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.
I can't say if rumors flashing across the InterWebs yesterday are true about Google opening retail shops this year. Not that it matters. The search giant should open stores -- and lots of them. Timing is right, too, and who could have imagined two or even three years ago.
Make. No. Mistake. In the 22 months since returning as CEO (following a 10-year hiatus), Larry Page has injected new vim, vigor and vibrancy into the Google empire. The company is now one of the most disruptive forces across techdom. Android Market branding to Google Play, Google+, Google Now, Nexus tablets, low-cost Chromebooks and stores selling them inside major retailers all debuted during his watch. Then there is ever-tightening cross-integration of products and services creating one of the most formidable cloud applications stacks available anywhere. Google Now, Google Play and Android and Chrome OS devices are reasons enough for retail stores, because the company has a digital lifestyle to sell.
Today's buzz among Chromebook aficionados and wannabes is a leaked video for a model supposedly being developed by Google with high resolution, touchscreen display -- that's 2560 x 1700, baby. The vid went up on YouTube, then mysteriously came down, but went back up virally, adding to the intrigue that maybe, just maybe, the touchy-feely Chromebook is real. In your dreams.
Who doesn't love a good mystery, particularly gadget freaks desperate for something more and bloggers clawing over one another for greater pageviews. Conspiracy is an Internet meme that never grows old. But there's something oh-so wrong with the Chromebook Pixel shown in the video. Doesn't the computer look a whole lot like Apple MacBook Pro? Similarities are striking, which makes me wonder whether Google imitates art or this video isn't for a real product. Perhaps it's just pitch for one.
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?
Investors rewarded Google today, pushing shares up close to 6.5 percent soon after the opening bell and staying in that range. At 12:09 PM EST, the stock traded at $748.23, up 6.45 percent. Google opened at $735.83, up from yesterday's $702.87 close.
After the closing bell, on January 22, Google delivered fourth quarter and 2012 results that clearly satisfy someone. For the year, Google revenue reached $50.18 billion, up 32 percent from $37.9 billion in 2011. Motorola contributed $4.14 billion. Net income: $10.74 billion or $32.81 earnings per share. Average analyst consensus was $41.41 billion revenue and $39.73 earnings per share. Oh, the wiles of investors. Yearly EPS missed the Street, as it did for the quarter.
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?
Google on Monday announced it will offer the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook to educators for a special price of just $99 until December 21 through a partnership with public education nonprofit Donors Choose.
Full-time public educators can go to the DonorsChoose site, fill out a three-question questionnaire and project request for up to 30 Chromebooks, and then begin collecting donations to receive the computer hardware, management, and support. Typically, each Chromebook costs $249.
WeVideo on Tuesday unveiled an all-new mode for its video editing Web app geared toward the casual video shooter with little editing experience who needs to do quick and simple edits and share them on social media sites.
We first looked at WeVideo's freemium Web app when it launched last year. That app is still around in mostly the same form, only now it's known as "Timeline Mode." It lets users edit video and audio clips with stills, titles, and effects like one might expect from a free video editor.
Suddenly, I don't feel so special. But that's okay. For some time, I belonged to a small, elite group of Chromebook users. But new, lower-cost models and Google's aggressive "for everyone" marketing campaign moves the cloud computer into the mainstream market. On October 18, I started using the $249 model announced the same day. The question: Is 'for everyone' for me -- or even you?
I already had adopted the $449 Chromebook as my only PC. The question: Could the ARM model satisfy? Except for 40 hours back on the costlier Intel, for performance comparison, I've used the smaller Chromebook full time for more than a month. In trying to answer the question, I hoped to perhaps get one for people tempted by the newer model's lower price or that of the (gasp) $199 Acer. Samsung makes the other two.
Some advice to Google: If you launch exciting new products right before the holidays, it's a good idea to have them to sell. Not only are new Nexus devices sold out, so are new Chromebooks. Worse, they're not available in stores that stock them. Ah, yeah, what a brilliant way to push a new product category to the masses: Look, but you can't buy.
The new $199 Acer and $249 Samsung Chromebooks are on display in 500 Best Buys, and Google staffs sales specialists, who are there during store hours and are contracted through the end of the year. But the search and information giant can't stock Chromebooks. Like Amazon and Google Play, the Samsung Chromebook is sold out (the new Acer model is still available from Google today but not yet stocked by Amazon). Units coming into Best Buy are generally already claimed from online orders. Even the few returns, available as open-box purchases, sell within a couple hours. Google pays sales staff to educate potential buyers, who leave stores empty-handed.
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.