Thursday, May 23, 2013

Samsung Yes 4G Chromebook Launch and Review

I had the opportunity today to attend the launching of Yes' latest 4G device in the beautiful Majestic Hotel in KL and visiting their exhibition in Midvalley and here are my thoughts about the device and the service it brings to Malaysians.





What is the Chromebook?

Ever used Google Chrome browser on your computer? If not, you should. It's one of the best internet browsers out there. The Chromebook a laptop-like device which after you understand it more, is really not like a normal laptop but is built on the same foundations of the Chrome browser, which is:

  1. Speed
  2. Security
  3. Simplicity
Google built Chromebook on the premise that all people spend 80% of their time on their laptops using their internet browsers so they made a device which sole purpose is to be a very good at that function.


What's great?

  1. Fast boot up time of less than 10 secs. Google claims 8 secs and in my trials it's probably a few secs more. But this is boot up from total shut down till sign-in screen. Try that with your Windows or Mac. Of course booting up from sleep mode on my Mac is probably as quick as the Chromebook, but can't say the same about my Windows machine. 
  2. Immune to viruses and "unhackable". Yes, this thing just can't be infected because you can't install anything on it. The applications you use on it are Web Apps, which runs on the internet. ChromeOS is also so secure that recently Google offered USD3.14159Mil (yes, that's a Million Pis) to anyone who can hack it but found nobody who could!
  3. Incremental auto-update every 6 weeks without user intervention. The Chromebook will never show you nag screens to install updates. Ever. And when it does, you won't even notice it because it is done in the background and only changes are downloaded and installed so it keeps things small.
  4. Free MS Office replacement. It's the Microsoft Office replacement that does 80% of MS Office at 0% the cost. And it also does collaborations extremely well and has an unlimited storage space for all your documents. You can even read MS Office documents and export your documents into MS Office compatible file formats. And you can even use it offline (there's a setting you need to do before you can use it offline though). Did I mention it is free?
  5. Low maintenance. No need to "defrag" your computer. No need to delete files or uninstall software. No Windows registry to make your life a nightmare. It's almost a full-proof laptop which you can buy, use and throw away without worrying about your data because it's all stored in the internet. The built-in 16GB SSD drive also helps to eliminate read-write delays introduced by traditional hard disks and reduce the risk of hard drive damage due to fall.
  6. Looooong battery life. Up to 7 hours of usage. And if you close the lid, it probably can last you a month (or more) before you need to recharge it.
  7. Light and portable. Just a little thicker than the Macbook Air, but at a fraction of the price.
  8. Yes 4G built in. Choose between WiFi or Yes 4G for your connectivity so your Chromebook is always connected.
  9. Free 100GB Google Drive storage. Free for two years, and thereafter you can opt to subscribe to a fee to upload more files or just leave your existing data for free. But two years is a long time so the prices will probably change (for the better).
Notice that I didn't put in the specs of the Chromebook here? That's because it is really quite irrelevant. Which is the great thing about the Chromebook. Most of the heavy lifting in terms of processing power and storage are all done in the cloud (the internet)! You don't need a powerful laptop because you have the power of Google's servers at your disposal. The Samsung hardware spec is really good enough for the targeted user for the Chromebook. (But if you really, really want to know, the processor is a Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Core which also powers the Google Nexus 10).


What's Not So Great?

  1. Not for specialized applications. I for one use Adobe Lightroom all the time and at the moment there is no Web App which can replace it for me. Yes, there are pretty good photo editing software like Pixlr which looks pretty much like Photoshop, but I still need Lightroom to edit hundreds of photos at one time.
  2. Not for gamers. Yes, you can still play Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, but not your Starcraft II.
  3. Not if you want a pretty screen. The screen used on the Yes 4G Chromebook is not that great. My 3 year old Macbook's screen still looks better.
  4. Not if you want to project your screen to VGA. Projecting on old VGA projectors or monitors will require an active USB HDMI to VGA adapter (most HDMI to VGA adapters are passive types, so be careful when purchasing one). But it does come with a HDMI port, so newer monitors or projectors will work fine.
  5. No parental controls, yet. It will come soon I am very sure, but not just yet. But the good news is if you are using the 1BestariNet ID to use the 4G, it already has internet filtering since it's purpose is for education.

Chromebook vs Android tablet vs iPad

The target audience of the Chromebook hence seem to be:
  1. First time computer and/or internet users
  2. People who want to have a portable secondary device
  3. Businesses which runs web apps can issue Chromebooks for their employees (e.g. Salesforce.com)
For the amount of money you will invest in a Chromebook and for it's target audience, I think it's closest competitor is not another laptop, but rather it's cousin Android in tablet for or Android's arch nemesis the iPad. 

Almost everything you can do on the Chromebook can be done on a tablet. And the tablet can do more by having a touchscreen and is still relatively easy to use. You can also add a keyboard to your tablet if you wanted and if you need internet, use 3G or use a Yes 4G Huddle together with it. Hence you may ask, why did YTL launch the Chromebook when it has to compete with the tablets which are already so crowded?



Chromebook's Killer App

YTL made a very bold move to launch a Chromebook. It's either the smartest thing they have done, or they have managed to somehow conned two of the biggest names in the world (Google and Samsung) into making a device for them. However, unlike P1 which launched a number of WiMAX enabled laptops a couple of years ago, the Chromebook is a very different animal. And in my honest opinion, the Chromebook's killer app is the 1BestariNet (ahem, we shall not go into the politics of the acronym of the system). 

Ten thousand schools will be running this program. And they need a heck of a lot of laptops to make it a success. But not all children will get a laptop (that's the ultimate aim, but practically most children will have to share). Before the Chromebook, the only options anyone had was Windows/Intel laptops or Macbooks. Both have their strengths, but for a school requirement and environment, the Chromebook shines.

  1. No IT support required. Children need simple devices to use. Nay, teachers too. Windows devices are prone to slow down after continual usage. Imaging a class with ten laptops and all take 3 minutes to start up. That's a lot of time wasted. Imagine some laptops boot slower, or worse, don't boot at all! The teacher is not going to troubleshoot it. And there won't be an "IT" department to help either. A Chromebook solves this problem by starting up super quick and if a Chromebook has malfunctioned, either reboot it (that normally solves it) or just use another one.
  2. Sharing is caring. By using a Yes ID cum Google account, a child can login to any Chromebook and he will get all his stuff onto that machine as if it was his from the start. Hence, the Chromebook is a very communistic device and is perfect for the classroom.
  3. Never run out of juice. Imagine having to find 30 power sockets in class for every laptop available. This would have been the case for a normal Windows machine (battery life averages little more than 2 hours) but for a Chromebook, it can be used the whole school day without having to recharge the batteries.
  4. Lower total cost of ownership. A Windows laptop would cost more simply because there is need to purchase licenses for Windows, Office and Antivirus software. ChromeOS is free. Google Docs is free. And no antivirus is required (too bad Jackie Chan, your Kaspersky kung fu doesn't work here).
  5. Frog VLE and Yes 4G. Combined with internet connectivity and bundling the Frog Virtual Learning Environment application, the Chromebook suddenly makes a lot of sense. This is one thing which YTL has which no other have and with the support of the Malaysian government, the Yes 4G Chromebook is the ultimate answer to bringing information technology into the hearts of the children. This is the killer application and no wonder Google is so supportive of this initiative. It is the model of future education all over the world, and it started in Malaysia.

Summary

So, should you get a Samsung Yes 4G Chromebook? If you have a child in school, it makes sense to buy one so you can use it at home for your child to use and not just in the schools. Or if you want to buy a device for your family (child or parent) who are starting out in computers, the Chromebook is a great alternative to an Android tablet or iPad. And although I personally would not have a use for it, but I can see how this little device is going to change the future of Malaysia.



All photos taken with the Fujifilm X20. :)

4 comments:

  1. Hi Joshua! Excellent post on 1Bestari, Google Chromebook and Frog VLE. A Malaysia world-first and your detailed and illustrated post did the whole "Samsung-Google-YTL-Frog-MOE initiative" an honour it deserves. As a Malaysian, I am proud of the move by YTL. I liked the part where you described why the Chromebook is ideal for the classroom and the use of the single ID/password allowed swapping of Chromebook devices (if the children are so generous to help their friends!). As a Moodle advocate, I'm taking a serious look at Frog, FrogOS and FrogAsia. Thanks for your post once again. Syabas!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Frankie for taking time to read and very kind comment on my blog. :)

    I've not heard of Moodle, but after checking it out, it looks like another VLE alternative.

    Recently, the opposition hit on YTL for selling Chromebooks at seemingly higher price. Don't get me wrong, I respect the opposition very much, but I think in this case, they have only half the story. YTL provides not only Chromebooks, but 4G internet access to all the schools at almost nothing.

    I do hope that YTL can bring our education system a leap further, irregardless of political stance.

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  3. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm one of the admin of Frog VLE for my school. I personally think that the idea behind YES and 1BestariNet is a noble one and definitely moving our education to the right path. Are we ready for it? Perhaps not everyone is, but its a small step towards a greater ambition. The challenge isn't in the beginnning, but rather in the journey. So with that, I truly hope this program won't end up like the rest of our failed education reforms (ehem, PPSMI) once the money stops rolling in. Politics aside, I do see a lot of teachers looking forward to the new IT approach whenever I conduct an internal training at my school. The educators have taken a leap of faith in this program, so there's no turning back, or otherwise we've doomed our next generation of children before the fight even started.

    ReplyDelete

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