Google has been playing with their Chromebook concept for a few years with little success, but now, a new release of a super thin machine at a price of $250 is finally the right combination of price and functionality, but in the face of the tablet revolution, is it too late?
The Chromebook was originally conceived as a “netbook” which is an idea that has already gone stale in the face of the tablet revolution. Netbooks were small, simple laptop-like machines that were to be used for common Internet tasks only. Since they didn’t need the horsepower to run intensive tasks like video editing, netbooks could be built inexpensively. Netbooks sold for half the price of a traditional laptop and were pitched as an ideal second computer. But since there were built so cheaply and often featured smaller keyboards, netbooks never took off in a big way. And when Apple introduced the iPad, that was the real death nail for the netbook.
The Chromebook was supposed to be the netbook finally done right. Featuring a full-size keyboard and a build quality superior to anything that had come before. It also ran on a custom operating system based on the popular Google Chrome web browser. It seemed like a good idea, but the Chromebook was priced too high and was not fully baked at launch. The Chromebook stalled while the tablet market flourished.
So the big question is why would Google continue to put money, time and resources into this project? Is there really a market for an inexpensive, lightweight computer with a keyboard? The Google Nexus 7 tablet actually sells for $50 less than the new Chromebook. My feel is the new Chromebook is the perfect machine at the perfect price, three years too late. Much as I don’t think much of the Microsoft Surface, I could easily see tablet machines with snap-on keyboards when you really need one as a viable future direction. That would eliminate the need for a Chromebook.
Google started life as a search engine and became a giant because of online advertising. Now, Google is trying to extend into a cloud services company and they want to ensure connection to their services from as many devices as possible. The Chromebook is another device and Google obviously isn’t ready to give up on it yet. If you do want a full-sized portable computer with a keyboard, the new Chromebook at $250 does start to make a lot of sense.