The Minivan of Computers
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For most consumers, the Chromebook is the best laptop to buy. That being said, Chromebooks are far from the most popular laptops on the market. Why is this? Well, first of all, it’s not unprecedented for consumers to recoil from the “best” option. Just because a product is the best – most useful, most affordable, etc – that still doesn’t make it the most popular, by any means.
Consider, if you will, the minivan.
Minivans are the pinnacle of automotive design, for all literally “practical” purposes. With the road system in the United States during the 21st century, this is just hard to argue against.
The minivan is affordable. It gets good mileage. It is extremely safe. It is easy to drive and park. It can haul many passengers comfortably. It can also haul lots of stuff, and your stuff won’t blow away (like it will in a truck bed), and people can’t just take stuff out of your van (again, like a truck bed) – it locks. It is easy to load and unload, due to the high ceiling, low floor, and sliding doors. It’s comfortable, convenient, reliable, adaptable, and useful. Always.
For every practical vehicular need that a normal American consumer will have, the minivan wins.
And yet, minivans are despised. They are the last resort of desperate parents with growing families, tight budgets, and no sense of shame. This is because, for all the useful things minivans CAN do, there are a bunch of things they CANNOT do.
Consider the following:
- A minivan rides too low to traverse a rocky trail through a breathtakingly beautiful wilderness; furthermore, the van will fail if you try to drive it through 3 feet of standing water. Unacceptable.
- A minivan cannot carry 2 tons of granite from the quarry to the construction site where you are personally building your own, custom, stately mansion.
- A minivan does not loudly announce your arrival, assert your rebelliousness, and signal your deep insecurities with a rumbling, triumphant, fanfare of gratuitous internal combustion noise.
- If you need to outrun a recently activated Treadstone operative assassin in his AMG Mercedes, rocketing through cobblestone alleys, dodging fruit carts, and evading swarms of local police with their silly European sirens… the minivan will disappoint. You’re not outrunning anybody, and you’re going to have to try to just blend in and hide, because obscurity is your only hope in the minivan.
- Your minivan will not tow a horse trailer, when you want to personally transport all of your favorite livestock from one geographic area to another geographic area, as one so frequently needs to do.
- Minivans are not cute. They will hurt your personal brand. If you are seen and photographed in a minivan, this will drive valuable viewers away from your reality show.
- A minivan will not be able to reach 150 miles per hour – should the situation arise in which you urgently need to travel 150 miles in one hour, then you are going to be late.
By now, you probably get the idea. Minivans have every practical advantage that a person could want. There’s nothing to debate. But people genuinely actually avoid them precisely for silly, shallow, ridiculous reasons like those listed above. It’s the only explanation as to why so many individual consumers have a G Wagon, Range Rover, dually F-350, Mini Cooper, Dodge Charger, etc.
Wow, that was a long tangent. I have strong feelings that needed to be explored about minivans, apparently. Now that I’ve cleared the air and let everyone know how I feel, maybe the healing can begin. This is good.
Ok where was I – ah yes, almost forgot! Chromebooks! What does all of that have to do with Chromebooks?
As was the case with the minivan, there are similar, glamorous things that most people never do, and that a Chromebook CANNOT help with. For example:
- If you have all the secret codes to launch the nukes, but have trouble remembering them, then you really should not save them on a Chromebook. Not a safe place to store those. While yes, Chromebooks are extremely secure, and Chrome OS is arguably the most secure OS, the bottom line is that all of your work is on the cloud, and you’re only as secure as that cloud. Hackers can always find a way. Furthermore, Lord knows Google has a price, and can be bought by sinister foreign operatives who want your data. It will therefore be far too easy for your enemies to steal all your nukes codes and launch them all over the place.
- When it comes time to do the editing work on you personal film (a photo slideshow for your uncle’s 50th birthday party), the Chromebook is going to leave you stranded with less than the very latest state-of-the-art video editing software. This is ultimately what will prevent you from winning the Oscar for best film.
- You will not be able to edit the photo you took of the sunset, using the fully feature-rich version of Photoshop. The latest and fullest version of Photoshop will not load on the Chromebook. You’ll need to use a trimmed down, cloud alternative Photoshop. This is painful to accept, considering that you memorize the features of the entire Adobe Master Suite, each year upon its release, and that is how you always ace the test to become an Adobe Certified Professional. You will be ashamed to share your less-than-optimally edited sunset photos, and your talents will be forever lost to the world. Rather than becoming a globe-trotting, publicly beloved photographer of sunsets, you will remain in your role at Geico, adjusting claims and forsaking sunsets for the oppressive glare of fluorescent lighting, in the confines of your windowless cube.
- You can’t play the best and most advanced video games that were released one hour ago. You’re going to have to stream last year’s games. Even though you haven’t spent more than 1 hour per year playing video games since Mario Kart in 2003, this is still a painful vulnerability and might really come back to haunt you. At the end of your life, you will grieve the moments you could have spent gaming, yet foolishly wasted doing literally anything else but that.
- All of the other remote workers in the coffee shop that you’re using for wifi in Costa Rica are going to shun you when they notice that your laptop does not have a glowing apple on the back of the lid. Professional networking opportunities will be lost. You will be friendless and ignored. Spiraling into loneliness and poverty, you will wander the streets aimlessly, for hours on end. Eventually, you will succumb to the mosquitoes, contract malaria, and find yourself laying on a cot in a dirty hospital, crying out “MacBook, por favor! MacBooooook” in brief moments of cognizance when the fever eases. But the doctors and nurses will ignore your pleas, because the locals are generally Team Android down there.
Perhaps I’m getting heavy-handed here, but the point still stands: Most people really over-estimate the degree to which they need the things that a Chromebook doesn’t offer.
If you prefer, may I offer a less sarcastic summary of the biggest reasons consumers avoid Chromebooks? I think there are five main areas that drive people away:
1: Lack of professional-grade audio/video/photo editing software.
The Chromebook’s lackings here are overstated, because the people it effects the most are some of the loudest people in the history of world. Think about it: Every video you watch, every article you read, and podcast you hear is made, in part, through the efforts of a creative person, and that person is sincerely unimpressed with Chromebooks, because Chromebooks have never been “the best” for graphics, audio, or video editing. Hence, everyone writing articles about Chromebooks is the specific 1% of the population most affected by this one lacking of Chromebooks.
If you are a full time professional creator, then by all means, have your employer equip you with the latest and greatest hardware. But you wouldn’t want to buy that for yourself. The best video editing computer is easily going to run in the thousands of dollars. And that technology advances rapidly, so you’ll be shelling out thousands annually.
Let your boss, or your LLC, or whatever, pay for that. For you and your family, do you really intend to spend that much money, upgrading your computer every year, so that you can check email on the same piece of hardware that they use to make Pixar movies?
It goes back to the minivan analogy. Maybe a guy works in construction, and drives a dump truck all day. That doesn’t mean that it makes sense for him to buy his own personal dump truck for the family to use. A minivan is entirely better and much less expensive. In the world of laptops, MacBooks and high-end PCs are trucks. The vast majority of people don’t need one and will not use the true utility of it more than maybe once a month – if they really search for opportunities. Basically, you could probably borrow a friend’s truck or rent one from Home Depot when you really truly must have a truck.
2: Resistance to change. A big part of the hesitancy to adopt Chromebooks is simply that they are relatively new. People dislike change, and especially when it comes to computers, people avoid shaking things up. For many people, learning to use whatever computer they already have was a traumatizing event, and so the idea of switching to a new way of computing, and going through that pain again, is not enticing.
The thing is, whether you’re using a Mac of a PC, the odds are, you already use Chrome on a very regular basis. It’s your browser, so everything you do online is done in what looks almost exactly like Chrome OS. There’s no learning curve to switch to a Chromebook. You’re going to be using all the same buttons and menus. They’ll just work faster and smoother. Fear of change is not a reason to avoid the switch – the only changes you’ll notice are changes you’ll enjoy.
3: Lack of support for wealthy gaming enthusiasts. Who cares? To go back to car analogies, a Honda Civic fails to support Ferrari enthusiasts. Fine. This is not an important issue. High end gaming rigs are expensive. If you need one, you know who you are. You’re welcome to enjoy your niche hobby, but it has nothing to do with the mainstream discussion of what’s the best computer.
4: Privacy advocates. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for this concern. Yes, my Chromebook is probably logging every key stroke I’ve made for years. Probably listening to me as well. If the world continues to slide into an authoritarian, Orwellian dystopia, I’m going to be one of the first guys rounded up and sent to the camps for wrong-think. That’s not cool; but what else am I going to do? Do you know how extreme your life needs to be in order to truly not be tracked digitally? You need to run your entire life around the concept.
I suspect that in order to successfully be an untracked individual, you’d need to make privacy your religion. It is virtually impossible to function in today’s economy without being rigorously tracked. It would need to need to be your first priority. Ahead of your career, ahead of your family, for certain. Even ahead of God. If you want true privacy, you really do need to secretly flee to the wilderness and live off the land. You’re going to need to learn how to trap rabbits, sew your own clothes using a fish bone for a needle, and differentiate between poisonous and nutritious mushrooms.
So as long as you’re life is being tracked by a shadowy, sinister, Big Brother, you might as well just lean into it! Get a Chromebook and enjoy the convenience. It’s very affordable, and they are a real delight to use.
5: Personal preference. Maybe you just like your MacBook. It’s your style. Or maybe you just like you Windows PC, because you are a sociopath. That is actually fine. I’m not criticizing you. All I’m saying is that’s not a “reason” or an argument against Chromebooks. One final car analogy: If I had extra money, I’d get a Mazda Miata – an utterly useless and impractical car. I’d get it because I like it. Fine. A minivan is a “better” vehicle, but I’m still making that choice, knowing it is a selfish, impractical, unreasonable choice. Sometimes you just gotta do you, and I respect that.
So there you have it. This is my longest article yet. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. For a more succinct, technically accurate, intelligent, and eloquent version of the exact same thing, may I recommend Gabriel Brangers’ article in praise of Chromebooks, from my favorite Chromebooks site, Chrome Unboxed:
And speaking of Chrome Unboxed, I’ll be featuring their reviews in my next and final installment, wherein I suggest the best Chromebooks to buy right now. Maybe I’ve convinced you to make the switch, and you want start shopping right now. I’ll talk a little about what general features to prioritize, and highlight a few of my favorite options, to point you in the right direction. Should be good material heading into November and all the holiday deals.
Until then, thanks for reading!