Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

Summary: Google Chromebooks showed solid momentum in early sales among consumers. However, in order to ultimately attract business users and consumers, three things will have to be fixed.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Mobility, Google
41

Google Chromebooks finally arrived this spring and initial sales to consumers have been respectable but Google's Chromebook subscription plan for businesses has yet to catch on. I spent a lot of time with Google's CR-48 prototype when it was first released and then with Samsung's Series 5 Chromebook more recently. While Chromebooks have the potential to win corporate customers, I still think three things need to happen before Chromebooks will attract consumers and businesses in large numbers.

1. Fix Web incompatibilities

The biggest disappointment I had in dealing with Chromebooks was that a surprising number of Web sites simply don't load correctly. Some of this has to do with the Google Chrome browser in general. There are sites that just don't work very well in Chrome. Most of this is due to the sites not complying with Web standards (designing for IE) or to incompatibility issues with plug-ins. Much of this is beyond Google's control, but that doesn't help much when a site you need to access to do your job doesn't work. That said, there are also Web sites that should work in Chromebooks but inexplicable don't. For example, Google Analytics doesn't load correctly (you can't change the date range to view, for example). This is bizarre, since Analytics works just fine in Chrome on Windows and Mac. Google needs to work on fixes and workarounds to make more sites accessible on Chromebooks, since the Web is their primary feature.

2. Implement offline access

The other big functionality problem with Chromebooks is that you have to be online at all times in order to use them. If your connection gets spotty or you are somewhere that doesn't have a good connection (or access is too expensive), then you're stuck and the Chromebook is completely worthless. Google has promised that offline support is coming, at least for stuff like Google Apps and Google Docs (and there are reports that it's in testing), but we're still waiting. Google is also going to need to make an effort to get important third party developers on the bandwagon to make their sites available in offline mode in Chrome.

3. Drop the price tag

Even if Google fixes the page loading and offline problems, Chromebooks will still need one big change to make them a lot more attractive to buyers: They've got to get cheaper. The Samsung Series 5 is $430 (Wi-Fi) or $500 (3G) and the Acer Chromebook is $350. That's still too much to spend for an underpowered machine that doesn't do anything but surf the Web. At $200-$300, Chromebooks would be a lot more interesting. Businesses can lease Chromebooks for $28/month for three years, which includes some basic support and service. That gives each machine a total cost of over $1000 for the lease period. I think we'll see just as many (if not more) businesses interested in buying these at two hundred dollars a pop and simply replacing them if they fail. Google and its hardware partners still need to get the price right on Chromebooks, and recent indications are that they may actually raise the price of Chromebooks in the next iteration. That would be a big mistake.

Further reading on Chromebooks

Topics: Mobility, Google

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

41 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Nice But...

    Great, I might get one but can I use my iPod with it? and can I sync my iPhone with iTunes?
    Hasam1991
    • iTunes

      @Hasam1991 You'll have to ask Apple that, they are in control of how and what can sync with iTunes/iPhones. Better solution would be to switch to Amazon and their real cloud solution. Then there is no need for constant syncing.
      30otnix
      • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

        @30otnix
        Well they work perfectly on windows.. so I had to ask...
        Hasam1991
      • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

        @30otnix And you still come across the problem of what happens when you don't get a connection... Also, I went to use the Cloud Player on my wife's EVO Shift and got a "known issue" error message... this after I spent hours uploading 1.5GB to their site... not overly thrilled right now with the Amazon model!
        tdogg219
      • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

        @30otnix Or run full Linux and sync your device with something much nicer than iTunes, like Banshee. :-)
        jgm@...
      • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

        @Hassam1991 Sure you did ;)
        @tdog219 There is always the download function Amazon provides (that would be identical to the the iCloud solution). Haven't seen your error, but bugs do happen.
        @jgm I do run a full Linux on another computer, but IMHO the days of syncing should be over.
        30otnix
    • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

      @Hasam1991

      You use your iPod for business?
      Mah
  • Other things are still missing

    #4 Enterprises would primarily utilize a ChromeBook in the same situations that they would use a PXE boot PC or thin client. Many of the same infrastructure components found in mature thin client products are missing from Chromebooks. Given a choice between a nettop with the management tools and a Chromebook, as an unmanaged device, enterprises will go with net tops.

    #5 Chromebooks are still a solution in search of a problem to fix with them. There is no clear "vision" for the technology or any differentiators. With discretionary spending at an all time low, what does Chromebook offer that mature thin client offerings do not?
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

      @facebook@...
      They are searching for the "Problem" since late Nineties by Oracle and then Sun Micro.
      Ram U
      • I'm guessing you were trying to say "fixed" since the late 90s

        @Rama.NET nt.
        wackoae
    • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

      @facebook@... <br>1. Ajax/HTML5 does a lot more than thin PXE boot clients, and more enterprise apps are web based, requiring a web browser rather than a simple remote display device to use them.<br>2. PXE boot doesn't work outside the LAN. <br>3. Chromebooks are manageable remotely - far more so and far more easily than Windows desktops or laptops. Google provides a web based management console to do this. Chromebooks are a replacement for Windows desktops and laptops, not a replacement for thin display clients, although with the promised Citrix and VMWare remote desktop connectors, they can do everything that thin clients can do as well.
      Mah
    • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

      @facebook@...
      #4 Chromebooks have an admin account based web management tool, and they can be centrally managed and locked down - to a far greater extent and with greater ease than a Windows nettop. Centralized web apps are far more manageable than PXE clients running a virtual Windows desktop for example because the Windows VM desktop running on the server still has to be managed and locked down, and managing and locking down a full OS, especially Windows can be a headache.

      #5 Unlike PXE clients which are just graphical displays for a conventional desktop, Chromebooks use Ajax/HTML5 as the network communication protocol. This allows them to operate off low bandwidth high latency connections such as the Internet which PXE clients can't do. Another advantage is that the server side resources and overhead for a web app is far lighter than Windows VMs running on a server. They also don't need Windows licenses for each user who just wants to access a web based enterprise app like a CRM ticket management system, or inventory control system for example as a PXE client would. These are real biggies for enterprise use.
      Mah
  • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

    I thought the price was actually going up?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

    There is no need for such a device, period. The 'Web only' thing is not going to work.
    owlnet
    • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

      @owlnet
      Wow. I am amazed by your insight. You are nearly the visionary Ballmer is.
      anono
      • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

        @anono

        Wow. I am amazed by your snark. You are nearly the poster my evil self is.
        josh92
    • period?

      @owlnet
      After reading about others getting one for their parents/relatives it I took the plunge and got one for my mom who has been using a pretty old laptop. Since ALL she does is facebook and email it's perfect for her. If her network went down she wouldn't use the thing anyway no matter what was inside.
      I don't have to worry about updates or viruses or anything else.
      So where is this period thing of which you speak?
      sportmac
      • So you wasted extra money on something expensive

        @sportmac that does less than equal or better specs netbooks (and laptops)?

        Sorry, but his period still stand. The fact that you were dumb enough to pay more for less functionality is not negating his point.

        Did you know that you can buy full blow LAPTOPS with better specs for less than the cost of the cheapest Chromebook in the market?
        wackoae
      • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

        @wackoae I think you're missing this point. His time (not updating/fixing/explaining) windows is worth it.
        30otnix
      • RE: Three fixes Chromebooks need to succeed

        @wackoae <br>Regarding the cost and less for more arguments which are trumpeted out by geeks, computer hobbyists, and Windows columnists - Windows laptops/desktops are fine for computer hobbyists and the like who are hard up for up front cash, but whose time is not worth too much. <br><br>Chromebooks zero maintenance features give you more for less in a different way - more time to actually use your computer for work or leisure, and less time wasted on configuring, updating and maintaining Windows and spending time learning how to do this. If your time is valuable then Chromebooks make sense.
        Mah