Throughout the year, I work pretty darn hard -- I wear multiple hats. Because of this, I decided to spend the holidays in sunny Florida as a working vacation. Sadly, the airfare was a bit too expensive, so I decided to drive there from New York.
Unfortunately, the place at which I am staying does not have WiFi or Television -- a nerd's worst nightmare. As a tech-writer, I was going to have to think smart about which devices I would bring and which would stay home. You may be surprised by my choices.
Many people reading this review tangle up in features. They have a spec-sheet mindset that obscures seeing some products' benefits. Google gets the difference, and you should too. The paper holder that wraps around a Starbucks coffee cup is a feature. Protecting your hand from burning is a benefit. While related, the two are distinct. Any evaluation of Chromebook -- or any other thing to be purchased -- should focus on benefits first. Specs are a distraction.
In offering my first impressions about HP Chromebook 11, I step back from features and focus on benefits and who gets the most from them. Based on the out-of-the-box experience, for most people reading this review, I would not recommend the computer, which Google co-designed, over Intel Haswell-based Chromebooks. However, keeping with suspicions expressed yesterday, the tiny Chromebook would be right for students. Design, size, portability, functionality and value for price offer the right mix of benefits for preschool-to-grade 12 students. HP Chromebook 11 is what white MacBook was to kids last decade.
Google's self-promoting Chromebook educational sales is more than public relations fluff. Laptops running Chrome OS provided "all the growth" in the otherwise troubled U.S. retail PC market during back-to-school buying season, according to NPD. Otherwise, overall PC sales fell 2.5 percent, with desktops down 5 percent and notebooks off by 2 percent. Mac laptop sales sank 3 percent and Windows notebooks by 6 percent. Chromebook sales topped 175,000 units.
"Chromebook sales are being helped by demand for low-cost computing", Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, tells me today. "We saw strong sales in under-$300 Windows products as well". But Windows is established, while Chromebook is new and necessitates a mind-shift reset: Mostly working in an Internet-connected web browser.
Today, at the Intel Developer Forum, Google and OEM partners unveiled plans to release new Chromebooks using Haswell chips. That means long battery life, on the order of MacBook Air, for a fraction of the price. Six top OEMs will produce Chromebooks, which isn't the best news for Microsoft and Windows 8.1. ASUS and Toshiba join Acer, HP, Lenovo and Samsung.
"Intel’s latest processors consume less power to improve battery life by more than 2X over previous generations, while offering increased performance", Caesar Sengupta, Google's Chromebook product manager, claims. "This means these new Chromebooks can last all day so you can focus on getting things done".
Seventh in a series. When I reported the original iPhone launch in June 2007, there was sense of history among the people waiting to buy. Several shared similar sentiment: That we would all look back in five or 10 years and see the mobile as a defining moment in computing. They were absolutely right. I feel similarly about Chromebook Pixel, not that as many people appreciate what it represents compared to the larger number of folks rushing to purchase Apple's smartphone.
Google's computer is an acquired taste, and so delish you don't easily go back. But there's a Vegemite quality. Most people wouldn't eat the spread, but ask those who do -- they can't live without it. Likewise, Chromebook Pixel isn't for everyone, but is for me and possibly could be for you, if given a chance.
Yesterday, Google posted a public notice that "folks who ordered the Chromebook Pixel LTE from Google Play will start receiving them as early as Friday, April 12th". If that's you, I'd like to hear about it.
Jay Munsterman got his LTE model a day early and "it is sweet! For anyone else that prefers a Dvorak or non-qwerty keyboard: the keys pry off and reattach easily. And if you have both an ARM Chromebook and a Pixel you do end up with 1.1TB of Drive space". So much for today then. The Pixel comes with 1TB free Google Drive storage for three years.
Now that's a question I never expected to ask on Easter morning. But instead of waking up to egg hunts, I'm haunted by Brian Fagioli's Google+ Chromebook Community post overnight. He stirs up the hornets nest today.
"Using Chrome OS is a lot like prisoners in jail making alcohol in the toilet", he writes. "Even when you are limited, you will find a way. While it is fun to find a way to do things despite the limitations of Chrome OS, the question remains: why do we choose to put ourselves in jail?"
Early this morning, Google announced a massive expansion of Chromebook distribution, including new countries and more Best Buys in the United States.
"Starting Tuesday, the Acer, HP and Samsung Chromebooks will begin rolling out in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands", Caesar Sengupta, Google product management director, says. "To help improve computing for organizations, we’re rolling out Chromebooks to businesses and schools in these same countries as well".
Second in a series. Fourteen days using Google's first computer, my decision is made: I would buy one and will someday (taxes are brutal, so my options are limited short-term). I firmly believe that most buyers willing to spend $1,299 (32GB WiFi) or $1,449 (64GB 4G LTE) will be satisfied with Chromebook Pixel. That's because I presume they wouldn't dole out that much without really examining how the computer would fit their lifestyle; also, Google seeks the same people coming from Windows who might buy MacBook Pro 13-inch.
Seven days ago, in my first-impressions review, I looked at the overall experience and price benefits from the perspective of hardware. Here, I start to answer larger question: Can Pixel be your main and only machine? For most people, the answer is an unequivocal "No". But "most people" isn't Google's target market.
One year ago, March 6, 2012, Google renamed Android Market, and nothing is the same sense. The rebranded Google Play pushed forward a transition started in November 2011, with the broad expansion of content beyond apps. The name change also represented something bigger, shift in emphasis away from broader Android to the search giant's siloed services and brands. Google sought to imitate Apple while tackling wild Amazon.
On Play's first birthday, Google Android -- not the skinned software Amazon, HTC, LG, Samsung and others ship -- is a 98-pound weakling gone super steroids. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company sells apps, ebooks, gift cards, magazines, music, movies, TV shows and devices through the online store. There were no devices available a year ago, but now accessories, Chromebooks, smartphones and tablets. Three different computers are available, including the new and Google-branded Chromebook Pixel. Also: Two different Nexus 4 smartphones and Nexus 10 tablets and three Nexus 7 slates -- four if counting 32GB HSPA+ models twice, with different cellular SIMs.
First in a series. Chromebook Pixel is an enigma. A misfit. Some critics call it a miscalculation -- that Google created a pretty kit that offers too little value for the high price. For sure, $1,299, or $1,449 for the model with LTE, is more than most people pay. According to NPD, the average selling price of laptops at US retail was $640 in January.
But some people do pay more. Apple laptops start at $999 and, according to NPD, the ASP was $1,419 last month. Unquestionably, I see Chromebook Pixel as priced against Macs, and after using Google's laptop see it targeted at the same professionals who value Apple notebooks. The question any potential buyer should ask: Is Pixel worth spending as much as Google asks? I will answer that question in several parts -- this initial review is first.
Today, 500px launched a new Chrome web app that, while available for browsers running on OS X or Windows, brings something extra to Chrome OS: Touch natively-supported and optimized for Chromebook Pixel. Take a look, because this little ditty is the computer's future and hints at what Google means by the "For what's next" marketing tagline.
Chromebook Pixel is Google's pricey -- $1,299 or $1,449 laptop running Chrome OS. Pixel's naysayers -- and, whoa, there are many -- gripe about a high-priced browser PC that is useless offline and for which there are no real programs. But that's not so. Developers can, as Google has done, create "packaged" web apps that can run when disconnected from the Internet. The 500px Chrome app is one of them. Then there is the functionality fine-tuned to Chrome Pixel's magnificent 2560 x 1700 resolution touchscreen. If you can understand 500px, you might grok Google's plans for making the Chrome OS flagship truly competitive with Mac notebooks.
On February 21, Google started selling its first computer, Chromebook Pixel, which I called a "status symbol" over the weekend. In typical fashion I asked "Will you buy Google Chromebook Pixel?" There surely is a market for the laptop somewhere, but not among the respondents to our poll.
Seventy-seven percent of you answer "No". That's among the highest percentage ever to one of my polls. If there's Chromebook Pixel enthusiasm, it surely isn't from BetaNews readers. Just 8 percent of respondents will buy the Chrome OS laptop "as soon as available in my country". Only 16.5 percent plan to buy Chromebook Pixel ever. So has Google got a flop? No way, Jose.
Google's first computer isn't about sales but status. Critics who lambast Chromebook Pixel as an over-priced web browser wrapped in pretty hardware miss the point. Badly. The laptop will sell, but not in mass-volume because it's not meant to. Is Lamborghini about sales or style? I ask not seeing much commentary about how the Italian sports car is a failure because Ford sells millions more Explorers.
Chromebook Pixel is the luxury car of computers running Chrome OS and perpetually connected to the cloud. Google's beauty is a status symbol for people willing to plunk down $1,299 or $1,449 and makes, along with newer Nexus devices, a bold brand statement: Google is a premium brand and the company a real innovator. For the people who love the brand and want to identify with it, like all those fanboys adoring Apple with their cash, Chromebook Pixel is an easy sell.
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?