Pixelbook Reactions

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I was getting more interested in a Chromebook.

And I got a ton of great feedback from all of you. Thank you for that.

I purchased a Pixelbook and have been using it at the USV office for the last few weeks.

Here are my initial thoughts on it:

1/ I quite like the lack of a desktop OS in the computer. The Pixelbook boots right into the browser and you do everything there. That is great for me and the way I work.

2/ The keyboard took me a bit of getting used to. I am used to the keyboard shortcuts on the Mac and it’s hard to switch away from them.

3/ I still use a Mac at home so it is a bit strange going from one computer to another and back during the day. But it is not terrible.

4/ I would really appreciate a biometric login, like a fingerprint or a face recognition. Having to enter my long and strong Google password every time I wake the computer back up is a challenge. I have heard that the next Pixelbook will come with biometric login. If so, that would be a big improvement in my view.

5/ The size, shape, screen, and weight are all great. It feels roughly equivalent to a MacBook to me.

I plan to continue to use the Pixelbook at the USV office for the foreseeable future. If Google makes one with biometric login, I will get that one instead.

However, I am not yet ready to move my entire computing experience away from the Mac. That is going to take me getting a lot more used to the Pixelbook and ChromeOS. It could happen, but not yet.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    Password thing. Likely a mass usecase annoyance. Surprised it hasn’t been addressed yet.On the back of your post a few weeks back, Chromebooks came to mind when my daughter nagged for a first school laptop .Was never going to buy her a new MacBook and my current daily driver wasn’t old enough to justify giving that to her and getting myself a new one. Also, wouldn’t even contemplate getting her a Windows laptop and having to refrequent myself with that disasterzone of an ecosystem .Got her a cheap and cheerful Chromebook. Booted it up together she put in her Google password and was away. No setup, no downloads, no installations and most importantly nothing for me to have to maintain or update.Truly hands off parental computing. She likes it a lot. I love that I don’t need to deal with anything. All good .

    1. LE

      One thing though with a Macbook you can do screen sharing and check into what she is doing if you want. (And as a parent that is not only your right but smart).Take my step son. This morning he says he is to sick to go to school. Mom falls for it. Truth is I saw that last night (and on other nights) he was watching Netflix (Friends) until about 1am. And he needs to get up at 6am for school. So sure he is not going to fell like going to school. Netflix is when he isn’t gaming. I don’t know which one is ‘worse’.Now maybe there is a way to monitor what he is doing on a Chromebook I am sure there is. But I don’t need to spend any time re-inventing the wheel (per my other comment) for something that I already have a working solution for. I’ve got enough projects lined up that I have no time for, let alone to spend time on something that I have already figured a working solution for.By the way plenty of places sell decent used macbook airs etc at fair prices.disasterzone of an ecosystemExactly. It’s like they have not only a different word for everything (Steve Martin joke) but the word is more difficult than it needs to be and not intuitive in anyway and half the time it doesn’t work.

  2. Matt Zagaja

    This post reminds me of the year I switched from Windows to Mac OS X. When youโ€™re used to something you always hope the new device is what you had before plus more, but usually the case is it is just a different set of trade-offs. I think at this point most tech companies have figured out how to make a device that meets the needs of 80% of users. The synergies are fun though. On my Mac I no longer enter a password most of the time because it authenticates via my watch.

    1. jason wright

      and how does your watch know it is you wearing it?i have a Macbook. in my mind the Watch is a solution looking for a problem to solve. is this it?

      1. Matt Zagaja

        There is a sensor for heart rate that can tell if it’s in contact with skin or not.

  3. tsella

    If you’re currently on Android phone, you can use your phone biometrics to log in.https://support.google.com/

    1. fredwilson

      I tried getting that to work and have failed so far

      1. tsella

        Are you on Pixel 2? I found the bt on that phone to become funky.Try doing the process immidiately after a phone reboot. If it works I’d suggest a phone wipe.. at least for me it de-funked bt.

        1. Bass Bauman

          This feature has been working flawlessly for me, I highly recommend. Here are instructions specific to the Pixelbook, I hope they are helpful: https://support.google.com/

  4. Sebastian Wain

    What do you think of the touchscreen? Don’t you think Apple should add touchscreens to their notebooks soon?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t use it

  5. Lars Markull

    I am thinking about doing the same – but will now rather wait for the new Pixelbook then :)Are you still using Dashlane through? Does it work on the Pixelbook as it does on the MacBook? Thanks!

    1. fredwilson

      Yes it does. It runs in the browser!

  6. awaldstein

    Watching this experiment closely.I thought about this before I bought my last MacBook, but did the easy thing and just bought it.

    1. jason wright

      Apple makes it easy. The Macbook is the standard to emulate in the laptop niche, and who is?

      1. Arnold Waldstein

        Yes they do.

  7. jason wright

    ah, the irresistible impulse to purchase, that little monster inside each of us. it needs to be tamed. patience is a virtue.i like Chromebooks. i’m holding out for the PB2. i think i read that it will come with container support allowing the option of SECURE Linux. the PB1 only allows Linux in developer mode, leaving the machine wide open to the dark forces of the web.i’m thinking of buying an antique, a Nexus 5, to try out Ubuntu Touch at https://ubports.com Google’s gravity is strong, but i’m fighting it.those fat bezels look fat.

  8. William Mougayar

    “I still use a Mac at home so it is a bit strange going from one computer to another and back during the day. But it is not terrible.- I had the same challenge when I added a Surface Pro to my mobile life, and keeping the MacBook for desktop work. You get used to the small changes eventually.But I’m not sure how some people can drive on the right side, then be in a different country and also drive on the left side. That takes quite a big mental switch.

    1. jason wright

      it is a big switch, and potentially rather dangerous. i ‘double think’ my way through every turn and every junction, and that’s just when riding my bicycle. i was nearly wiped out once riding in Munich. entirely my own fault. so easily done. the brain gets into a ‘groove’. not easy to get out of. applicable to life i general if one is not careful.the question is why do some countries contradict the international norm? Sweden switched over one day in 1967, know as ‘Dagen H’ day. the day after must have been a bit tricky. better to have stayed in bed.https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

      1. Lawrence Brass

        On an ancient road trip from London to Padstow, once we got off the highway into the country roads, dad kept missing the asphalt with the left side of the car into the gravel. He let me drive for a while and I recall how the brain automatically wanted to enter the opposite lane when turning at a corner. The worse thing for me though was the gear lever at the “wrong” side.

        1. jason wright

          what fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. LE

      But I’m not sure how some people can drive on the right side, then be in a different country and also drive on the left side. That takes quite a big mental switch.To me the stress of that is not that switch and the driving. It’s worrying about the other guy. (Girls never make mistakes as we all know). In particular you go to some island (like, say, St. John) and there are these great and endless mountain roads. And you are riding in a jeep and it’s fun. What comes to mind? “How do I know the other tourist in a jeep isn’t going to fly around that corner in the other direction and slam into me”. [1][1] To me that entirely kills the buzz of the experience.

      1. jason wright

        Girls do make mistakes. A seventy year old British woman in this case, driving around a bend in Spain on the wrong side of the road and wiping out several top professional riders from Team Giant-Alpicin;https://www.youtube.com/wat

      2. William Mougayar

        Yup. Good thing the streets of London remind you of what side to look at, before crossing.

    3. Michael Elling

      You have to do it with a manual! And get through a roundabout. Then you can pretty much master anything!

  9. Mark Gavagan

    To display all keyboard shortcuts: Control + Alt + ?

  10. Jeremy Shatan

    I’ve read that getting a new device is good for the health of our brain, as we learn a new interface and develop new pathways to getting stuff done. Switching between devices (as I did for over 15 years, with PC’s at work and Macs at home) can do the same thing, keeping your mind flexible as you approach to problem solving, etc. Not that I’m complaining about having a Mac at my current job, however!

    1. LE

      I’ve read that getting a new device is good for the health of our brainThat sounds like some theory written about in a pop psychology article that has no actual basis in science and hasn’t even been researched (a guess strictly I haven’t checked). Just white men shuck jiving about something. Of course it makes sense intuitively, but there are so many other ways to achieve the same goal. Switching computers (and thereby killing your productivity which is why you in part use a computer) seems foolish. And what exactly is ‘health of your brain’? anyway? One of those ‘less of a chance of getting Alzheimer’s if you do crossword puzzles’? After all not going to ward off glioblastoma.And the issue is never whether something is good or helpful even when black and white (and this isn’t even close to that). It’s what are the tradeoffs and what else of value could you be doing with the time. So it’s the net benefit.It’s like say ‘learning a 2nd language is good for your brain’. Ok but it takes time to learn a second language and maybe that time is better spent on something that is good for your brain and is actually helpful everyday.I take the time to write comments here and I am convinced that it is not only good for my brain but very helpful to me in many other ways. It releases energy and makes me think and come up with creative arguments and forces me to have a basis to back up what I say (or at least use words to not pin myself into a corner). That happens to be a great skill in terms of other things that I do that help me earn a living <— Which is what it’s all about.Oh one other point. I don’t spend time solving problems that I have already solved and that are working for me. So the idea of saving a bit of money (when you don’t need to) for something that is already working (A macbook) isn’t the way i would roll. I stick with what works and move on to a problem that actually needs to be solved.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Now, now, now, now, you might have a different view of such things if you spent the NYC approved amount of time daily with the NYT, mainstream media, The View, diet fads, fat burner pills, sightings of UFOs with ET walking out shaking hands, ET with the intergalactic solution for ED, scientists speechless about new teeth whitening gel, brain booster pills, miracle colon cleansing, powerwash cleaning your insides, look like a teenager again with Oil of the Turtle skin cream, opportunities to have a whole house, life “make over” with “out with the boring old and in with the exciting new”, etc.!!!!! Look at all the fantastic, fantasy fun you are missing by emphasizing merely real problems!!!!I’m all for the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, but I did have a question about that letter from about 50 women who in high school knew Brett well and said that he was always a “perfect gentleman”. Hmm …. From some of what I remember about some high school girls, I’d have to believe that 10, 20, maybe more of those 50 were REALLY disappointed in his perfect gentleman approach and were confiding to each other “Brett is SO nice, but WHAT do we have to DO to get him interested and to RESPOND????”Uh, since then I’ve learned not always to take fully seriously just all the things said by teenage girls and am still for the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh!!!

  11. DJL

    It’s too bad you aren’t evaluating the machine of some cool startup. All we need is to have Google be in charge of our mobile and desktop lives. Moving from Apple to Google just moves the decimal places of the billions around.

  12. Junaid Mian

    Awesome! I hope the experience converts you to a Chrome-Head;) Welcome to Chromeland!!!

  13. David Albrecht

    Mac vs. Chromebox is like being bilingual. You notice it at first a lot but after a while it becomes second nature. This is from a guy who uses a Mac and Windows PC several hours/day almost every day.

  14. LE

    The Pixelbook boots right into the browser and you do everything there. That is great for me and the way I work.I still don’t get this along with not understanding the other post where you said ‘seems like a waste’ with respect to buying a Macbook. You aren’t some poor student. You aren’t buying 1000 for your company. You have zero to gain by being frugal. Not only is it not ‘wasteful’ it means you can get done what you have to easily and if you need to do more (even if only 1 or 2 times a year) you can. Is this an attempt to be seen as down to earth? What am I missing?A Macbook or Macbook air etc boots right up to the browser as well. You put it to sleep and you can launch a browser in one keystroke or you can simply have the browser open. And what else? Well if one browser doesn’t work on a website then you can test it on another website. Say you have an investment. Sure their site works with chrome. Are you going to pick up that it doesn’t work with Firefox or Safari?Plus if you have an Apple Watch you can use that to avoid even using passwords to login. And it works great.The fact that you are actually slaving with a long google password makes so sense in order to simplify. You could use an Apple Watch or you can just set a normal password on your Mac and bee done with it. And let the browser (and 2FA) handle the google auth part.I am doing an intervention here. Unless you have some ulterior motive for using chromebook (some basis for a related investment ‘use the product or the ecosystem’) you are cutting your nose to spite your face.

  15. tsella

    I have not tried it, but I believe you could also use app passwords to use a simpler password specifically for this device. I’ve used app passwords for different purposes, but I don’t see why it would not work for this use case, unless google blocks it.https://support.google.com/

  16. Dominic Preuss

    FYI – You can re-map the Pixelbook keys to be the same position as MBR (alt key specifically).This dramatically improved my life when switching back and forth.

    1. fredwilson

      Yessssssss. How do I do that?

      1. Dominic Preuss

        Settings > KeyboardSwitch the Crtl and Alt keys to map to the othey key.That fixes switching windows and tabs but doesn’t fix the quick launcher in MBR.

  17. Adam Parish

    Great decision. Maybe you can convince Benedict Evans to try it ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. sigmaalgebra

    Okay, define a dumb terminal as anEnd user device for user interface that has well defined means, e.g., “controls”, for the user and a standard and well defined interface to communications and servers.So, that definition fits going way back and now fits if the “device” is a Web browser based on TCP/IP, Certificate Authorities, HTTPS, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and a screen, mouse, and keyboard.So, that’s now the users’ “dumb terminal”.There are some big, huge, world changing advantages in such a dumb terminal: (1) Once the users get used to the standard “controls” and have learned to use several Web sites, then they can quickly learn nearly any other of the many millions of Web sites. (2) Since all the users like dumb terminals, nearly all applications programmers write for dumb terminals; since nearly all the applications are written for dumb terminals, nearly all the users want to use dumb terminals — call that a network effect. (3) For a user, a dumb terminal gets rid of lots computing hardware, software, systems management mud wrestling, expense, botheration, upgrades, security problems, etc.; given good wireless functionality, standards, performance, security, access, etc., mobility is a lot easier. (4) Users can still have files on some file system, local or remote, based on Windows, Linux, IPFS, etc., and a Web browser can read from them (e.g., for upload) and write to them (e.g., for download). (5) Users can still have applications that run completely on their own dumb terminal — the application just communicates with the Web browser via the TCP/IP stack on the user’s computer — e.g., I developed and tested the Web site software for my startup that way and noticed that this possibility was of quite general utility. Since commonly a Web browser can print to a USB port, there can still be local printing.We’ve slogged through a LOT of mud wrestling nonsense to get from the dumb terminal the ADM-3a, asynchronous, full-duplex, 9600 Baud, 8 bit ASCII, DC1/DC3 XON/XOFFhttps://upload.wikimedia.or…to a current Web browser.It remains the case: Dumb terminals, communications fast for the uses, and servers (used to say time-sharing) remain a really good idea. E.g., an ADM-3 at 9600 Baud, for doing character oriented work, e.g., using a text editor for word whacking or writing software, is really fast, light and lively. The same communications connection could also drive HP pen plotters, dot matrix printers, laser printers, daisy wheel printers, etc. Now the communications, etc. are fast enough for video phones, playing movies, etc.For my startup, I still want a desktop — for remaining tweaks in the software, for adding more data, and for my first server — and just got from Amazon 4 TB of 7200 RPM hard disk space.[The disks are SATA II at 3 Gbps instead of SATA III at 6 Gbps (all things considered, I doubt that SATA III would actually be significantly faster for my usage), and are 2 TB each which is the maximum for the device drivers, old motherboard BIOS, etc. of my deliberately old — I wanted SIMPLE and reliable — motherboard. So, my first server has two SATA II drives at 500 GB each, two at 2 TB each, and an old one at 250 GB. That’s 5.25 TB. My back of the envelope arithmetic and other startup planning say that, if users like my work at all well, that one server and my current Internet connection should be hardware enough for ballpark $250 K a month in revenue. Then I’ll have lots more hardware options, and generally my plane will be a few thousand feet off the ground and climbing rapidly.]Still, dumb terminals are important. And, as I was suggesting to some people back in year 2000, for user interface for a new application, just f’get about the Windows system32 calls, etc. and just write the applications code to use a Web browser for the user interface.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      In many ways web browsers are sophisticated internet terminals.The VT100 was not completely dumb, you could control screen attributes using ANSI escape sequences that were “executed” or rendered by the terminal the same way a web browser renders a web page interpreting HTML and CSS.I am still not convinced about web apps covering every use case compared with native apps, but the gap is getting narrow.Evolution is a continuum.Watch the next step, https://webassembly.org/

      1. sigmaalgebra

        You just got me caught up on Web Assembly — I’d heard of it but hadn’t looked!!Sure, there will be some uses of Web Assembly. I would worry about security, but, sure, I read the architectural points that Web Assembly should be as secure as JavaScript, sandboxes, restricted I/O, etc.Yes, the VT100 had some more tricky features, but it cost 2-3 times what the ADM-3 did. IIRC, the ADM-3 also had some features that let a good programmer put up a screen with a data entry form, maybe complete with the right cursor movement from the user hitting the tab or shift tab keys. Of course, such data entry forms remain important and early on were given a big push by IBM with their 3270 line of terminals, e.g., for airline reservations, that cost maybe 10 times what an ADM-3 did.It’s interesting that basically the user interface has not much changed. Some people have wanted the client side user interface to watch eyeballs, hand gestures, maybe even screams of frustration or angry swings of a fire axe (which I’ve been tempted to do but so far never done), but we still can hit the tab key to move a cursor from one data entry field to the “next” one!Still, I suspect that the current client side stack, TCP/IP, … HTML, …, JavaScript, SVG, the video and audio standards, with the corresponding server side stack, etc. will be 99% good enough for some years and for the other 1% some more standards added to the stacks will satisfy 99% of the 1% that is left.It’s just so darned much easier, cheaper, promising, profitable, etc. to have world wide, 3+ billion user, standard client side and server side software and protocol stacks.So, some applications programmers will have to bend a little on just the fine details of their personal dream, unique push buttons, roll-overs, pull-downs, pop-ups, radio buttons, single line text boxes, multi-line text boxes, password single line text boxes, what the tab key does to the cursor, etc.

  19. Dan G

    ASUS Chromebook Flip is my primary home machine for a while now; I only use my Windows machine to update firmware on my Inreach SE. At work, it’s all Dell Windows. Working out great, since everything synchs with Google.