That sound you just heard was Google slapping Apple across the face. Today the search and information giant unveiled and starting selling high-end portable Chromebook Pixel. By just about every measure, Google guns for Apple in its dominant market -- premium PCs, or those selling for $1,000 or more. When rumors circulated about the computer, I opined: "Chromebook Pixel looks like MacBook Pro to me". The impression is stronger now that the real deal is here -- from form factor to price, either $1,299 or $1,449.
Should Apple sweat about Chromebook Pixel? I would. Following a years-long retail trend, Apple share of PCs selling for $1,000 or more was over 90 percent in 2012, according to NPD. Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, asks if Google is "more trying to compete with Apple and high-end windows machines for premium consumer and maybe corporate?" I answer: Yes. What I want to know: Will you buy Chromebook Pixel? But more importantly: Would you buy Chromebook Pixel instead of 13-inch MacBook Pro?
The rumors were true! Google developed a touchscreen Chromebook for release this year. Like today! No one should misunderstand what the computer means competitively. Already, four Microsoft Windows partners produce Chromebooks -- Acer, HP, Lenovo and Samsung. Chromebook Pixel promises to do for the Chrome OS platform what Nexus devices did for Android smartphones and tablets: Establish a reference design for hardware partners and provide developers base system to develop apps for the platform. But it's also a competitive move against PCs running OS X or Windows and Google pushing Chrome OS into the premium notebook market.
Today Google unveiled Chromebook Pixel, following weeks of rumors. The company also extended a vision for Chrome OS. Bottom line: Commitment to the operating system is strong. The search and information giant briefed journalists in different cities. I had to turn down an invite to the San Francisco briefing because of family matters. Do I feel left out! But, hey.
Third in a series. For Valentine's Day, Wayne Williams and I explained why we love Kindle and Surface Pro, respectively. We've decided to extend the concept into an ongoing series, which I continue about Chromebook and in many more ways Chrome OS.
My Chromebook journey began in December 2010 when Google dispatched 60,000 Cr-48 test units. I used the computer as my primary PC for a week, but no more, being a concept. But, then, my 11.6-inch MacBook Air failed in March 2011, and I reverted back to the Cr-48 during the emergency. In June 2011, Samsung released the Series 5 Chromebook, which I used as my only PC for two solid months. But performance couldn't meet my needs -- that is until the successor, the 550, launched in May 2011. I abandoned MacBook Air and didn't look back. Performance and features met my needs. I traded performance for better ergonomics when switching to the ARM-based Series 3 Chromebook in October.
Opera's decision to change rendering engines means three of the top five browsers will use Webkit. Internet Explorer stands alone, and that is the wrong place to be. In September 2009 post "Microsoft should dig deep into Webkit to keep Google from Framing IE", I suggested radical change, which unsurprisingly was ignored. Since, Chrome usage share grew from 2.9 percent in August 2009 to 17.84 percent in January 2013, according to Net Applications. Meanwhile, IE share fell from 66.97 percent to 55.14 percent.
But the real battleground, and where upstarts gobble up territory, is mobile -- yeah smartphones and tablets. While the category accounted for just 11.8 percent browser usage share in January, the majority is Webkit -- 61.02 percent just for Safari. Internet Explorer: 1.34 percent, or less than Chrome (2.02 percent). Android browser is 21.46 percent. As I expressed three-and-a-half years ago: "Microsoft should answer WebKit for WebKit, by releasing a new browser based on a new rendering engine; put on the IE brand and ship it for desktop and mobile". There's still time, but fast running out.
Is it my imagination, or does each new Chromebook get bulkier than the last? Today HP joined the Google operating system family, introducing the heaviest model (1.8 kg/3.96 pounds) with largest display (14 inches). Lenovo's ThinkPad Chromebook, announced in mid-January, is a tad lighter but the Acer C7, with smaller screen, is thicker. Perhaps the problem is this: PC manufacturers adapt low-cal Windows notebooks to Chrome OS; new Acer, HP and Lenovo models are more licensing plays than any attempt to innovate.
For PC manufacturers looking to offer something other than Windows, pay nothing for an operating system or capitalize on Google's bulging brand name, Chrome OS is enticing option. The lack of real investment, which demonstrates no sincere commitment, is wrong way to win or satisfy customers. Samsung proves the better Chromebook partner, by at least making some effort around system design, including adapting ARM processors.
Google is moving forward with Chrome, both the web browser and the operating system, quickly and seems to be gaining traction. Sure, the browser is popular, but the OS struggled early on, but new notebooks, err...Chromebooks, have been getting a lot of attention, including TV ads in the United States.
However, the search giant has learned that security is pretty important to the end-user, and probably more so to those looking at these computers, because buyers probably tend to be more on the "techie" side. That is why Google has annually invited people to "hack" Chrome in an effort to find and fix flaws.
If you ever wanted Apple's tiny laptop, cash in your savings or dig out the credit card. Best Buy has a short sale going, discounting MacBook Air by $200. That means price starting at $799.99 today and tomorrow for an 11.6-inch model with Intel Core i5 processor and 64GB SSD. Double the storage for another 100 bucks.
The promotion, part of Winter Doorbuster Days, is Friday and Saturday. Best Buy discounts other goodies, but MacBook Air stands out for the price, which lowers the entry cost to joining the Mac Fan Club. But Best Buy also sells the Samsung ARM Chromebook, for $249.99, also with 11.6-inch panel, similar size and weight and comparable (if not better) ergonomics. And Best Buy can't stock Chromebooks fast enough. While the company doesn't release sales data, social network chatter reveals bounty hard to get. So can we just blame Chromebook for Best Buy's sale?
That's the question we're asking in the newsroom, and the consensus is "No", and that most certainly is my initial reaction. But on further examination, I'm at "depends", meaning for some schools but not for many others. Here size of school district matters, because Lenovo commits considerable extra IT-oriented resources to this newest ThinkPad that should appeal to people managing larger-scale deployments. But smaller schools, such as charter, private or small town, should consider spending less on another model.
Today the two companies announced the new computer, ThinkPad X131e Chromebook, which goes on sale February 26. Quick specs: 11.6-inch display with 1366 x 768 resolution; Intel Celeron processor; 16GB sold-state drive; webcam; Ethernet; dual-bad Wi-Fi N; 2 USB 3.0 ports; single (separate) ports for USB 2.0, HDMI and VGA; and Chrome OS. Lenovo doesn't state which processor or provide dimensions but does give weight as 1.8 kilograms (3.9 pounds). Price is $429, or $459 with recommended IT maintenance service.
This morning, Amazon greeted me with email promoting the ARM Chromebook. Well, hell, back in stock is a story. But what a surprise I got clicking the link. Rather than the expected $249 price, one of the retailer's third-party sellers demanded $342.92 for the WiFi model and $448.45 the 3G. There were five WiFi Chromebooks hours ago. They're sold out now -- 3G as well from the one seller. Another has one 3G unit left for $441.90 -- or about $112 more than the official selling price.
I'm a big Chromebook fan and last week made the $249 ARM model my main PC, even though Samsung's Series 5 550 is faster. I simply like the smaller portable's ergonomics and keyboard better. But my Chromebook enthusiasm stops with paying way more than Google's selling price. I've got to wonder: Why are these people paying premium price? Is it you? Is Chromebook really that much in demand?
Just when everyone (including me) thought Google and Samsung offered the killer price on Chromebook, along comes Acer. Starting tomorrow, from Google Play and major retailers, Acer's newest Chromebook goes on sale for a cool $199. That's right, 50 bucks less than Samsung's no-brainer "I got to buy it" bargain-basement model. Why not just give it away? In the esteemed words of Crazy Eddie: These "prices are insane!"
But low cost brings hidden costs, and the Acer C7 Chromebook is full of compromise for $50 dollars savings. For starters, it's a heftier beast, both in size and weight, coming in about a half pound heavier (1.4 kilograms). The newest Samsung comes with super-fast ARM Cortex A15 processor, while the Acer is Intel Celeron. In a big departure from all previous Chromebooks, the C7 swaps SSD for a standard hard drive. That means more capacity (320GB), but more moving parts and presumably greater performance overhead. I got to ask: Who needs all that storage on a device primarily running Web apps? The clincher: 3.5 hours battery life, compared to the ARM model's 6.5 hours.
On Monday night while watching "Resident Evil: Afterlife" on USA Network, Google aired the first Chromebook commercial -- not once but twice. The ad played a lot better during primetime than on YouTube, with that oh-so tempting $249 price reaching out from the screen. Advertising where real people go shows Google's seriousness to reaching the masses. Make no mistake, something of a computing revolution quietly is brewing here.
Chromebook is still the top-selling laptop at Amazon, and that while being out of stock. Meanwhile, the cloud-connected device gains some surprising followers. On Google+, Chromebook chatter cracks the pipes, and mainly because of the newest model, which matches MacBook Air's form factor and ergonomics, including 11.6-inch screen and better keyboard, for one-quarter the price.
Apple should learn something from Google and Samsung. In a poll which results I'll post today, the majority of respondents tell us that iPad mini costs too much; prices start at $329. Meanwhile, the 11.6-inch Chromebook is priced just right. The WiFi model is Amazon's laptop top-seller, while the $329.99 3G model is No. 4 (and declining). Both models are sold out, like Google Play. Get one, if you can!
Many of you want new Chromebook, which swaps x86 for ARM architecture. So far, 1,770 people have responded to buying poll "Why you buy $249 Chromebook?". More than 35 percent plan to get one within 3 months, while 15.37 already placed orders. How funny if Google's Chrome OS portable turned out to be autumn's ARM sleeper sales success, and not iPad mini or Microsoft Surface.
What's that saying? Something taken, something gained? Today Google Play started accepting orders for the $249 ARM Chromebook, a new item. Delivery estimate of 3-to-5 business days is typical of the shop. In my experience, buyers can expect delivery sooner. To be clear, Google isn't taking pre-orders, which started October 18 from other retailers. The computer is in stock and ready for purchase. The search and information giant only offers the WiFi version; you'll have to look elsewhere for the $329.99 3G model. BTW, the portable takes the spot long held by "coming soon" Nexus Q.
You'll read more about the new Chromebook here at BetaNews than you might like over the next week or so. That's because I see so much interest and discussion on Google+ and elsewhere on the InterWebs. Lots of people ask: "Should I buy?" For good reason. The new mobile is one hell of a value and represents a paradigm shift in laptops with keyboards -- what MacBook Air could have been had Apple chosen more affordable price and what netbooks should have been if not for Windows limitations (version licensed by Microsoft and low-powered processors).
This week, Google will demonstrate real commitment to Chromebook, by bringing to market a lower-cost model with refined Chrome OS and package primed for mass-market buyers. Until retailers started taking preorders on October 18, the current generation Chromebook, Samsung Series 5 550, sold for $449 and its predecessor for $329. The newest model's $249 price is devastatingly appealing -- all but irresistible. It's almost a no-brainer "yes", particularly for most anyone wanting Apple MacBook Air's svelte size and empowering ergonomics without the hefty price tag.
But there's more here tempting than selling price. Chrome OS has reached near mass-market usability, supported by cloud apps and services that will be good enough for most people. Google even provides Chrome Remote Desktop (beta) for accessing other computers. That's right, you can connect to Macs or Windows PCs, run applications and get to data. While PC marketers and geeks focus on faster and bigger, real world performance is more measure of what you need than what they offer. The new Chromebook needs to pass the "good enough" test, and does so in many ways.
Yesterday, Google suddenly unveiled, in cooperation with Samsung, the first ARM-powered Chromebook and for remarkably affordable price -- $249. There also is a $329.99 model, that includes 3G. Both are available for pre-order now from major retailers, and Google Play will join stores selling the WiFi-only model next week.
The question: Will you buy? It's the right time to ask, because the price is so appealing. From my initial testing, about 24 hours now, it's hard not to recommend this new Chromebook, if for no other reason than price. But as I'll further explain in my forthcoming first-impressions review, there are plenty of trade-offs for the price -- and benefits, too.