5 Unanswered Questions About Chromebooks

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Google is attempting to reinvent mobile computing with its Chromebook, but despite all of the features and analysis available to us, there are still some important questions yet to be answered. We won't know about some important aspects of the Chrome OS laptops until we get our hands on one, and other questions are largely about the viability and reliability of laptops that are entirely web-based. Here are five of the top unanswered questions.

Are Apple device (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) users left in the dark with Chromebooks?

Chromebooks can connect external devices such as cameras (via USB) and headsets, but iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad users are required by Apple to use iTunes--desktop software that can't be installed on a Chromebook. Will there be some sort of workaround for Apple users to connect their devices to a Chromebook? If not, that pretty much rules out getting a Chromebook as your sole computer if you also have an iDevice.

Does Google have a backup plan to make sure we don't suffer Chrome OS outages and glitches?

With such a massive endeavor, Google better have a plan. Remember the data glitch that caused emails to be deleted for thousands of Gmail users earlier this year (later restored by Google via tape backup)? Or, more recently, Amazon's cloud web services crash? We know that Google Apps will have offline capabilities, but users need better reliability assurances before adopting a computer designed for constant Internet connectivity.

Is 100 MB per month enough?

This is more of a question for potential buyers to consider about the Chromebooks, but it's hard to know now if the included free 100 MB of 3G data will be enough for our laptop needs until we really experience the Chromebook and its apps. With data plans going up to $50 per month for an additional 5 GB of data, the value proposition of the Chromebook really plummets.

Will the centralized laptop management for businesses be any good?

Remote management tools are a must for IT admins, but it's still unclear exactly what capabilities Google's Chromebook enterprise tools will have. Remote desktop control? Laptop tracking and reset? Group policy settings? Google's $28 per user subscription plan for businessescan be an affordable way for small businesses to provide laptops to its users, but to really satisfy enterprise users, Google needs to woo its IT decision makers.

What kind of software support will Chromebook users get?

The top complaints about Google's Nexus One smartphone were 3G connectivity flakiness and, as my colleague David Coursey put it, a "sort of benign neglect" of the Android ecosystem. Business users, Google announced, will get technical support, but what about everyone else? Who will Chromebooks users turn to for support with their Chrome OS laptops? And, importantly, what will the quality of that support be (actual, live tech support would be nice)?

We should get answers to these questions soon...or at least sometime around June 15.

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