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Definition: Chromebook

A laptop that runs Google's Chrome OS and Chrome Web browser. Introduced in 2011, Chromebooks were designed as an Internet appliance that provides a more secure system than Windows or Mac because data are stored in the Google cloud (see Google Drive), and all apps come from the Chrome Web Store. Chrome-based tablets came out in 2018 (see Chrome OS).

Widely adopted in schools, an Internet connection is mandatory, but some apps may run offline. Chromebooks boot up fast and require minimal user configuration. They also come with Google's office suite (see Google Docs). In 2017, Microsoft introduced a Chromebook competitor (see Windows 10 S).

Limited Storage
Designed for saving user data in the cloud, Chromebooks typically have from 16GB to 32GB of local SSD storage, although some models have 128GB. However, Chromebooks may accept SD cards for more storage.

Finally Network Friendly
Early versions of the Chrome OS did not recognize shared folders on other computers in a home or office network like Windows and Mac computers do. Eventually, file sharing apps came out that recognized file shares. However, in 2018, native support for SMB file sharing was finally added with Chrome OS 70, enabling Chromebooks to access Windows and Mac computers on the network (see SMB).

Android and Linux as Well
Chrome OS, Android and Linux are all based on the Linux kernel. In 2016, Chromebooks were updated to run Android apps, opening the platform to thousands of applications from the Google Play store. In 2018, the Debian version of Linux was added, making the Chromebook a very versatile computing platform. Both Android and Linux run in software-based containers, which prevent an Android or Linux app from compromising the security of the Chromebook, a feature of the platform highly touted by Google.

Stable, Beta and Developer Channels
By switching the OS to the Beta channel, users can review apps that are still in test mode. At a higher risk, brand new features of the OS itself can be tried out by switching to the Developer channel.

Desktop and Tablet Chromebooks
In 2012, Google introduced the Chromebox, a desktop Chromebook in a mini PC footprint. In 2018, Chromebook tablets debuted (see examples below). See mini PC.

A Chromebook Keyboard
Some, but not all, Chromebooks have dedicated Web browsing keys, such as the Back, Forward and Reload buttons on the top row of this Acer keyboard. Caps Lock was replaced with a Search key.

Just Like Any Computer
From the outside, Chromebooks look like any other laptop computer.

A Convertible Chromebook
With up to 128GB of SSD storage, the screen on the ASUS Chromebook Flip wraps around to function like a tablet. See convertible laptop. (Image courtesy of ASUStek Computer Inc., www.asus.com)

A Hybrid Chromebook
The screen on the HP Chromebook X2 detaches from the keyboard to become a tablet. See hybrid laptop. (Image courtesy of HP Development Company, L.P.)