Screenshot of Chrome OS Shelf with Google Services App Icons
Chrome OS Shelf with Google Services Application Icons

The Fourth “S” in Chrome OS

In a previous post I described the three S’s used by Google to market Chrome OS, but suggested that there was a fourth “S” which must be considered.

In a previous post, , I wrote about my intro to the Chrome OS world and why I moved from years with Apple and Windows.

And I used the three S’s that are staples of Google’s marketing for Chrome OS, Speed, Safety and Simplicity to explain why I switched. But I ended that post positing that there was actually a fourth “S” to the equation.

The fourth “S” for me is Services, Google Services to be exact, and how they are so nicely integrated with the Chrome OS operating system, while also available across all platforms.

When I first got started with Chrome OS I was familiar with GMail and Google Search of course. But as I started to use my first Chromebook I was introduced to an incredible array of Google services. Fast forward four plus years and it would take a small book for me to discuss all of the gems I found both in Google services and hardware, but the point is, none of this became real for me until Chrome OS.

If you’re new to Chrome OS or just curious about all things Google, let me provide a short list of my favorites, and very brief mention of why each became important for me. Perhaps in future posts I can go into more detail, but here I’ll just keep it simple.

  • GMail — long time user of this email web client since 2004, and it just keeps getting better. Recent additions of extensive right-click context menu, snooze, quick action buttons in line with messages, Keep, Tasks and Calendar panes, so much goodness has been added to GMail, and I’m so glad to finally get away from all that red, new themes are a great way to spice up your email.
  • Google Search — everyone knows how to Google so I’ll only add that the new extra information pane at the right of the search results are full of great things like maps, reviews, similar searches and even local results from your other Google services like contacts and other apps.
  • Google One (Drive) — 100gb, 200gb up to 2tb to share with up to five family members, call or chat with Google support about any Google service is included. Google usually has a coupon for free 100gb drive for one year with a Chromebook purchase. Otherwise the free drive offering is 15gb. No more worrying about periodic backups of my data as it is all stored in the cloud. And sharing files with others couldn’t be easier. A brand new offering is Google VPN included with the 2tb plan.
  • Google Photos — this is absolutely the best cloud storage for your photos. Another decades old task gone as there is no longer any concern about backing up photos due to Google’s unlimited no cost storage for storing photos at high quality resolution (ending for non-Pixel users in June 2021). Searching for photos is magical, with lots of assistant integration for auto collages and archive suggestions. Our current photo collection in Google Photos is over 100,000 photos, and many of our friends that use Apple devices switch to Google’s offering after seeing the functionality. And finally, automatic sharing of photos with the whole family is incredible. My wife takes a picture on her phone, I get a notification and can see the photo added to our shared gallery.
  • Google Docs — most people have heard of Google’s word processing application and possibly Google Sheets for spreadsheets, but did you know there are many more applications in the Google office suite? Slides (think PowerPoint), Drawings and Forms round out this full featured free office package. And while I’ll admit that these offerings are not as full featured as Microsoft Office, it’s collaboration features are first rate. My wife and I use these Google office applications exclusively to run our non-profit and easily share files and folders over Google Drive. We can also open Microsoft documents, and even keep them in that format, though we seldom have that need. And any file can easily be saved as pdf, if a non-editable format is desired. Versioning is first rate as we can go back to any past edit and resurrect that version. And searching for a document is so much faster than doing the same task in Windows.
  • Youtube Music (recently replaced Google Play Music) — while the jury is still out on Youtube Music, I’ve found that it has been greatly improved over the last year and migrated my playlists from GPM to YTMusic some time ago. The one area that I believe has greatly improved recently is Google’s curation of music into personal playlists, the music it chooses for me is sometimes uncanny, with just about every song to my taste. My wife and I share playlists and I seldom run across any tune that is not available. And don’t miss the premium edition that adds Youtube without the ads.
  • Speaking of entertainment, we’ve subscribed to Youtube TV for over three years, since it entered our market, and while unfortunately the cost has steadily risen every year, we get all the programming, including local news channels that we need. With the unlimited cloud DVR, we record all our favorite shows and can speed through most of them commercial free.
  • Google Play Movies is another money saver as most movies are $1 cheaper than renting on Amazon or other streaming services.
  • Google News — I was bowled over when I first saw the new Google News app. The curated “for you” section picks out the stories that really interest me and the other related stories from other sources and views really provides a reliable way to see opposing viewpoints, so important for our era of fake news. This has become my primary source of news and goto for daily updates on my phone and Chromebook.
  • Google Fi — this one’s not for everybody, but oh what a difference for me. Just $20 for unlimited calls and texts and $10 per GB for data with a cap at 6gb (after that data is at no charge up to 15gb at which point data is throttled). I recently wrote about the and a brand new feature I am loving with Fi.
  • Google Voice — this is a way to get a free telephone number that is assigned to your Google account. The number can be linked to another number of your choice, and can simultaneously ring right in your browser. For those that can’t use Fi’s new syncing of calls, messages and voicemail, this is a great alternative.

So many will be thinking, yes John but there is a trade off for all of these great free services from Google. And of course you’re right, there is really no free lunch so to speak. Google’s currency is data collection, and the more services you use, the more Google will know about you.

So exchanging your personal data instead of cash comes down to a personal decision. In my mind, so many others were and are collecting my data, Internet and cell phone provider, cable provider, Facebook, LinkedIn and hundreds of other apps that need your location and access to different types of information to operate, that Google doesn’t worry me. I do check security settings often and have two factor authentication via a hardware key configured for access to my Google account, and I’m comfortable with that setup. The decision comes down to your comfort level after careful consideration.

Thanks for reading, J

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IT Professional for 35 years, tech dabbler and Google Ambassador