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Like many GeekWire readers, I’m the de-facto IT support guy in our family. So when my mother’s laptop began to fail a few months ago, I was ready with advice: buy a Chromebook.

We already have one Chromebook in the family. Last year I bought an Acer C720 for my daughter, partly as an experiment to see how it would work out for a college student. You can hear details in this GeekWire podcast, but in short she’s quite happy with the choice.

So I figured a Chromebook is even better suited for my mother who is somewhere north of 70 years old:

  • She’s on a fixed income and budget conscious.
  • She already does most computing via the browser (email, video, news, Facebook, bill paying, etc.)
  • She’s often in transit, so battery life and weight are crucial.
My mom, another happy Chromebook user.

I made every effort to sell her on the Chromebook, and even assured her Office 365 works in a browser if she really needs MS Office capabilities. But I failed (initially) to convince her.

To be fair, my mother is no stranger to new technology. She was an early Asus netbook adopter, bought a Moto G last year (also on my advice) to replace her ancient flip phone, and happily uses the phone as a WiFi hotspot.

But there was a nagging concern she would hit some crucial situation that requires more than the browser.

Things changed when she called a few weeks later wanting help to install Windows 7 on a new laptop. She hated the Windows 8 it came with. The Office Depot salesperson had assured her it’s just like Windows 7, but not for my mother. It was very difficult to navigate through tiles to find the programs she needed, especially basic utilities that shipped with Windows 7 such as the picture editor. It was so frustrating and hard to locate a simple list of applications that she gave up.

Installing Windows 7 sounded like one of those ‘interesting’ technical challenges that can suck up the weekend, which I’ve long since learned to avoid. I dreaded a UEFI roadblock halfway through the process would completely negate my efforts. And even running Windows 7, the sub-$400 14” laptop would be a boat anchor with 4 hrs of battery life (at best) and a mediocre touchpad.

On my advice, my mother returned the laptop, but postponed any decision on a new device due to travel plans. Then, to my surprise, she decided to buy a Chromebook while traveling and opted for the same Acer C720 as my daughter ($199 at Walmart).

Apparently my mother needed some configuration help to get Netflix working, but otherwise, she’s quite happy and hasn’t hit any use cases the Chromebook can’t handle. She loves the light weight, the fast startup/shutdown, and the battery life. She’s also very pleased with the Acer hardware, especially the screen and speakers.

Previously she used Word and Excel heavily, but found Google Docs work just fine, can read her existing Office docs, and it is free. The need to work offline is rare, but she was able to install games that worked offline while she traveled across the country on Amtrak. And she’s come to appreciate the convenience of having docs accessible (via the cloud) from any device. Last, she’s found picture editing quite easy and automatic on the Chromebook.

I suspect she won’t miss frequent prompts to install Windows or Norton Antivirus updates. And I look forward to fewer IT support calls.

Brenden West is a mobile and web developer and the founder and CTO of Brisk Software, LLC. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter @bwmob.

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