Google’s Chromebooks just hit a huge milestone. For the first time, they outsold Macs in the US, a sign that a lot of people are looking for cheap, capable computers.
And soon, they’re getting a huge update that will let them run Android apps.
Here’s why Chromebooks are so great, and why you’ll probably want to buy one soon.
You can get a really great Chromebook for around $200, or about one-fifth the cost of a 13-inch MacBook Air. Don't let the price fool you though. Just because Chromebooks are cheap doesn't mean they're bad. All the major computer brands like HP, Asus, and Samsung make excellent Chromebooks.
However, Google's own Chromebook Pixel, which has a sharp touchscreen and beautiful design, costs over $1,000. It's nice, but you probably don't need to spend that much to get the full Chromebook experience.
Chromebooks come in all shapes and sizes, so you can find the right form factor to fit your needs. For example, some models, like the Asus Chromebook Flip (pictured here), have touchscreens and can fold over into a 'tablet mode.'
You can also get Chromebooks with any screen size, ranging from 10-inchers to 15-inchers.
If you use Google's services for email, chatting, calendar, cloud storage, or anything else, the Chromebook is a great computer for you.
The Chromebook's operating system is a modified version of the Chrome web browser, which means it uses Google apps for all the standard stuff you want to do. Just sign into your Google account once and you're good to go.
At first, it might seem odd that most Chromebooks only have about 16 or 32 GB of storage. That's fine for a smartphone, but we tend to store a lot more data on our computers.
But it's no problem with Chromebooks, where you store most of your files and documents in Google Drive, Google's cloud storage service. You can still save some of your files for offline use, but the idea is to keep everything in the cloud until you need it.
For photos, you can use Google Photos, which gives you unlimited storage if you store your photos at reduced quality. (Don't worry, the quality is just fine for most people.)
In the fall, Chromebooks will get a software update that will let them run Android apps downloaded from the Google Play store.
Right now, Chromebooks only let you use services that can run in a web browser. Soon, you'll be able to run native apps in separate windows, sort of like you would on a 'normal' PC.
Native apps tend to run faster and work better than web apps. Plus you don't always need an internet connection to use them. This is going to be a huge update for Chromebooks.
Between the cheap cost and the impending update that will allow you to run Android apps, Chromebooks will soon become must-have laptops for a lot of people.
Sure, there will be some who need to get heavier work done and use a Mac or pricey Windows PC, but for those who just want to run basic apps and browse the internet, Chromebooks will be perfect.
And for everything else, there's the smartphone.