By Mark LaFay

You’ve probably heard about how Google is making yet another splash in the hardware market with their Chromebook, if you’ve been keeping up with the technology news lately. In 2013, they captured one percent of the laptop market in the U.S., which equates to roughly 2.5 million units sold, a number expected to grow.

But what is a Chromebook? In short, a Chromebook is a laptop computer running Google’s proprietary operating system, Chrome OS.

The operating system (OS) is the software that manages and schedules the basic tasks and functions of your computer. You might have a little experience with other popular operating systems like Microsoft Windows or Apple’s Mac OS X.

Chrome OS is a new operating system developed by Google to work primarily with web-based software. Your experience using your Chromebook will be very similar to previous experiences you might have had surfing the web with the Chrome web browser. The Chrome web browser shares many similarities with other web browsers on the market like Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.

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With the exception of the Chromebook Pixel, Google isn’t manufacturing Chromebooks directly. Instead, Google has licensed a number of major laptop manufacturers to create them. Manufacturers such as ACER, HP, Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba, and Samsung are all making their own Chromebooks with their own technical specifications.

Chromebook’s software

Almost everything you do on your Chromebook happens in the Chrome web browser. This is because all the applications you will use on your Chromebook actually reside on the Internet.

This is one of the things that sets Chromebook apart from other computers: You don’t install applications on a Chromebook; instead, you access them from the Internet. You find applications through the Chrome Web Store and add them to your App Launcher, which, in many cases, means nothing more than creating a bookmark for quick access through your Chrome web browser.

This approach can be limiting in some cases, but these cases are rare. Thanks to the vast nature of Google’s ecosystem, thousands of great applications are at your fingertips.

While some Chromebook applications offer offline features and functionality, you will need an Internet connection to be able to take advantage of everything your Chromebook has to offer.

Chromebook’s hardware

Unlike all other computers on the market that run Mac OS X or Windows, no software is installed on your Chromebook, which means that your Chromebook doesn’t need to have vast amounts of hard drive space, memory, or processing power. Most Chromebooks have less than 2 gigabytes (GB) of memory, less than 64GB of hard drive space, and a low-power processor.

The reduced technical features mean that Chromebooks use less power, which means longer battery life. It also means that Chromebooks come with a drastically lower price tag compared to other computers available today. This explains why Google is gaining such a large share of the laptop market.