The most interesting aspect of the new Chromebook: Its charger
Google has announced another Chromebook. This one was co-designed with HP, features an 11-inch screen, and costs just $279. Anyone curious about Chrome OS, the operating system based entirely on Google's services and the Web, now has a cheap-but-compelling product that can sate their curiosity without busting their wallets. It's not as well-designed as the Chromebook Pixel, the first Chromebook developed solely by Google, but it's also much cheaper and more in-line with the Chromebook's efforts to fill the gap left by the death of the netbook.
There is one stand-out feature of this new Chromebook, however: its charger. Instead of shipping with a proprietary charger (like Apple's MacBooks) or a standard laptop charger (like many Windows PCs) the latest Chromebook charges via micro-USB, the same technology used to charge everything from smartphones and tablets to e-readers and smartwatches. The same charger you use to power your smartphone can now be used to power your laptop.
This might seem like a small detail, but it could spell the difference between using a Chromebook and relying on other devices. Chargers can be frustrating to transport, costly to replace, and irritating to handle if you've got a separate charger for your smartphone, tablet, and laptop. It's a bit like having separate keys for every door in your home -- while it might be useful every once in a while, most of the time you're just wondering why you can't just purchase one key and be done with it.
Given the increasing rate with which we adopt new technologies and use a number of devices to perform a variety of functions, allowing users to use one charger for every device they own could be a big step in usability. Or, to continue the key metaphor from above: you're constantly adding new doors to your home; wouldn't it be nice to have a skeleton key capable of opening all of them?
And, without ascribing too much meaning to a laptop charger, it seems that moving to a new, universal charger is in line with Google's attempts to make hardware disappear. It doesn't matter to Google if you're using an iPhone, an Android tablet, or a Chromebook to access its services -- it only matters that you're accessing them, period.
The devices you use to interact with Google are interchangeable. Now the tools you use to charge them will be too.