Google now pitching Chromebook laptops to consumers. Will they want them?

Summary:After striking out with the corporate market, Google is now appealing to the general public to buy Chromebooks running its Chrome OS and using cloud-based services instead of a tablet PC.

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Along with a new version of the Chromebook, manufactured and sold by Samsung for just $249 (and reviewed here by our own Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols), a new approach to marketing the laptop is underway. According to the New York Times, Google is now attempting to sell the notebook to consumers, after emphasizing enterprise use in its earlier incarnation.

To many users, the Chromebook is a bit of a tough sell. It runs Google's Chrome OS, not the Windows or Mac OS most people are familiar with. In addition, it emphasizes cloud services over running apps from and saving files to the laptop's hard drive. At least Chromebook no longer requires an active Internet connection in order to be useful.

Not surprisingly, the cautious corporate world didn't exactly flock to Chromebooks as the answer to their mobility prayers. So now Google is looking toward the mass market, running a new series of TV ads to appeal to families with the pitch line "for everyone".  But will the Chromebook have any better luck with consumers than it has had with enterprises?

The problem, of course, is that the Chromebook is a laptop competing in a tablet world. On the one hand, Microsoft is hoping consumers want a little more functionality with its new Surface RT tablet , which features an optional case with built-in keyboard. The Chromebook offers all of that functionality, for far less money and with a more conventional keyboard. On the other hand, a small, cheap, "connected" laptop -- i.e., a 2012 version of the netbook -- now seems a little bit quaint when more and more attractive tablets are arriving in an array of sizes. Many of those family tasks for which the Chromebook is being touted are now the purview of the iPad, Kindle Fire, and now maybe even the Surface.

While there is a case to be made for the Chromebook as a laptop that can provide access to cloud services like Microsoft Office Web Apps for cheaper than an iPad Mini, it's a hard one to make to families who prefer to consume online entertainment through a tablet instead of a notebook form factor.

Do you think Google will have any success marketing the Chromebook to consumers? Or have tablets already beaten it to the punch? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.  

Topics: Laptops, Google

About

Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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