Chromebooks: Google is coming for you, no robots required

Chromebooks: Google is coming for you, no robots required

Summary: When you think of Google in mobile, Android always comes to mind. That's expected, but a surprising push with Chromebooks is broadening Google's mobile impact.

TOPICS: Google, Laptops

Google is going great guns with Android, with millions of new devices activated daily. It is not content to rest on that, with a big push into the PC space with Chromebooks running its other mobile OS, Chrome OS.

Tale of two Chromebooks
(Credit: ZDNet)

The launch of Chrome OS a couple of years ago was met with scepticism as those in the know wondered who would want a laptop that is just a glorified browser. Especially a laptop that required a constant web connection to be useful.

Google didn't seem to worry about that and continued to develop Chrome OS to make it more useful for the buying public. It was also working with major PC makers to get some laptop hardware that would have greater appeal.

The last few months have seen the fruits of this effort come to full force. First Samsung and Google launched the New Chromebook, a solid laptop for only $249. Then Acer followed with its own Chromebook for $199. The king of laptop makers Lenovo has been paying attention to this action and launched its own Chromebook for the education market. This was followed by leaked information about an HP Chromebook that is soon to go on sale.

All of this activity in the Chromebook space is significant as it is taking place while Windows 8 is just getting started in the market. Chromebook makers are also big Windows 8 hardware vendors, and it seems they are covering all their bases with Google's OS.

There's no way to know how many of these Chromebooks are actually being sold to consumers. I don't see them being used in public much, frankly. But Acer is claiming its cheap Chromebook is already accounting for 5 percent to 10 percent of its product shipments after only a couple of months. That is significant enough to warrant close attention to this growing Chromebook space.

I admit when I bought my own Chromebook it was more out of curiosity than anything else. That quickly changed as I discovered that a laptop with an extended Chrome browser was good enough to handle all of my needs.

Chromebooks are not for everyone by a long shot. Power users and those with special needs (software) should stay far away from Chromebooks and stick with Windows or Macs. But the fact is Chrome OS has grown to be good enough to handle the computing needs of a lot of folks. They just don't know it yet.

That is rapidly changing with Google's ad campaign raising awareness about the Chromebook. Awareness of the platform is also growing as folks are realizing that they spend the majority of their computing time in a browser. Many do so in the Chrome browser, so the Chromebook is a natural fit.

I routinely work in public with different mobile devices by Apple in addition to my Chromebook. By far, the latter is the device that garners the most interest by folks in public. I routinely get approached by strangers asking if the laptop I am using is one of those "Google laptops."

Showing them the Chromebook in action quickly demonstrates to many having a look that this can handle most, if not all, of what they do with a computer. It is common to hear that they are going to take a look at the Chromebook.

The low price point of the new Chromebooks is a big reason why folks are paying attention. At around $200, the Chromebook enters the realm of an impulse buy, and I hear regularly that these folks are going to get one to try it.

I repeatedly hear from folks looking at my Chromebook that they're going to pick one up because if it doesn't work out they'll just "give it to the kids." I also hear that after following through on the purchase that they keep it for themselves because they like it so much.

It's worth stating again that the Chromebook is not for everyone, but the fact is it's easy to determine if it might be. Just use the Chrome browser exclusively on your Windows PC or Mac for a day. Find a few of the good Chrome extensions to add any functionality that is needed. I suspect quite a few taking this challenge will be surprised to find that a Chromebook might just be fine. They bridge the gap between the laptop and the tablet, for just two hundred bucks.

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Topics: Google, Laptops

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  • Maybe

    It still lacks things like a good IDE and believe it or not, that is one of the greatest strengths of Windows and OS X. If Google can address that in a dev kit, they will be gold!
    • Web-based IDEs are already available and growing

      Two examples:
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Even Linux netbooks are far better than ChromeBook

        ... and at an even more affordable price (150$). You have more apps enabled for you on a real OS than this Chrome browser, and you wouldn't look dumb paying 200$ for a free browser.
        • $150 Linux netbooks, where?

          I've been looking for sometime, but I haven't been able to find them. Any suggestions?
      • Thanks for those Web IDE Links

        Thanks for the tip. I was not aware of any of those services.
    • The Web

      The think its, Google doesn't have to do anything! Since Chrome OS is just a web browser, anyone making a web app is also developing a Chrome OS app, whether or know it or not. The result:
  • Most people are interested in browsing and Chromebook fills that need.

    However, going to the Chrome Book website reveals tremendous value in the models, SSD's and online security are the most important. Buying a Chrome Book for a senior or parent is the best application since it is virtually maintenance free.
    • Precisely

      I am considering them for my wife and my daughter, but not for my son and me.
      • Not sure how to take that

        My daughter is a better programmer than my son.
        • I am not a sexist

          It is just the situation in my particular "environment". My wife's and daughter's needs are simple, my son's and mine less so.

          I hope your daughter will do well, and of course your son too.
    • Not just the older end

      Many more than that Joe ! How many people have been sold overpowered Windows machines to browse the Internet?

      The Chromebook proves that Windows isn't needed for most of what most people do.

      The sales are proving it's worth.
      • You're right...

        There's something pleasing about the minimalist experience that you get with a Chromebook. It's just something that you open and use.
        • That Reminds Me

          You know, that kind of reminds me of what Chrome was about when it was first created. It was designed to stay out of your way and let you focus on content. Looks like Chrome OS follows this principle as well.
    • Consider waiting for the HP

      The HP w/o ChromeOS reviewed well for the screen being easy to read. Many older people prefer larger display.
  • Failed concept.

    Paying $199 to $400 for a device than can run just a browser is lunatic. This device has no purpose for existence.

    The clever marketing with cheap price may sway some noobs, but they will soon realise that they were fooled. Chrome book will die pretty soon.
    • I think we all have "gotten" ...

      your biased ignorance. Your posts are becoming awfully repetitive.
      • So why you bother?

        Talking about bias, You !
        • Re: Failed Concept

          Owlll1net, what is the deal with you always bashing others that like something else than Windows? There is enough of the PC and Mobile market pie for all platforms.

          Just because you don't like a competing product or company doesn't give you the right to belittle others, whose choice is different than yours.

          MS is not going out of business, is not going to fail, or forget you. They make a great Office suite, Win7 adoption is still taking place across many companies, and Win8 is starting out good, which says a lot in this economy.

          Some of us like using many different platforms, and can find the good and bad in all platforms.

          I feel sorry for you that you feel the need to bash everyone whom disagrees with your beliefs, and for the fact that you need to lash out so much on every blog that paints a positive picture on one of Windows competitors.

          Please try to lighten up a little, and enjoy life; it's just to short to be so bitter all the time.

          Have a Great Day!

          • I think he probably gets paid for it, like a few of his group here.

      • Wouldn't that make you the pot...

        calling the kettle black?