No one anticipated a lot from the particular first Chromebooks, announced ten years ago on May 11, 2011. After most, they came in the heels of the Netbook era, when low-cost, low-power notebooks were first seen since a panacea for expensive tech, but ended up overselling their limited functionality. And after spending a couple of years struggling to get Windows-running, Intel-Atom-powered Netbooks to do much of anything of good use, I was not optimistic about a personal computer platform that seemed even more constrained from the box. 

ChromeOS, announced early in the day in 2011, didn’t seem like much of an operating system at all in my opinion at the time. It was essentially just the same Chrome web browser already in wide use, having a keyboard and screen wrapped around it. The platform’s biggest glaring omission was your ability to install and run software. Who would ever want what was essentially a browser in a box? 

A decade later, Google’s affordable laptop concept remains kicking — and even thriving. During the COVID-19 crisis, Chromebooks helped students and workers stay connected whilst stuck at home. It appears like the Chromebook was initially before its time, and even it took an outbreak for its full possible to be realized.

A new budget challenger

The initial Chromebook models were introduced exactly 10 years back, May 11, 2011, from the Google I/O discussion in San Francisco. They incorporated models from Samsung and even Acer, still two involving the bigger names within Chromebooks. At time, CNET reporter Maggie Reardon wrote:

Samsung and Acer will every single be offering Chromebook laptop computers starting June 15. The Samsung Chromebook will cost $429 for that Wi-Fi only version and even $499 for the 3 G version. Acer’s Wi-Fi only Chromebook will definitely cost $349.

Amazingly, $350-$450 remains pretty common to get an entry-level Chromebook a good decade later, making all these one of the very few tech products that have got not measurably increased within price over the earlier 10 years. 

As a long-time proponent involving budget-priced laptops and desktop computers, I often say persons buy too much pc for their needs, in particular if those needs intensely skew toward basic world wide web browsing, buying online, social multimedia, email and video visiting. Living life completely within the web browser tends to make sense today, but this was a tough offer for sale back in 2011 as soon as there was fewer cloud-based program tools. And I weren’t the only person who thought thus. From that initial 2012 dispatch

Michael Gartenberg, the analyst with Gartner, stated the truth that the browser is usually limited to Chrome may be a factor, given that competing products offer whole lot more capability and flexibility from roughly comparable pricing. “It’s pretty interesting,” he or she said. “But at all these prices, will consumers purchase it? At $499, that will gets you a quite capable Netbook or perhaps an iPad.” 

My colleague Scott Stein said since much that same week. 

For $499, this Samsung Series 5 Chromebook features its work minimize to get it — namely, due to the fact tablets and even “high-end” 11- and 12-inch laptops and Netbooks (some with speedier processors) have already busy exactly the same landscape. It’s a good question we have been pondering to get a while now, writ again: What truly makes up the perfect small-screen compact?


An early Chromebook via Lenovo. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

A decade later, iPads and even Chromebooks are still struggling for your casual research attention. Both could become found for under $400, and premium versions involving both top $1,500. The biggest shift is usually that Chromebooks have turn into a bit more iPad-like, adding access to this Google Play app-store, while iPads have become more laptop-like, adding mouse and touch pad support. 

The initial taste of ChromeOS

It weren’t until I started proceeding down the decade-long have a hole of Chromebook historical past that I remembered this one Chromebook that predated this May 11, 2012 launch. It was Google’s own Cr-48 Chromebook, a good prototype machine offered within 2010 to select aviator program invitees. These plain-looking black boxes had a good 12.1-inch, 1,280×800-pixel display, 3G mobile internet connection and an Intel Atom N455 CPU. 

The virtually all interesting footnote is a good surprisingly forthright admission via Google to prospective Cr-48 testers: “The Pilot program is usually not for the pass out of heart. Things may not always work perfect.” Ironically, Chromebooks have grown to be successful by exhibiting the contrary behavior. They’re the ideal laptop for the pass out of heart and issues usually work right. 

This vintage gallery teaches you just how generic this Cr-48 looked and indeed, it had a VIDEO GRAPHICS ARRAY port. 


Google’s initial Cr-48 Chromebook prototype. 


Josh Miller/CNET

But what have we think from the initial consumer Chromebooks? The initial Samsung Chromebook won praise from our colleague Josh Goldman to be efficient, compared to Windows laptop computers of the time. 

Since everything is Web-based there is a relaxing lack of bloatware. Clicking the Home button within the browser brings people right to your assortment of Chrome Web apps, that are just bookmarks to websites. The experience is in fact enjoyable, especially if people already have a Google account set up … After just a little use, though, this Chromebook’s shine starts in order to wear off. For all of us it started when most of us needed to open a good ZIP file and were being greeted with an unsupported extendable error. 

We also reviewed an early on Acer model called this C7, which dropped the price to an extraordinary $199. But our 2012 review said it didn’t assess favorably to budget pills and low-end Windows laptop computers: “The Acer C7’s advantages really are a physical keyboard and touch pad, that larger hard commute, as well as the price. The down sides? Seriously short battery lifetime and Chrome’s very unusual, streamlined os.”

Read considerably more: Laptop vs. Chromebook: What’s the and which often works better for you

Turning the corner 

Things continuing like this for several time. Chromebooks ate a good large amount of this budget laptop mindshare since more and more organizations had the act, although these machines continued in order to feel like secondary as well as backup laptops best case scenario. Looking back at the fantastic record, my first “living with a Chromebook” document is at 2013 and they have safe to express that We were still a skeptic. 

We found Chrome OS to be good, but ultimately not to the level of a nearly always OS. In other thoughts, it had been generally fine to get a second computer, although not quite prepared to function as your one and even only go-to PC to get every task.

It definitely wasn’t until 2017 that will I found a Chromebook that worked as properly as a Windows as well as MacOS laptop and didn’t give you too significant os FOMO. This was initially the Samsung Chomebook Pro, which from $550 was miles considerably better than any Windows notebook computer at the same cost. 

There are lots of Windows laptops and even tablets in this price variety (or lower), but no that offer this mixture of a decent design, typically metal construction, lag-free efficiency, long battery life, better-than-HD touchscreen, built-in stylus and even a hybrid hinge that will transforms the system in to a tablet.

It even a new forward-looking 3:2 element ratio display. But the best move that helped Chromebooks go from niche merchandise to mainstream was this then-new ability to obtain the Google Play app retail store. Being able to function nearly any Android app on a Chromebook took away the biggest objection ChromeOS skeptics had — the inability to down load and run local apps. Yes, they were the mobile versions, but it was enough for a lot of tasks. 


The Samsung Chromebook Pro from 2017. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Today, it’s a Chromebook world 

The world changed in March 2020, as school and offices closed because of COVID-19 and so a lot of things moved online. Many families, between remote school and remote work, found they needed one laptop per person and inexpensive Chromebooks found a new audience. These were relatively affordable PCs that were able to access the internet tools that schools and offices were using, including Zoom and Google Classroom. 

Read more: Are Chromebooks worthwhile? Here’s why I recommend them

Through 2020 and 2021, the Chromebook was highlighted among the best tools for students and remote workers, and laptop reviewer Josh Goldman now says a Chromebook is his default recommendation for most people today. Why is that? I think it is because the pandemic-related changes have forced a lot of us to reevaluate what it is we really need our computers to do. As Goldman describes, “After just a little digging, lots of people realize they simply don’t have to do any more than what can be done on the Chromebook.” 

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