggest swapping out the Tegra 3 SoC in the Yoga 11 to a Tegra 4 and use Haswell (Intel) silicon in the 11s and 13 to improve battery life. In all models I would upgrade to a HD quality display.

As Chrome OS code updates already reveal the testing of new ARM and Intel Haswell hardware, I would really like to see a Chromebook Yoga.

Read more about this product here.

The Future of the Next Chromebook

With Google’s latest earnings call CEO Larry Page spoke about the serious part of the company’s future and it appears hardware will play an important role.

Although many of the next Chromebook details remained cloaked in secrecy, one can easily assume they will be pumping sexy quad core processors ready to impress. Courtesy of a Google + blog post, it now appears Google is evaluating three different ARM prototypes in addition to new Intel units.

Next Chromebook 2446-001

Currently Being Tested by Code Name

  • Peach Pit (ARM)
  • Sonic (ARM)
  • Puppy (ARM)
  • Haswell (Intel)

I believe all of the above prototypes will share the following characteristics.

1. High Resolution Display
Regardless of the size of the display, the pixel density will qualify has HD. All of the potential next generation SoC’s support “Retina” like display densities and the market will soon demand it.

2. Thrifty and Powerful Quad Core CPU
There is growing market pressure to build powerful yet frugal SoC’s and all of the major players have stepped up with new processor designs to meet the challenge.

My short list includes:
  • NVIDIA Tegra 4
  • Samsung Exynos Octa 5
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • Intel Haswell, possibly Clover Trail Atom

Next Chromebook 2446-002

3. Functional & Stylish
Intel is pushing the Ultra book, Apple the Macbook, and Google the Chromebook Pixel. All of these products set the bar all new entrants to the market will need to observe. Microsoft’s blended design approach with the Surface (leveraging a tablet with optional keyboard) is a not an approach I see future Chromebooks adopting.

4. Improved OS
Not all of the improvements will come from hardware as the Chrome OS team is hard at work adding new features and polishing existing functions with the goal of improving the Chromebook user experience. One exciting new item heading to Chrome OS (Chrome as well) is the very popular Google Now and rich notifications.

Next Chromebook 2446-020

If you have an interest in the latest Chrome OS developments follow this Google + site.

5. Affordable
The real lesson learned from the Chromebook Pixel is the market will not invest in a $1400 Chromebook when a Nexus 10 and keyboard can be purchased for less than $600. Intel forecasts $200 to $300 touch enabled “bay trail” laptops this year. I consider these Netbook replacements and believe the top end will settle in around $600.

The Candidates

Google Nexus
Google needs to continue to lead the way with a scaled down Pixel design. Although I would love to see an ARM design it will probably be Intel.

HP
HP hinted some time back it would deliver a NVIDIA Tegra 4 device.

Samsung
It would be very easy for Samsung to upgrade its current offering by adding the Exynos Octa 5 SoC and bumping up screen resolution.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
Tim McDonough, Vice President of Marketing at Qualcomm, states the Snapdragon 800 is targeted to smartphones, tablets, and computers. This SoC would be a great choice for a Chromebook from Asus, Acer or Lenovo.

Android on Chrome OS

There has been much speculation that Google was setting the wheels in motion which would result in the merger of Android and Chrome OS. Maybe one day, but not today according to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

Not to say there are not benefits as there are, but Android is doing too well for this type of change. I believe the changes to Chrome OS will be more subtle.

The use case for this will be driven by Google Now; the information you want when you need it.

Imagine opening your Chromebook to the screen above. The left panel is titled “My Library” and contains recent content and is totally integrated with Google Drive and the web. If I was recently working on a word processing document the chances are good I may want open it again. If I was just reading an article from Discovery magazine the chances are good I may want to continue. You get the idea; a smart widget with predictive behavior.

On the right side of the screen are notifications. This includes weather, calendar, social, system, “Google Now” and email. This functionality is already under development. To keep all of this sane, it will be configurable.

In the final analysis is this Android on Chrome OS?

Not really; but it is what I hope to see at Google-IO 13!

Why the NVIDIA T4 Chromebook will best Pixel

The dust is beginning to settle from the release of the Chromebook Pixel and the editorials are focusing on what this means.

It all about setting expectations. The Chromebook Pixel proudly states cloud computing is here, is ready for prime time, and is deserving of a premium device.

But the Pixel has an architectural flaw most folks recognize.

  • Do you need an Intel® Core™ i5 Dual Core Processor in order to leverage the web?
  • Do you need an Intel® HD Graphics 4000 GPU to render a 2560 x 1700 screen?
  • Do you need to spend $1,300 for a Pixel like user experience?

The answer to all of these questions is – NO! The nVidia Tegra 4 is a smart Chromebook choice and here is why. Of the currently available SoC’s it delivers on key requirements.

Screen Resolution

The big selling point of the Pixel is the screen.

  • 12.85″ display with a 3:2 aspect ratio
  • 2560 x 1700, at 239 PPI
  • 400 nit screen
  • 178° extra-wide viewing angle

Tegra 4 is capable of outputting 1080p @ 120Hz, full hardware encode/decode for video up to 2560×1440 (1440p), and a maximum output resolution of 3820×2160 (4K). This GPU prowess is evidenced by the Vizio announcement a forth coming Tegra 4 tablet which will feature the same fantastic 2560 x 1600 resolution found on the Nexus 10.

In summary it looks like nVidia has the chops to deliver the same or better display experience as the Pixel.

Computing Horsepower

Does the Tegra 4 have more computing horse power than an Intel Core i5-3427U? Of coarse not, but does it have enough to deliver a high quality user experience?

Barron’s reports the following.

At MWC, the company (nVidia) continued its product reve- lation by disclosing new details of the architecture and its capabilities (as well as limitations). Judging from this pre- liminary information, Tegra 4 rates as the highest-perform-ing mobile ARM processor—if power constraints don’t throttle the cores. This performance takes aim at Qual- comm’s newest Snapdragon processors; Nvidia offered a wide range of benchmark results that clearly showed Tegra 4 leading both the APQ8064 and (judging from our estimates) the forthcoming Snapdragon 800 […] We also estimated the performance of the Snap- dragon Series 800, assuming that it will achieve its rated 2.3GHz clock speed and applying a 10% gain to represent the improvements from the Krait 200 CPU to the Krait 400 CPU. This approach is probably optimistic, as most bench- mark scores do not improve linearly with CPU speed, although the Series 800 will also get a boost from faster DRAM. Based on these estimates, even Qualcomm’s best processor, which is due to enter production at about the same time as Tegra 4, won’t surpass Nvidia in these tests.

The Tegra 4 also completes well with current Chromebooks using the Intel Celeron 847 processor. CPU Boss rates the Tegra very favorably over the Intel 847 and the faster 847E.

Pricing

Pricing is difficult to establish as it is often tied to volume but the estimated the price of an Intel 847 is $70, the Intel Core i5-3427U is $120, and the nVidia Tegra 4 is $40. As a SoC, the Tegra 4 is affordable.

Android Support

Chrome OS Android The wild card to all of this is the rumored pending native support of Android Apps on Chrome OS. Although this is a break in the original vision of Chrome OS, it offers a very practical outcome. A good example is Google Music. There may be times when I want to listen to music when the internet is not available. Although Intel is making progress with Android, the bulk of the software is written for ARM and unless you plan take a Blue Stack approach, one can assume a Chrome OS Android synergy would be more easily achieved on ARM.

Wrap-up

Google would go a long way in advancing Chrome OS, the Chrome Box, and Chromebook by releasing under the it’s own brand, or collaborating with partners to release under their brand, products leveraging this technology.

It is reasonable to assume an elegant solution which supports a Pixel like user experience can be delivered to the consumer in the $500 to $600 (US) price range. I would love to see this happen at Google IO-13 but there is already a-lot on deck with the rumored Nexus 5, Nexus 7.7, Project Glass, and the anticipated Android Key Lime Pie release. Although – Google normally shows Chrome OS some love at Google IO, and now that the Pixel is in the wild; you never know.

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