Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Chrome OS: Friend, Threat, or Menace?

Chrome OS: Friend, Threat, or Menace?

By Dennis D. McDonald

I have mixed feelings about the IDC and Gartner reports suggesting that that a major reason for why recent PC sales declines are starting to reverse is the sale of cheap Chromebooks.

I spread my own computer usage time across a MacBook Pro, two Windows 10 machines, and an old laptop running Chrome OS. (The old laptop was running Ubuntu Linux till I lost wireless access after a recent software upgrade). I also use an iPhone and a Kindle Fire tablet for accessing apps, the web, and various media, plus client supplied PCs when the need arises.

Of all these platforms, the one I find most frustrating is the Chrome OS machine. It’s the machine I have set up permanently downstairs that I use in the morning to catch up before I go into my office to work.

On the one hand it’s wonderfully versatile in the variety of online apps and features it accesses, including a nicely slick interface for Microsoft OneDrive that I use frequently across all my devices for image and document storage and exchange.

On the other hand, the minute I step outside the Googleverse in terms of file management, downloads, and file/image manipulation, I’m in trouble. Not because I can’t find “work arounds” to get the job done, but because the “workarounds” are different enough from non-Chrome devices that they can cause some confusion.

Also, some workarounds don’t really work at the 100% level, a key example being Microsoft’s online Word. (Anyone who tells you that online Word will satisfy 100% of your Word needs is not telling you the whole truth and reminds me of folks who say that the Word file exchange feature in Google Docs works perfectly. It just ain’t so.)

Also, using Chrome OS, as easy and slick as it is, reminds me of the time I was on a project in a Microsoft-centric company where my team tried to use Google Docs as a file storage and document exchange mechanism across multiple locations on a PMO support operation. It was a nightmare, especially when we got outside the central IT staff to those who were accustomed to “standard” Microsoft network and document exchange features. (We eventually settled on SharePoint, which of course has a host of other collaboration issues, but that’s another story).

As much as I enjoy using Chrome OS, I would think long and hard before recommending it to someone else especially someone who has to work “in the real world” where organizations still operate with local storage and networking infrastructure. Also, as cheap as they are becoming, I would think very carefully about using Chromebooks as a student device, given the eventual need for students to master a wider range of computer skills than Chromebooks are able to support.

So, call me old fashioned because I still believe in the advantages of being “cross platform.” We’re getting farther and farther away from that every day, I fear. 

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Copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. An independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia, Dennis’ interests include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change management; and, technology adoption. Clients have included HHS CMS, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, National Academy of Engineering, the World Bank, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His professional web site is here: http://www.ddmcd.com.  Follow Dennis on LinkedInTwitter, andGoogle+. Reach him by email at ddmcd@yahoo.com. Note that he does not approach computer platforms from a religious or political advocacy perspective and enjoys using a variety of machines and devices.

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