Google's Nexus 7 Puts the Whammy on Chromebook

After the revelation this week that a Google tablet running Android will be available in July, Samsung's new Chromebook and Chromebox devices are looking somewhat less relevant.

When we reviewed the first version of Samsung's Chromebook Series 5 laptop about a year ago, we called into question its usefulness in the enterprise. Sure, we were taken with the novelty of a low-cost laptop running an operating system built around our favorite browser. But, the list of enterprise concerns was long, including a lack of an accessible file system, limited control of system settings, and limited virus control, media playback and printing capabilities.

[Related: Head-To-Head: Google Nexus Vs. Apple iPad ]

We also seriously missed having a desktop in the OS. ChromeOS 19 has solved that problem and many others. The version that's included with today's Chromebook Series 5 laptop and the all-new Chromebox Series 3 desktop feels much more like a genuine work environment, and through the browser, companies can leverage existing web apps and build powerful, engaging new ones using HTML 5, JavaScript and other advanced techniques.

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Indeed, ChromeOS 19 is vastly improved. And in a world in which billions of malware attacks occur each day, there's always a strong need for bulletproof security. As an enterprise environment for running single-purpose, heads-down apps that still offers access to communications and social media, ChromeOS 19 has a lot to offer as a thin-client OS. Here are a few more of the highlights.

NEXT: ChromeOS 19 vs. Android 4.1

ChromeOS 19 offers quick control over network and monitor settings through a pop-up control panel, similar to that of an Android tablet. Clicking for full settings brings up a browser window as before. The new ChromeOS also pays homage to Windows with a lower-edge bar called the app launcher that appears when needed and hides when not. Apps can be "pinned" to this Taskbar-like strip, and when browser windows are minimized (also new to ChromeOS), a white stripe appears under the corresponding launcher icon. There's also a button that superimposes app icons over the desktop, a la Mac OS Lion.

Windows also can be "tiled," a feature similar to the Windows function that docks app windows on the left or right half of the screen. Autosizing supports only two windows at a time, but any number of manually sized windows can be tiled or even cascaded, giving the appearance of true multitasking.

ChromeOS 19 includes a redesigned music player and can now play some video files, all with surprisingly good sound. We were able to play .mov and .mp4 formats, but it balked at .avi or .wmv files. Tap the screen or space bar to pause or resume playback. When plugging in USB storage or a memory card into the multi-reader, a browser window pops up with a listing of what's on it.

Even with all that potential, it remains to be seen whether there's a compelling case for Google to maintain two Linux-based operating systems. Now that Chrome will be the standard browser in Android 4.1, a Jelly Bean-based laptop would not only run browser apps, but also enjoy triple graphics buffering, beefed up system frame rate, and smoother animations and graphics rendering. It would also have access to the enormous and growing Google Play marketplace of native apps and media as well. With Google's first self-branded tablet coming in mid-July, an Android-based laptop might not be too far off.