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May 16, 2011 / X_Y

Chromebook: Win in Interaction

The new Chromebook (from cnet)

Google’s brand new Chromebook is loved by some, hated by some others. Basically, it’s a netbook with almost all services in the cloud side, so instead of Microsoft Office or Open Office you have Google Docs, instead of hard disk you have dropbox, and so on. As almost all applications and data are in the cloud, you don’t need to install anything, you don’t need to upgrade anything, you don’t need to worry about local virus or Trojans, you don’t need to worry about loosing your notebook along with all data (see more at http://www.google.com/chromebook/#features).

I would like to analyze it purely from an interaction design point of view. In short, the Chromebook is a behaviour changing product, with lots of user friendly features.

A computer is a tool facilitating users with their tasks. As Martin Heidegger once said, when you’re using a tool fluently it should be invisible, it’s becoming part of yourself for accomplishing the task. Only when you’re not working well with it will you start notice it’s existence(Paul Dorish, Where Action is, 109-110). Imaging you’re typing fast on your keyboard, will you care where on the keyboard you’re going to press next? No, you just instinctively pressed the keys. Only if you’re a novice user will you need to check where the keys are once in a while.

When typing really fast, you don’t notice the keyboard anymore. (source www.onlineworkindia.com)

But the system designers have long failed to achieve that. If you’re using Windows, have you noticed that you need to update the patches, run anti-virus software and download funky hardware drivers in order to keep it running? I barely believe anybody is enjoying these processes, even if someone does, it brings more headache to normal users, as these processes pro to fail and bring all kinds of problems to your computer.

I always hate the feeling of being pressed

Software installation is also a pain in the ass. You need to know beforehand what version should you buy, whether it’s for x86 or x64? During the process you have to choose you side, customer installation or not? Big companies like putting tens of options for you to customize, if you want to customize you don’t know what they are; if you want to go typical you always feel uncomfortable, did they just put something I don’t need in my computer? And as one start using computer from 90s, I always believe in the urban legend that you shouldn’t install too many software in your primary partition, or it will be slower and slower. So I have to choose the installation path as well.

Chromebook doesn’t have any of these problems. As it’s self-updating, you don’t need to choose to install all those patches you have no idea about. As the applications are all in the cloud, you don’t need to worry about software installation, update, uninstall or malware problems. You can achieve all your goals from the browser, there’s much fewer worries about the software itself.

Sometimes there’re just too many to think about, before using a software (source: foundationphp.com)

From usability point of view, it’s also much “safer” to use. “Safe” here means it’s tolerating mistakes the user makes, there’ll be few bad consequences even if the user does something wrong(Interaction design  :  beyond human-  computer interaction,14-15). Most web-based application are auto-saving, so even if you accidentally closed the browser nothing is lost. Also as data is stored remotely, you wouldn’t format the hard disk in accident, nor dropped the notebook and break the hard disk.

A small mistake will no longer lead to this situation (source: www.centrend.com)

One thing google needs to think about, is that cloud computing is totally different from normal ways of using computers, which leads to behaviour change. Will the users easily adapt? As storing everything in their own computers have been applied for decades, people feel more safe about storing locally, although it may not. Also, cloud based service means the users need to have network connection all the time. Probably google should provide the option of  internet connection services when selling Chromebook. And, what should they do when the internet is failing?

Chromebook is not as functional as traditional computers, but features don’t always mean everything. The old remote control is just a victim of features (Look at this! http://www.simpleandusable.com/simplify-this). Chromebook is simple and usable, it will, or at least its design idea will, have a position in the market.

Lovers:

Haters:

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