This has been the year of the Chromebook

I’ll wager that there are two terms you hardly used in 2019, if you knew them at all. One, of course, is “Zoom.”  The other is “Chromebook.” The last 12 months would have been quite different if it weren’t for those two things, that’s for sure

My history with Chromebooks

Believe it or not Chromebooks hit my radar back in 2011 when I wrote an article for another publication called “The Chromebooks are coming.” In it, I wrote:

…it is the latest iteration of what’s previously been called “thin client computing.” Every five to seven years since computers left the lab, the trend swings to the idea that it is easier to manage costs and eliminate complexity by storing more on a server and using less powerful computers to access it. Those old enough to remember “green screen terminals” witnessed a popular implementation of thin client computing. In the past, thin client computing failed in the marketplace because users wanted more capabilities and more control. With increased power, however, comes increased responsibility. As it turns out, many users are not interested in being their own IT directors.

Chromebooks did not initially take off in the marketplace, though. I revisited the tech back in 2014, with this article. Chromebooks, at least back then, were a flop.

And then, well, you know what happened.

You might have heard of Chromebooks in the years that followed. Maybe one of your kids used one at school, but it was at school and you probably didn’t have a lot of access to it. Then of course about a year ago school became home, and home became work, and well you hardly need me to explain all of that to you.

And all of a sudden that Chromebook became the only way your kid understood the world. And you were glad about it too, because all you needed to do was connect it to Wi-Fi and man, it just worked.

Schools really have led the way when it comes to Chromebook adoption, but they aren’t the only ones using the technology. Control-seeking IT directors have started implementing Chromebooks and their desktop equivalent, Chromeboxes, in an attempt to streamline the work-from-home experience.

Will Chromebooks hang around when today’s crisis is over?

While it’s hard to predict what the world will look like in the next few months, I think Chromebooks have made a permanent impact. In the last ten years, Chrome OS has become much more stable and powerful. There is very little you can’t do on a Chromebook now, unless you’re a serious creative.

Not only that, the impact of the Chromebook is being felt throughout the computing world. Microsoft has tried to implement a “thin client” solution for almost 20 years. There hasn’t been a lot of success there. Still, their latest efforts are likely to finally pay off. Several sources say that a new generation of devices, running Windows as a “thin operating system,” are due in the next several years. These devices will be reliant on Microsoft’s 365 services in the same way that Chromebooks rely on Google’s.

IT directors are no doubt salivating and workers are already panicking. But, I think in most enterprises this will end up being a good thing. Hopefully, the average worker experience will suffer from fewer interruptions. We’ve all stopped our workflows to force a reboot for Windows updates. Hopefully with new thin-client solutions we’ll see that far less.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.