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Technology Zen with the Google ChromeOS Chromebook

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

When I write a blog article or am working on a long form document, I try to enter a writing zone where I remove all distractions and concentrate on my work. We have seen many writer apps that create these minimalist writer interfaces.

MINDFULNESS: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
— Google

Mindfulness is the state writers are looking for with these tools and minimalist interfaces. It means concentrating on one thing and being fully aware of that thing (think of it as the anti-multitasking movement).

Screenshot of Typed by RealMac Software

Screenshot of Typed by RealMac Software

When Evernote launched its latest web interface update, they described it as 

When you work, the interface fades away to showcase your thoughts.
— Evernote

But what does any of this have to do with the Chromebook? It has everything to do with it.

When the Chromebook first launched, many tech analysts laughed at it. Why would anyone want a computer that "just runs a web browser"? Many complained that even tablets did more than Chromebooks and most foresaw its quick and painful death. Years later, the Chromebook is thriving. Why?

Just as writers look for clean non cluttered interfaces that just fades away as they work, most users are looking for a device that just fades away as they use it. Most modern Chromebooks are SSD based and super fast. A $350 Acer C720P boots in just 7 seconds and doesn't slow down with use. It is not susceptible to malware infection and is always kept automatically up to date. There is nothing for you to think about. There is nothing special for you to do.

When using a Chromebook, you spend all your mental energy thinking about the task at hand and not how to optimize your device or install an update or scan it for malware. Like Apple's old street slogan "It just works" and it keeps working without slowing down.

The fact that it just works is the result of a lot of careful design by Google, but for users it provides mental relief. It means you can conduct online banking without worrying that malware will steal your credentials. It means all your data is stored in the Google cloud and there is nothing to backup on the local device. The Chromebook just is. It is my idea of mindful computing. It allows me to write without worrying that I may lose my work. It allows me to browse the web without worrying about a drive by infection and it means I can travel without worrying that a border inspection by an unscrupulous agent may expose my personal information.

All of the above translates to a simple understanding that the Chromebook isn't just a device but a computing paradigm. 

The Chromebook isn't my primary device yet and won't be the only device for power users but it could be for average Joe.