First impressions of the Google CR-48 laptop running Google’s Chrome operating system will be posted here shortly.
First I’ve got to get it connected to a wireless network — Wi-Fi or Verizon Wireless — and finish the setup process. There’s no Ethernet jack and it’s not connecting to Verizon’s wireless network from inside the building, but I haven’t fully charged the battery so we’ll see what happens.
It’s a snazzy laptop that feels like a stripped-down, rubberized MacBook. But the hardware is just a test bed for Google’s big foray into computer operating systems, which is just entering a public test phase and won’t come to market until mid-2011.
Update: So it finally found Verizon service inside the building – two bars of 3G. It took a few tries to get it activated. At first I thought it was because I hadn’t first logged in with a Google account – I was trying to just use the “guest” option that doesn’t require signing in – but it eventually activated.
A signature feature of the product is its built-in Verizon 3G service – which provides up to 100 megabytes of data transmission per month for free, for the first 24 months. But you can’t use the free service until you sign up for a Verizon account with a credit card. Verizon then assigns the laptop a phone number – it’s treating the device as if it’s another phone on the network, apparently. Options include $10 per day for unlimited data and $20 per month for 1 gigabyte.
The system is really minimal – there’s no traditional desktop, only a browser window that fills up the screen. To open multiple windows you open additional tabs in the browser.
It takes about 15 seconds to power up, at which point you are presented with a sign-in window asking for your Google account info. Clicking on a smaller phrase at the bottom of the window gives you the option to “skip sign-in and browse as Guest.”
Signing in with a Google account, you’re first prompted to take a photo of yourself with the camera built into the top of the display frame.
When you’re signed in, the initial tab in the browser displays a set of application icons, giving the system a phone-like appearance. The first icons shown are for a tutorial, YouTube, Google Maps, Scratchpad, Gmail, Google Talk and two games, “Entanglement” and “Poppit.”
There’s also an icon for the Chrome Web Store where you can find additional apps for the system. Apps isn’t the right term, though, since they’re really Web sites optimized for the system. When you click one of the icons, you’re not firing up an app loaded on the system, you’re pointing the browser at a Web page. The app icons are really just a visual system of Web page bookmarks.
Over Verizon 3G with three bars showing, it’s taking forever to start Entanglement. Clicking the icon took me to a page at Gopherwoodstudios.com, which has taken more than a minute to load. I switched to my Windows machine to do some work while it loaded and the CR-48 went to sleep before the loading was complete.
I gave up and tried to run Outlook Web Access, which loaded fairly quickly.
Poking around the settings, I found that Google lets you change the default search provider. The other options listed in a drop-down menu were Yahoo and Bing. I didn’t see a way to change the browser to Explorer, Firefox or Safari, though.