Cr-48 and Chrome OS: When You Really Hate Netflix

Wolfgang Gruener in Business Off Guard on February 27

Long Term Update Google Chromebook Cr-48 – I take my tests seriously. The Cr-48 has been with us for about 10 weeks and has changed roles dramatically. We learned to appreciate some features, while we simply can’t like and won’t accept others.

Google Cr-48 Notebook

Google Cr-48 Notebook

It’s tough to judge the Cr-48 as every other product. There is a distinct emotional feeling to this device. While I have often had the privilege to see pre-production products before their launch, this one is deeply emotional. It’s a device that, quite frankly, is way too early in reviewer hands, especially if those reviewers are willing to tear a product apart, if it deserves it. The Cr-48 is so rough around its edges and the fact that this device will never see a retail store, makes it tough to judge it by traditional standards.

Dear Chromebook,

how you have changed. Gone is the pretty, rubbery surface. You are tarnished and I really don’t care anymore if there are ugly fingerprints on your shell. The keyboard begins to feel flimsy. I don’t have use anymore for that special search button and want my CAPS key back. You have been updated with several software updates, yet I can’t really tell what you can do better than what you did on the day we first met. The excitement of the first weeks has disappeared and our relationship has become a routine of compromise. Are we meant to stay together?

If I was to describe my relationship status with the Cr-48 on Facebook, I’d have to choose [It's complicated]. It’s better on some days and on others I really don’t want to use it all. It’s difficult to use the Chromebook as an everyday device and give up what you are used to on a Mac/Windows PC, while you surely enjoy the dedicated cloud computing capabilities occasionally. (You know that already if you have read my last update: When Google’s Cr-48 Truly Sucks)

It so happened that I had to spend a few days in the hospital last week. If you are like me, than a hospital stay is not a reason to stop doing some work, even if you get looks from your doctors. I did not want to drag along my big 15″ screen notebook and I have grown somewhat tired of the small form factor of a netbook. So I choose the Cr-48. Most of the information I need access to for my work is already stored in cloudified bookmarks and the fact that all of that information is centralized in a Google account made the Cr-48 a rather obvious choice. ┬áPlus, the Cr-48 isn’t very heavy and its surface can take quite a bit of abuse and you really don’t care if there is a scratch on it.

I would consider this a common sense decision. Of course, what you think is common sense may not be common sense to someone else. As tolerant as you may be about cloud computing shortcomings, there is a good chance that you and your Cr-48 are drifting away into the future all by yourself. There are plenty of places that are not cloud computing friendly. This would include our local hospital.

I brought the Cr-48 for my average computing tasks. Wi-Fi has become a standard service in hospitals, so you can easily browse the web and check your email. But that’s about it. The connection was very restricted and a gateway such as a hospital may censor what you look at and what not, severely limiting what you can do on a cloud notebook. In my case, access to a shareware site was prohibited (with a note that patients aren’t supposed to download software). That site, however, hosted information I was looking for. There was no way to get to that page as the area I was in had no EV-DO availability to connect with the Chrome’s 3G feature (Verizon actually provides Chromebook users with 2 years of free 3G access. The limit is 100 MB per month. After that, the connection shuts down.) The Wi-Fi connection was very shaky, which interrupted my work throughout the 2-day stay. Would you complain? No, of course, you would not. It is still a time where you are grateful for wireless Internet access and don’t take it for granted. The last thing you should do is to demand more bandwidth. Yet this is exactly what the Cr-48 needs: Bandwidth – lots of bandwidth. It’s the lifeline of the Chromebook.

By accident, I stumbled across another interesting issue: As bored as you are in a hospital room sometimes, you may be looking for entertainment options, especially if your TV channels aren’t exactly distracting. But hey, there is Netflix! Perhaps the connection is good enough to stream a SD movie? I don’t know, if it was: Netflix greets Cr-48 user with a kind note that Netflix movies simply do not stream on Chrome OS. Huh?

chrome cr-48 netflix

Netflix welcomes the Cr-48


Damn, I would have liked to watch a movie. I have this very advanced and forward-thinking cloudbook with a new OS and was stuck with the usual hospital program. Let’s hope that Netflix and Google can get this faster resolved than their Android issue, since we know that not all Android phones will be supporting Netflix down the road. As a side note, it is somewhat stunning to see that there is no built-in interaction between Chrome OS and Android. Nothing beyond Chrome to Phone (which is rather silly anyway) and nothing beyond what apps such as Evernote provide. There is virtually no interaction by default.

One more note on Netflix. Sure, I would have liked to watch a streaming Netflix movie – we are talking about a cloud device here. Google has to fix this one and it will be inexcusable if this feature does not work when Chrome OS rolls out. I will let it go for now – I prefer to watch Netflix movies on a bigger screen here at home anyway and the bandwidth in the hospital may not have been enough anyway. Gee, the Cr-48 downloaded only 22% of the most recent Chrome OS update over a period of two days. It took only 2 minutes to finish the remaining 78% when I was back home.

There is good news, however, as well. I have to say that I am deeply impressed by the battery life. I am not sure how much credit Google deserves and how much goes to the hardware providers. Sure, it is powered by a weak single-core Atom processor, but I came home with 33% of battery capacity left – after two days and about 8 hours of combined work on a fully charged battery. Keep in mind that this included a permanent wireless connection. My (dual-core Atom) netbook gets about 3 hours. I loved Google’s Cloud connect, which left one of my articles ┬áready for editing back at the office (I admit that I still prefer MS Office.)

So, it was not exactly a great experience and not everything is Google’s fault. Or perhaps it is, if Google builds a notebook that isn’t exactly ready for today’s world? I mentioned it before – Chrome OS will need massive offline capability. This should be the first priority for this OS, otherwise it will leave its users stranded much more often than will be acceptable in the foreseeable future.

(Note: Following my last update, I was reminded that the Cr-48 is a prototype device at best and that Chrome OS is in beta (at best) and that it isn’t fair to criticize it. I am aware of the beta status, but I still believe that Chrome OS should be criticized – it has been provided for testing purposes and we are treating it as a product that is prepared for a massive launch to give you the best possible impression of the current status of the OS.)

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