Asia has Chromebook envy, but PC makers noncommittal

Summary:Consumers in the region are attracted to the Chromebook's portability and simplicity, but Google and its hardware partners have yet to state their intentions of bringing the device to Asia.

Consumers in Asia are keen to get their hands on Google's Chromebook should these lightweight laptops eventually land in this part of the world, saying the devices would make good traveling tools or gifts for the older generation who use computers for simple Web browsing.

Creator Google and its PC maker partners, however, did not indicate there are plans for such devices to enter Asia's markets any time soon.    

The Chromebook is Google's thin client device running on Chrome operating system, and it was first introduced in 2010. While adoption of the device was slow initially, interest and demand for such devices appear to be taking an upturn in the two markets selling it, namely the United States and United Kingdom. In fact, the Samsung-made Chromebook was named the top-selling laptop by Amazon ahead of Windows 8 or Mac OS devices over the recent winter in the U.S.

Acer CEO Jim Wong, too, testified of the growing popularity of the Chromebook when he revealed the laptop it released in late 2012 was contributing 5 percent to 10 percent to its overall U.S. shipments a few months later.

Despite the lack of availability in Asia, some consumers in the region ZDNet spoke are excited about Chromebooks and are waiting for it to be launched here.

Akemi Iwaya, a Japanese tech blogger, said she will "definitely like to get one", particularly the model with Ethernet capabilities. "With built-in Ethernet capabilities, I can run a wired or wireless connection while working from home. It's the best of both worlds," she said.  

Others say the device is well suited for their parents. Singapore-based Jerome Chan said he would like to get one for his parents as they are light users of the Internet. Similarly, India's Gouthaman Karunakaran said his father only uses the browser when he goes online, so the Chromebook "would be perfect" for his usage pattern.

Asked if Chromebook's dependence on Internet connectivity to be functional is a deal breaker, Karunakaran said with many smartphones now equipped with Wi-Fi hotspot capability, this is no longer as big a challenge as it used to be.

Iwaya added the limited offline capabilities used to be one of the major drawbacks for the original Chromebook. However, Google has been improving the offline functionalities for its Google Apps productivity tools, such as the making Google Slides available offline earlier in January.

Stephanie Phua, a copywriter, said despite the improvements and growing interest for Chromebooks, she does not see the need to get one for herself. Phua said she already has a lightweight laptop in the form of Apple's MacBook Air, and its additional features and functionalities mean she will be sticking to her existing computer of choice.  

Chromebook not coming to Asia yet
Despite the apparent interest and enthusiasm among most of the consumers interviewed, Google and its hardware partners are not swayed.

When contacted, the search giant said: "Chromebooks are available primarily in the U.S. and U.K. We hope to make them available in other countries, but we are not sharing any specific launch plans right now."

Top PC manufacturer Hewlett-Packard added it will start offering its HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook in the U.S. initially, and will "expand over time" to other markets.

Acer's Wong said in the January interview he expects Chromebook sales to be sustainable in the long term, which is why the company is now considering offering such laptops in other developed markets. He stopped short of stating which regions though.

Iwaya said it is a "real pity" PC manufacturers are not bringing the device to Asia as she believes there will be a good market for it.

Chan was more accommodating, saying it is understandable Chromebooks are not in the region yet. "The Chromebook is a whole new concept so PC makers would naturally be cautious it won't take off [here]," he said.

Topics: Laptops, Google, Google Apps, Mobility

About

The only journalist in the team without a Western name, Yun Qing hails from the mountainy Malaysian state, Sabah. She currently covers the hardware and networking beats, as well as everything else that falls into her lap, at ZDNet Asia. Her RSS feed includes tech news sites and most of the Cheezburger network. She is also a cheapskate mas... Full Bio

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