google_logo_smallGoogle is launching its Chromebook in India on October 17, 2013. In India, Chromebook will be offered by two brands Acer and HP as Acer C720 Chromebook costing Rs. 22,999 and HP Chromebook 14 costing Rs. 26,990 respectively.

The company states that the Chromebooks will be available  for purchase at select Reliance Digital and Croma stores in Delhi and Mumbai from October 17. Customers can also pre-order it from Flipkart.

Chromebook has a 14 inch screen and light weight body with power backup of 8 hours along with 100 GB Google Drive Storage and runs on Chrome OS. Online apps for the Chromebook can be found on the Google Chrome Store. Most of the apps can be used only with a working internet connection, and Google Docs is the only application that can be accessed offline on a Chromebook.

Airtel & Tikona Tie-ups

Google has also tied up with Airtel and Tikona for offering Internet connectivity deals to those purchasing the Chromebook. Since Chrome OS works with Chrome apps that can be used only with an Internet connection, it seems like a logical move for Google to provide internet offers to customers, but the offers from Airtel are actually quite expensive:

– Airtel 4G: Free data of 10GB/Month for 2 months, free gaming subscription, free movie subscription on 4G, but there is some confusion: this comes at a rental of Rs 999 for six months, and is Rs 999 per month for the same plan. Customers have to pay an advance rental of Rs 2499. It is valid in Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali.

– Airtel 3G: An advance rental of Rs 2499, for 6GB of data for 3 months. After 3 months, it is Rs 950 per month for 6GB of data. This is available in AP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Chennai, Delhi, HP, JK, Karnataka, Mumbai, Rajasthan, West Bengal, UP West, Assam.

A Reliance 3G data card plan is for Rs 750/month, for 5GB per month, so…what was Airtel thinking?

Tikona, on the other hand, appears to be giving a discount to consumers, as compared to their existing plans. See this versus this in Mumbai.

My Chromebook Experience

I used a Samsung Chromebook bought in the U.S only for six months before I decided to switch back to a laptop. It is light weight, fits well even into a handbag and boots in no time compared to a regular laptop. The working speed of a Chromebook is impressive much faster than any other laptop (but probably not a MacBook).

That apart, the Chromebook could be  quite inconvenient considering that it worked only on Wi-Fi connections. My Samsung Chromebook did support dongles easily, and this meant that I could not really use the Chromebook in places without a Wi-Fi connection. In India, hardly few places are wi-fi enabled, outside of home. This might not be a problem with the Chromebooks on offer, since Airtel is offering dongle connections.

Although Google promises apps for simple tasks that a regular laptop might, it is not easy task to find the right application from an ocean of apps on the Chrome Store, or even to perform simple tasks like Print Screen. While on the surface Chromebook seems to be sufficient for a journalist, with its Google Docs integration, it quite tedious to even use its document and spreadsheet. Google Spreadsheet is hardly Microsoft Excel, and I’ve struggled to make tables for stories.

Besides, since all your work will be housed on the Google Drive, the user will be completely dependent on the Internet most of the time, unless you save an offline copy. There’s no back up in case Google Docs crashes, and no retrieval mechanism on Google Docs. I’ve lost work done.

It is quite tedious to upload a Google doc saved in .doc onto Dropbox making it difficult for me to share files at work. When I last checked, Skype was difficult to use on the Chromebook, because it needed some special configuration to install it. After trying to figure out the Chromebook for six months and a regular laptop as backup to finish work, I decided to stop using a Chromebook.

It seems like Google has bundled all its products together to force it on users without actually supporting several basic functions that users are already accustomed to, especially in a country where Wi-Fi is not widely available.

If change in consumption behaviour is their intention then Google seriously needs to look at providing all the basic functions for people to look at Chromebook as a serious alternative to a laptop.

As of now, the product seems caught between being a laptop and a tablet, with essential functions missing.