Samsung Chromebook 2: Missing the point

Summary:Samsung is following its popular Chromebook with two new models that are much nicer than the original. That comes at a price, and it may be too big.

Buyers reacted to the original Samsung Chromebook by buying quite a few of them. It was sitting on top of the Amazon laptop sales list for months as the Chromebook enticed lots of buyers. The newly announced Samsung Chromebook 2 line of two laptops looks good on paper, but the company may be misreading the market.

Samsung Chromebook 2
Samsung Chromebook 2 Image: Samsung

See related:  Samsung introduces Chromebook 2 laptops with Galaxy Note 3 stitched design

Samsung's original Chromebook is a sleek, attractive laptop that appeals to the eye. Roughly the same size as the MacBook Air, the Samsung Chromebook provides reasonable performance for a nice price of $249. 

The appeal of the Chromebook is not bling, it's a dirt cheap price.

The new Chromebook 2 line continues the appealing looks of the first one, even extending it further with a faux leather cover that is unusual on a laptop. Samsung is betting that this unique cover, coupled with the hardware component improvements, will catch the eye of buyers as the original Chromebook was able to do.

I believe that won't be the case, and that Samsung is showing it doesn't know the Chromebook market. Flashy is usually nice, but when it comes to Chromebooks, price is the most important criteria that drives sales. The Chromebook 2s look nicer, have slightly faster processors, add more memory, and in the case of the 13-inch model a higher resolution display.

When you add that all together you can attempt to justify the higher prices (over the original Samsung Chromebook), $319 and $399 for the 11.6 and 13.3-inch respectively. That's not much more than the first generation's price of $249, but I think it's enough to put off prospective buyers.

Typical Chromebook buyers are looking for one for themselves or family members. They believe that a Chromebook is sufficient, even though it's limited in functionality compared to a Windows laptop. They're not completely sure it will work, so purchasing a Chromebook is a risk for them.

Taking a risk is easier to justify if the price is right, and the $249 price for the Samsung Chromebook was obviously worth taking. Sales were good, as the attractive design and low price together overcame the Chromebook risk.

While some may like the special finish of the new Chromebook 2s, the price range of $319 - $399 is too high for many to take the risk on Chrome OS. The smaller Chromebook 2 is a decent bit of kit, but that price approaches that of Windows laptops. The price advantage over most of the competing Windows models is minimal. Some buyers, maybe quite a few of them, will decide to go with a known Windows laptop for that price, and avoid the risk of the Chromebook.

While the 13-inch Chromebook 2 is bigger than most of the early models, that high price tag makes the purchase a genuine risk. The $400 price tag puts it firmly in the price range of Windows laptops. It's going to be a much harder sale for many buyers, and I think Samsung is missing the boat with the more expensive Chromebook 2.

See also:  Acer C720 Chromebook first impressions: Fast and cheap

Chromebook sales have risen in large part due to the low prices. It's possible to buy a good Chromebook for $200, as I did with the Acer C720 Chromebook, and I believe buyers will only go a little higher than that for a laptop that is limited compared to Windows models.

I see a price range of $200 - $250 as the acceptable range for Chromebooks, and not a penny higher. The single biggest advantage the Chromebook has is the low price. In fact, I predict that the first Chromebook in the $150 - $175 range will sell like gangbusters.

Samsung has produced two nice Chromebooks, with decent design and hardware, but buyers will run away from the $300+ price.

Additional Chromebook coverage: 

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops, Samsung

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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