Can a Chromebook replace your tablet or laptop? Probably not. The hardware’s better than netbooks were, but the software is basically just the Chrome browser, so they can’t do anything you couldn’t do in Chrome on a normal PC or Mac. Here are three things they can’t run:
You know, the instant messaging and video chat app that everyone and their sister uses? It doesn’t work on a Chromebook. At all.
I saw a couple talking to a Google salesperson at a major electronics retailer, a few months ago. They were taken by the adorable Chromebooks. But the first question they asked was “Can they run Skype?”
The salesperson hedged, and tried to sell them on using Hangouts, which is Google’s own video chat / instant messaging app. The problem is, if you want to use Hangouts, then everyone else that you want to chat with needs to be using it too. And if they’re the kind who are leery of Google, consider it creepy, and don’t want to sign up for Google+, good luck getting them to hold personal conversations with you on a chat network Google controls.
This is the phenomenally popular PC gaming platform, which is roughly like the App Store crossed with Xbox Live except that it features the kinds of games that you see sold in stores. In fact, a lot of the boxed games you see at the store install a game to your Steam account.
Steam doesn’t work on Chromebooks. You can buy games from the Steam online store, but you can’t install or play them. Most other PC games don’t work on Chromebooks, either, including popular ones you may have heard of like World of Warcraft.
The most popular PC and Mac image editing app doesn’t run on a Chromebook. Neither do Microsoft Office, iWork, Visual Studio, or pretty much any software that professionals use to do their jobs.
There are versions of some of these apps you can find in the Chrome Web Store, but they’re stripped-down and have far fewer features. In fact, they’re the same “apps” you could run in a web browser on any PC or Mac, which means they tend to run slowly and not work very well (or at all) when you don’t have an Internet connection.
Some people can get by with a Chromebook. But unless you’re a web developer — like the ones who work at Google — most gamers and professionals probably can’t. And if your family and friends are on Skype, you’re not going to be able to chat with them, either.