When Google unveiled its Chromebook in 2011, it was met with skepticism. Would an operating system that is primarily web-based be any good? Relying on internet access to run the majority of applications hardly seemed practical, especially when dependable WiFi was hard to find.
Fast forward to now, however, in a world of high-speed broadband and easily accessible public WiFi, and Chromebooks and Chrome OS are a force to be reckoned with. In fact, not only is Chrome OS a threat to Windows and Apple’s OS X, but Chromebooks outsold Macs in the US for the first time in 2016, providing a much-needed boost to the PC market.
More and more people are turning to Chromebooks and their desktop counterpart, the Chromebox, in favour of Windows and Macs, for their low price, lightweight, minimalist design, portability and ease of use. Chromebooks are the perfect travel companion and offer businesses an affordable IT solution for staff, with little in the way of maintenance costs.
But… And this is a rather large but, for all their greatness (we’d happily recommend Chrome OS for all web applications) you can’t install anything on a Chromebook.
Chrome OS does support external storage hardware, but as for the system itself, it’s not possible to install commonly used the software. If you’re a lifelong Windows or Mac user, this can be a deal breaker.
Where online meetings are concerned, this means no access to popular programs such as Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync) and Zoom. Chrome does offer a web-based application for the former, but it’s buggy and more tailored towards one-to-one conversations than full-on collaborative screen share sessions involving multiple participants.
There are, however, several cloud-based online meeting/screen share alternatives that do work well on Chrome OS, without the need for software downloads.
Let’s take a look at the contenders, starting with Google’s own offering.
Google Hangouts is part-Skype, part-WhatsApp, part-Facebook Messenger, placing emphasis very much on the social aspect of instant messaging. It’s not the most business-like of applications. That said, it works well and is tremendously popular.
- Using Google Hangouts is as simple as entering the email address of a user and inviting them to chat via phone, video or messaging
- Video chats can include up to 10 people at a time, and there is a screen share option for demos and tutorials
- Hangouts also offers tight integration with other Google apps such as Google Calendar, Gmail and YouTube. Slack integration is also available, and chats can be synced across devices
- It’s free!
- Hangouts require users to have a Google account in order to use the product. They’ll also need to be willing to disclose this account — something that not everyone is comfortable with, especially if collaboration is between relative strangers
- Video chats are bandwidth heavy, and quality can be affected, with lag and sync issues common
- Voice and video conversations may require a plugin, depending on the viewer’s platform. This is free, but does mean adding an app to your computer. Again, something that not everyone is comfortable doing
- Users will need to be running the latest browser for optimum performance.
- Designed for casual collaboration rather than sales
- No option for custom branding
Appear.in is a video collaboration tool designed to make it easy for multiple people to have video conversations with minimum effort. It’s used by brands such as Trello and Skyscanner and offers both free and paid plans.
- Appear.in requires no registration or software downloads. Guests simply require the link to hop onto a chat
- Video chats can support up to four people at once on the free plan, or up to twelve on the paid plan
- Users can join in on browsers or via mobile apps
- Meeting rooms can be set to private
- Allows custom branding for meetings
- Integrates with tools such as Slack, YouTube and Trello for collaboration
- Screen sharing requires the paid plan
- Mobile usage requires an app
- Requires the latest version of Chrome or Firefox for desktop usage
- Doesn’t support Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Windows Phone or Safari
- Aimed more at collaboration than sales
CrankWheel is an instant demo and screen sharing tool for everyone. This is our tool, so we’re naturally biased, but for sales and web conferencing, we believe our solution is the best out there, for Chrome OS and every other operating system.
- CrankWheel is designed for results. Unlike other video collaboration tools, this solution is catered towards interacting with prospects, allowing questions to be answered and solutions provided in real-time
- It’s free until you reach commercial usage limits
- Viewers never need to install any software or download any plugins
- Works with over 99.9% of browsers across desktop and mobile, including Chrome, FireFox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Edge regardless of browser age, maintaining a strong connection over bad networks
- Supports PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and even BlackBerry!
- Allows fully custom branding
- Users simply require a link in order to participate, or can be told to type in an easy link or sent a text message to join
- Designed for sales reps as well as managers, with access permissions, tailored reporting and audit log features
- Customers can dial local numbers in 72 countries
- Screen shares can include hundreds of participants
- Includes full instant demo website integration and lead enrichment for greater knowledge of prospects
- No video call feature means it’s not ideally suited to casual conversations between friends
- Relies on phone-style conversation, which is typically preferred when doing sales, but not in some other use cases
- Designed for telesales and inside sales more than for team collaboration
- Aimed at businesses rather personal users
Where Chrome OS is being used for casual chat online, Google Hangouts is a great option. If small team collaboration is needed, Appear.in is a solid choice. However, if you need online sales meetings, lead capture and powerful screen sharing on your Chromebook, CrankWheel is the best tool for the task.