Chrome OS’s Potential for Churches

I’ve been watching Chrome OS with eager but doubtful eyes. How could a web-based OS really work on a mobile device that may not always be connected? What will you give up that you are used to on a “traditional” OS? What limitations are going to imposed on your ability to get things done? Recently, at Google I/O, Google announced the public release of their Chromebook. I wish I had one on my hands to review for myself, but I did not get into the private release phase. But, I do have some thoughts, given what information is available, for Chrome’s potential in churches.

Better for bigger churches? While the pricepoint is certainly attractive for churches with modest budgets, I’m really not sure, as a new computing paradigm, that Google’s Chrome OS and it’s Chromebook are suited for smaller churches.

  1. Most smaller church “staff” (paid or volunteer) already own their own PC. Their personal PC is going to be much more robust than a Chromebook, and be able to install robust applications directly on their machines, to accomplish the tasks they need to perform. I would guess that most small church staffers are going to need something more robust, feature rich, and “compatible” than Google Docs or Google Apps to do what they need to do. They are going to need real graphics software, and real presentation software.
  2. It seems that the major selling point for the Chromebook is administrative costs. Your IT guy is going to have less to do, and by using Google Apps, you are going to spend less on licensing software. Well, smaller churches won’t have an IT guy, and like I said before, Google Apps won’t cut it for some of the things churches need to produce. Attendance tracking and calendars? Sure – maybe. But what about the more visual creative work? What about media work? You’ll need “traditional” apps for this anyway. Yes, I’ve tried some of the online video editors and sound editors, but while interesting and surprisingly powerful, the size of media files make online apps a chore to use. I really don’t see the Chromebook affecting the smaller church’s financial bottom-line.
  3. Smaller church “staff” (paid or volunteer) typically do too wide a range of work. They are “Jacks (and Jills) of all trades” – juggling creative and administrative work. While a larger church might have support staff to support their support staff, smaller churches have to do more with fewer people. We don’t have the luxury of passing off the typing while we spend all day in Photoshop. I could see a larger church issuing Chromebooks to the their administrative staff, saving a ton of money – or freeing up money for better gear for the creative staffers. But this scenario hardly exists in smaller churches.

So – I guess I am not yet convinced that the Chromebook has any real potential to positively impact smaller churches.

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