Android isn’t Google’s only operating system. The company also offers Chrome OS — a simple operating system based on the Chrome web browser that’s designed to run on low-power laptops or desktops which Google calls Chrombooks or Chromeboxes. But you don’t hear much about Chrome OS these days, because Chromebooks haven’t had much commercial success.
But Google says the Chrome OS laptops are proving popular with schools. Today the company announced that school districts in Iowa, Illinois, and South Carolina will be providing Chromebooks to almost 27,000 primary and high school students.
Google says there are already “hundreds of schools in 41 states” using Chromebooks in one or more classrooms. But today’s announcement includes several schools or school districts which will be providing 1-to-1 computing, meaning that every single student will get a Chrome OS laptop.
Chromebooks typically have low power processors, decent battery life, and a small amount of local storage. The idea is that you don’t need a lot of local storage, because your data is stored online. Instead of running local apps such as Microsoft Office, you can run web apps such as Google Docs.
There’s really not much that you can do with Chrome OS that you couldn’t also do with a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer running the Chrome web browser. But Chromebooks tend to boot more quickly, offer better protection against malware since most of the software you’re running is actually hosted on remote servers, and allows you to save your settings to the cloud so that you can lose, break, or loan out you Chromebook and pick up where you left off on another machine.
I can see how those features would be appealing to educational institutions that don’t want to have to deal with keeping software up to date and secure on thousands of individual computers.