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Goodbye Windows — What Google’s Chromebook offers South Africans

Acer, Asus, HP, and Lenovo recently launched a wide range of new Chromebooks in South Africa.

Chromebooks are laptops that run on Google’s ChromeOS, supporting web apps and native Android apps instead of the 32-bit and 64-bit applications many consumers use on Windows.

They are typically geared towards students and professionals that require affordable, compact, high-performing devices with long-lasting batteries.

As the Covid-19 pandemic drove many to work and learn remotely, Chromebooks have seen tremendous growth in 2020 and 2021.

John Solomon, Google’s vice president and general manager of ChromeOS, recently spoke to MyBroadband about the potential Chromebooks had in South Africa.

“We see Chromebooks having a really bright future here. It’s a technology for which the time has arrived,” he stated.

John Solomon, Google vice president and general manager of ChromeOS.

Solomon said one of the big problems with computers running conventional operating systems was the complexity involved in keeping them updated and secure.

“We at Google believe that there is a better solution,” Solomon said.

“A computer should not take an IT department to run it. It should be simple, it should be secure, it should be easy to use, it should be affordable.”

Solomon said when the first Chromebooks were launched about ten years ago, they had most of those parts worked out.

However, one element that was limiting was the number of web-based applications available to users. But this has changed in recent years.

“What you’ve seen happen over the decade, and it has accelerated over the last three or four years, is that app developers are getting on board,” Solomon said.

“Applications are increasingly being written for the cloud, for the web. It gives a developer a lot of versatility.”

“More and more, you are seeing ‘first-class’ apps that work well on a Chromebook. It’s really the right product for where applications are going.” he stated.

In cases where an application is not offered as a web app, it is often available as an Android app, which can run natively on ChromeOS.

Android apps run natively on ChromeOS.

Solomon pointed out that Chromebooks also offered several significant benefits over laptops running other operating systems.

In general, the OS is not as resource-intensive or energy-hungry, meaning Chromebooks can run on less powerful hardware for longer.

Solomon said that machine-learning and fully-fledged updates every four months also meant that Chromebooks effectively became smarter and performed better over time.

“It doesn’t slow down and develop issues over time. It actually improves over time,” Solomon said.

“A Chromebook four years after you bought it performs better than when you bought it.”

Some other  key features include:

  • Low power consumption – All Chromebooks officially sold in South Africa have 10+ hours of battery life.
  • Eminent shareability – Multiple users can log in and get a personalised experience with their own settings and preferences. This makes it cost-effective for classrooms with multiple users.
  • Zero deployment – No IT expertise needed to get up and running, meaning lower costs for businesses.
  • Up-to-date security and features – Complete OS updates every four weeks.

Some consumers might be concerned about whether a Chromebook will work well without Internet connectivity.

South Africans cannot always afford, or might not have access to, a fast broadband connection.

Solomon said that Google worked closely with developers to ensure their apps worked well when the machine was offline.

In addition, the company provided a thorough guide with tips for users on offline usage.

“We’ve designed the product for intermittent connectivity,” he said.

Even so, getting South Africans to switch from Windows to an unfamiliar operating system might prove challenging, given that people are generally resistant to change.

But Solomon explained ChromeOS had two big advantages in this area.

Firstly, many South Africans were familiar with the web browsing experience, particularly on Google’s Chrome browser, which has the biggest market share across the world.

Furthermore, most South Africans accessed the Internet through their smartphones, many of which run Google’s Android OS and apps.

These apps should also feel familiar to them on a Chromebook.

New Chromebook models in South Africa are available from Incredible Connection and HP, starting from R5,999 and going up to R18,999 for premium models.

This article was first published by MyBroadband on the 4 December 2021. 

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