I have one of the early chromebooks - it has happily been used in our kitchen as the "family calendar" and most all it does is run google calendar with the occasional google info lookup and/or directions on maps.
Today it decided to update itself to the new chrome version with the Aura window manager. And I haven't really played around with it all that much, but as a desktop it really doesn't look that bad. I could name worse desktops (cough cough).
It allows such radical notions as having easy mouse configurability for things like how to launch applications. Things gnome removed because those kinds of things were "too confusing", and in the process made useless. And a auto-hide application dock at the bottom.
Revolutionary, I know.
If that thing had a terminal window and you could install a development environment on it (and if it wasn't that dog-slow Atom thing - it's literally too slow to really be useful for even web games like Bejeweled - I'm not exactly talking Chrysis here!) it really might be quite usable as a laptop.
And I have to say, it also seems to improve on the experience even in the non-laptop mode. Making the calendar start as a "window" instead of as a browser tab also means that when you use it in the single-use mode that we traditionally did, the app takes up the whole screen, without the browser buttons etc.
So the new Aura approach seems to work both as a traditional window manager and as a more limited "apps take up the whole screen". Maybe this whole "browser as an app" thing can really work.