Because some BetaNews readers think Chromebook is a joke, I realized the necessity of getting out our Pixel buying poll before April Fools' Day. So here we are. Google released the second-generation Chromebook Pixel on March 11. The high-end laptop costs less than its predecessor (one model for under $1,000), but many potential buyers will question—and they should—the wisdom spending so much on a computer with browser user interface meant to be mostly Internet-connected.
Chromebook Pixel isn't for everyone—probably not most people. But our readers aren't most people. Many of you live on technology's cutting edge, and some bleed because of it. The laptop could be for you, and it most certainly is for me. I bought the high-end LS model on launch day and took delivery on Friday the 13th. I will have much good to report in my forthcoming review. But what works for me may not for you. So let's look more closely at the computer.
My family plays musical computers today, as mom receives my wife's Toshiba Chromebook 2—to replace the end-of-life original Microsoft Surface RT. Last week, my beloved took possession of my Google Pixel after I received the newer model, released on March 11.
While writing the above paragraph, my mother phoned to let me know the laptop arrived. "Oh do I like this Toshiba! This can't be a 13-inch screen. It seems so much bigger". The reaction is more than just because of the move from the RTs 11.6-inch panel. Among the Chrome OS category, the Toshiba's screen is exceptionally bright, and crisp, setting it apart from every model other than Google's own.
The second of three Friday 13ths was definitely a lucky day. Near Noon, FedEx delivered the Chromebox Pixel 2015, which I set up late afternoon. Nearly 24 hours later, time is right for some immediate reactions before my eventual full review. My perspective presented here is two-fold: General first impressions for anyone combined with what are the benefits for existing Pixel owners. For many of the latter group, I say this: Consider your budget and needs wisely. What you've got may be more than good enough.
For everyone else, I will contradict the majority of reviewers, and even Google. Pixel is not a computer for developers or limited number of laptop users. Anyone shopping for a quality notebook that will last years should consider the new Chromebook, most certainly if looking at any MacBook model or Windows PC, such as Surface Pro 3. Everyone living the Google lifestyle who can afford a laptop in this price range should consider nothing else. Now let's get to the drill down, point by point. There are 13, for no other reason than my receiving the laptop on the unluckiest day.
Two new laptops launched this week, both pioneering USB-C and packing 12-inch displays. The likenesses stop there, and the distinctions can't be overstated. One computer you can buy now, the other comes next month. Should you consider either? My primer will help you decide.
Apple unveiled the new MacBook, which measures 1.31 centimeters at its thickest and weighs less than a kilogram, two days ago. Sales start April 10. This morning, Google launched the second-generation Chromebook Pixel, which is immediately available for purchase. Both laptops adopt USB Type-C for power and, using adapters, hooking up to other devices. USB-C puts both computers at the bleeding edge for charging and connectivity, But their approach to ports couldn't be more different.
Yesterday, commentary "Do Chromebooks matter anymore?" popped up in my social network feeds. Preston Gralla rightly wonders, when looking at how the laptops have fallen off Amazon's top-seller lists, IDC shipment forecasts, and what happened with netbooks. While being a Chromebook fan, I must admit to similar misgivings.
So today, I emailed Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis: "Are Chromebooks just the next netbook wave? Low-cost, lean configurations, and education adoption all look similar to me. Do you see any parallels to suggest Chromebook is little more than the next netbook and it's headed for the same destination: Short-term appeal that vanishes? Or is there longevity here, based on sales numbers?" His answer is reason for this post.
Chrome OS is a bit limited, but functional enough for many users. You see, many people do all of their computing on the web nowadays, making a browser-focused Chromebook or Chromebox a smart choice. Unfortunately, Chome OS has also become synonymous with low cost and low specs. This is partly due to the misunderstanding that the operating system is only a browser; it's not. Google's OS is a full Linux distro running a browser, and it needs all the power it can get.
Today, Acer announces a refresh to the Chromebox CXI, which should make people say "finally", with a sigh of relief. Intel Core i3, 8GB of RAM and 4K output -- this is the machine Chrome fans have been waiting for.
Last year, I disputed ridiculous assertions, based on widely misquoted NPD data, that 2014 would be "year of the Chromebook". It wasn't. But that designation does belong to 2015—at least in the United States. Measures: Number of new models; adoption by K-12 schools; and overall sales, which are surprisingly strong. Read carefully the next paragraph.
Through U.S. commercial channels and retail, Chromebooks accounted for 14 percent of laptop sales last year, according to NPD, which released data at my request. That's up from 8 percent in 2013. Commercial channels, largely to educational institutions, accounted for about two-thirds of 2014 Chromebook sold. Year over year, sales soared by 85 percent, and the trajectory continues to climb.
While most everyone is familiar with Chromebooks, the Google operating system also comes on a few desktop computers, a system generally referred to as a Chromebox. Like any computer, a Chromebox requires a keyboard and mouse, but sometimes those using notebook computers also prefer an external mouse instead of using the trackpad. Now Logitech plans to have everyone covered in this growing market.
The hardware maker is announcing a new line of peripherals designed specifically for Chrome OS computers. You're likely thinking that any wireless keyboard or mouse will work, and you'd be mostly right. I type this now from a Chromebook using a standard Microsoft wireless mouse. But what Logitech has is a bit more interesting.
Yesterday afternoon, a San Diego State University student bought my MacBook Pro—13-inch Retina Display, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD—for $1,100. I purchased the laptop from local dealer DC Computers in late-August 2014 for a few hundred dollars more. The buyer's interest was my own: Mac, large SSD, and extended warranty (expires April 2017).
The proceeds go to buying Toshiba Chromebook 2 (two, another for my wife) and Android phone for her. She moves from iPad Air, which has been, since September 2014, her PC—and that experience should be another story (be patient). If time travel was possible, I would keep, rather than sell, my Chromebook Pixel early last summer. The Chromie lifestyle suits me best, and I am excited to be back to it. However, in December, when reviewing the tech products that changed my digital lifestyle last year, including the switch to Apple's platforms: "I can’t imagine using anything else". I lied to myself, and unintentionally to you.
Not long ago I wrote asking if we still needed Windows. It's an interesting question without a real answer. On the one hand, many folks don't need it, as a Chromebook will suffice for what they do -- checking email and browsing websites. On the other hand, some people do need Windows for the apps that can't be had on Google's platform.
In other words, there is no easy answer to the question I posed. One thing became clear though. Windows won't be going anywhere soon. It may only be needed by a certain percentage of people, many of whom are in a business of some sort, either for themselves or in the enterprise community.
While I keep the list short this year, it wouldn't be U.S. Thanksgiving without my writing about gratitude, and why some tech company's executives, employees, and partners should prostrate and pray "Thanks".
Let's start off with Google, which continues a great run that started with Larry Page's return as CEO in April 2011. If he's not all smiles this Turkey Day, someone should slap that man aside the head. I could tick off a hundred things for which he should give thanks. For brevity's sake, so you can get back to the big game and bigger bird, I select some things that might not come to mind.
Google is trying to grow its budding operating system platform, continually updating and enhancing features. Customers can now work in certain environments offline, for instance. But what lacked was some of the core features of rivals Windows and OS X. However, that slowly changes as well.
Photo editing, for instance, was one feature that, while not absent, certainly wasn't top of the line. Until now you had to rely on an app such as Pixlr, which many Chromebook customers use. But Google today announces that Photoshop is arriving, though not (at least yet) offline.
Google geeks have speculated for nearly a year about Android and Chrome OS coming together as one operating system. Yesterday's announcement -- that some Android apps can now run on the browser-based platform -- seems to foreshadow a combined future. Make no mistake about what this really means. Chrome OS is an ecosystem with no future because there is little monetization of apps. The platform would be dead if not for the existing and smoothly integrated Google cloud ecosystem.
Android apps inject life into the Chrome OS ecosystem. Free apps can't sustain any platform because developers have no incentive to create them. Android opens a huge spigot of apps -- and some which developers can monetize, more than they do through paid services tacked onto free web apps. BTW, Microsoft should take a cue from Google, by bringing boatloads of Windows Phone apps to its PC operating system.
Earlier this summer I wrote about moving to a Chromebook -- I'm working from my porch and I want something easily portable. I stated at the time that I was not sure where things would lead when the weather took a turn for the cooler. In previous years I've used a Windows 8.x (or 7) computer, as my office contains two desktops and a laptop running the Microsoft operating system as well.
Don't get me wrong -- I still see a need for the platform, but I simply don't see it for myself. I write in Word, which has a Chrome app. I edit images, which Pixlr handles quite well. Beyond that, I do little else outside of checking email and scouring the web for news.
VMware, Google and Nvidia are all teaming up in a scheme which will allow high-end graphics intensive applications to be used on a lowly Chromebook.
How will that work? Obviously a Chromebook doesn't have the horsepower to run heavyweight programs such as, say, Photoshop or AutoCAD, but the laptop won't be running it in this case. The software will run in the cloud, on powerful machines in data centers, and be streamed to the notebook.