Microsoft is missing the point with Chromebooks

Microsoft is missing the point with Chromebooks

Summary: Microsoft still thinks that printing and scanning are high on the list of consumer needs, and that people still get all enthusiastic about 'rich' applications.


Microsoft has launched a new attack on Google. The latest assault, which is part of a broader campaign called Scroogled, is aimed at discrediting the Chromebook platform by pointing out how consumers should be "leery" of the platform because of a list of "cons" and "can't" that Microsoft has pulled together.

(Source: Google)

Problem is, rather than causing me to question Chromebooks, what the Scroogled campaign tells me is that Microsoft is actually scared of Chromebooks, and instead of addressing the needs of consumers, Google has brought the Redmond giant to the point of panic with Chromebooks ahead of the holiday spending extravaganza. By choosing to go on the offensive against the Chromebook, Microsoft has inadvertently given validation to a platform that most mainstream buyers – the sort of people looking for a computer over the next few weeks – would never have noticed.

Let me begin by saying that I'm not a Chromebook user. I don't need one, and I'm certain that it wouldn't fit in with my lifestyle. But that said, I don't understand the hate that these devices seem to attract from certain quarters. It's almost as if a truck packed with Chromebooks crashed into a hotel full of kittens.

At the end of the day it's just another device (in an already crowded market) seeking attention. And the fact is that for certain users, Chromebooks are everything they need from a portable system.

To Microsoft's credit, it does raise some valid concerns relating to Chromebooks. The lack of rich local apps such as Office and Skype might be a problem for some, and for others the fact that Chromebooks are designed primarily be always-online might be a deal-breaker. Then there's the issue of Google trawling through emails and chats for specific keywords in order to target the user with ads which some might find unpalatable.

The problem for me is that these genuine points are lost in what otherwise comes across as a bitter negative campaign. I watched the latest ad and I found the language and overall tone patronizing and denigrating.

But the negative tone aside, I think that Microsoft is missing the point. All the talk of how Chromebooks lack rich apps such as Skype and Office overlooks the headache that such applications are to some. My mother-in-law is in her 80s and had to transition from a PC because she relied on the web to communicate with the outside world, and the PC had become too unreliable. She moved to an iPad, but I could equally see her at home with a Chromebook.

Microsoft's point about Chromebooks needing a constant connection to the Internet overlooks the fact that for some a constant connection to the web is a must anyway, and that their devices spend their entire life within reach of a Wi-Fi connection.

Also, it's true that Chromebooks don't come with CD/DVD drives, but then neither do tablets like the iPad over even Microsoft's own Surface devices. My high-end MacBook Pro didn't come with an optical drive, and I don't find this limiting since I, along with millions of others, stream most of my content over the web.

I happen to agree with Microsoft that printing with a Chromebooks takes some determination, but then printing itself is dying, and people are printing off fewer and fewer documents. I honestly can't remember the last time I printed something, and I doubt I'm alone in that.

The same goes for scanning. In fact, I'm not even sure where my scanner is.

Microsoft is missing the point with Chromebooks. It's doing this because it assumes that people want a Chromebook to do today what people were doing with a PC a decade ago. I remember a time when people were printing and scanning documents enthusiastically, when they got excited about rich applications such as Office, and when being able to play CDs and DVDs on a PC was cool.

Times have changed.

People now spend much more time in the web browser nowadays, and are more concerned about malware and system crashes than they are about printing playing DVDs.

How do I know this? Because of the success of post-PC devices such as the iPad.

Another issue that Microsoft is overlooking here is that the sort of people buying Chromebooks are unlikely to be buying them to replace a PC. People I've talked to who have bought Chromebooks seem to be buying them to augment a PC. This means that when they want to print or scan or do things when their web connection is down, they can.   

The PC isn't dying, it's just that people are making them last longer and spending their money on other stuff ... like Chromebooks. This clearly worries Microsoft or it wouldn't be spending money on ads "warning" people about them.

Microsoft's attack on Chromebooks is the best Christmas present Google could have asked for. Not only does it show how out of touch Microsoft is with what consumers want, but it also validates Chromebooks as a serious player. 

Topics: Mobility, Google, Microsoft

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  • I actually do need those things

    Not the scanning quite as much, but I need to print lyrics for live performances. It is a simple thing, and no modern era technology has displaced the simple effectiveness of the need.

    Now, at some point there may be a significant enough number of AirPrint and Google Cloud print capable devices that I might not have to worry about connecting a printer locally. But for the moment, I do.
    • Fair point, but...

      If you already own a Windows or Mac that hooks up to a printer, you just need to install the Chrome browser on that machine and you can set up to print directly from your Chromebook. Of course, this does require the other computer to be on. The point is, that Chromebooks are great for people who want lightweight, hassle-free devices to supplement a more powerful computer that can be shared by the whole family. It means that not everybody in a household needs to have a traditional OS device, which means even fewer sales that were already being cut into with tablets.
      • True

        but then, why a Chromebook? My iPod Touch does exactly this, including the print from Chrome thing. And it is a much more convenient light weight computer to lug around than a clamshell Chromebook.
        • The keyboard is key

          The built-in keyboard makes it a whole different experience than any tablet offers (I have one). For writing email, documents, even web searches, a physical keyboard is much more comfortable and the browsing experience is just better. I really don't like my tablet as much for browsing-- I can't really explain why--in part it's the bigger screen maybe, but I also think its faster on the Chromebook. I use my tablet for games, and my phone for when I don't want to carry anything extra, but the Chromebooks is my go to device for internet stuff.
          • PCs are like old trucks

            Actually, it was Steve Jobs who said that PCs are like trucks.

            PCs will still be around in the future, like trucks, but most people don't need a truck.

            The problem with low-end PCs, they are like old trucks with small engines that are clogged up with the bloated Windows 8, and have to pull a trailer full of anti-virus software.

            If you're going to buy a device with a small engine (that is, a low-end laptop), then it's better not to clog it up with a bloated OS. Chromebooks run the lightest OS in the business, combined with the most efficient web browser in the business, and they do it well.
          • Windows 8 bloat?

            My Atom based Windows 8 tablet is actually fairly fast, much faster than the Windows 7 and Linux based Atom nettops we have at work... Windows isn't as bloated as it used to be. With Windows 8 Microsoft seems to have really worked on improving efficiency.

            IE on the tablet is very fast. On the other hand Chrome crawls.
          • Win 8.1 and Bay Trail Atom processors . . .

            The latest Win 8.1 tablets/convertibles (I have an ASUS Transformer T100TA-C1-GR, and there are a couple from Dell and others) are twice as fast as the last generation Clover Trails, and the price points are competitive with Chromebooks. I have both IE and Chrome installed - and I will use each one for different purposes. IE on the Metro side still makes me jump through hoops. Take making this comment, for example - I accessed it initially through the stock Win 8.1 newsreader, but logging in to comment doesn't work (it opens an IE window for login but that doesn't let the newsreader know I am logged in). Moving to IE, I went to the page again, and logged in with no problem. (With Win 8 on some sites, I'd have to go to the third step of "View on Desktop" and that may still be true but I've only had the ASUS a couple of weeks). I think Win 8.1 on Bay Trail Atom processors is fast enough and the hardware is inexpensive enough to make people take a look at these products instead of Chromebooks.
            Joann Prinzivalli
          • microsoft fixed it ...

            "IE on the tablet is very fast. On the other hand Chrome crawls.", probably because Microsoft fixed it (Chrome) like it fixed lotus 1-2-3.
          • Maybe, but...

            I hear people saying the Windows 8 is great improvement in speed but I'm wondering if it will have the same slow-down problem that every Windows pc (more than half-dozen) that my family has used over the years has suffered. It starts out fine, but little by little everything gets more sluggish..and no registry cleaner or uninstallation of software can get it back to new.
          • Windows 8 is bloat ?

            The ACER C720 which costs $200 is 3.5 times faster than the ASUS T100 which costs $399. If you compare the ACER C720P ( touch screen) to the ASUS T100, the Acer Chrome Book outperform the T100 with $100 less.

            Not to mention security and maintenance aspects, CB outperform Windows 8.1 by way. If you buy a Windows 8.1 for its IE then it is way better to buy a CB.

            The new Surface RT with the Tegra 4 is still very laggy and you can't do much with it.
          • Windows killed the netbook

            @Vbitrate : More than anything else, Windows killed the netbook, by saddling low-end software with its overhead. Early netbooks came with crippled Linux distributions, which were usually so bad that Windows actually looked by comparison. A decent Linux distro on a 4-year old Acer AA1 with a 32 GB SSD and 2 gb of RAM still runs at an acceptable speed for most things. Google has re-imagined the netbook, without the bloat, which is why there is a useful amount of free space available on a Chromebook with a 16 GB SSD.
          • They really don't care that much

            "Chromebooks run the lightest OS in the business, combined with the most efficient web browser in the business, and they do it well."

            Somehow I don't think that is high on the needs list of the target demographics (here 80-something mother-in-laws is used to represent this not so overly technical class, sometimes it is college kids or spouses). So what if it load a web page in 0.14 seconds faster? Or that the O/S is light weight? Most tablets are instant on or boots up really quick. I think the price point is a much bigger deal to these folks.
          • Multitasking and file management

            Android does, IOS does not. That's why Chromebooks are chosen.

            To do the stuff I do, I need five iPads (with IOS7) , when one Chromebook does it all. The fact you can have multiple screens and Windows make it the best alternative.

            Why not consider a win8 device? Too costly and they dont recover easily from crashes. Need a device that works and ill work 100% uptime. They are faster, though error prone enough that when you consider the maintenance and licnsinb fees, they are prohibitly costly.
          • RU serious?

            "when you consider the maintenance and licnsinb fees, they are prohibitly costly."

            What is costly about maintenance?

            Licensing fees? (built into the price)
          • PCs are like Nissan sportscars

            The 240Z was a classic - fast and light. Every model afterwards got bigger and heavier, needing a bigger engine to do the same [or less]. 260Z, 280Z...

            My wife and I both use our home PC a lot, and it runs fine.. on Windows 7. I have yet to see a reason to update to 8 point whatever. Would I consider a Chromebook? Not really. We need to PC on to access our photos & videos [we're not paying extra to have slower access on a cloud] so a chromebook would be redundant.
          • Pictures should all be backed up to the cloud

            @alan_r_cam You should have things as important as picture, backed up to the cloud. Whether it is Dropbox. Google Drive or Skydrive. It doesn't matter. What matters are your pictures and if something happens to your computer, you are sunk so first go and back up those pictures and then come back to continue your blogging.
            Tim Jordan
          • My back up ...

            My cloud (back up) is a Seagate 1TB portable HD, one time cost $80.00.
          • Access your photos?

            Just to clarify, you can certainly access all your photos and videos stored on a separate drive with a chromebook. Just plug in a stick or hard drive into the usb. Or keep them on an sd card. I personally think that it is very wise to back up such important files on an outside drive other than a laptop internal hd.
    • in all seriousness

      If some OEM made 16" tablets, could those display scores and eliminate the need for printing?
      • No

        legal requirements mean that a lot of material still has to be printed.

        If you are running a document management system with a signed store that doesn't allow changes, you might be able to get away without printing, but printing is still a necessity for many / most businesses.

        Also a 16" tablet? Not big enough, I am currently looking across the room at a project plan printed out at 75% actual size, which is 2M high and 4M long. You won't squeeze that onto a 16" display and have it all visible and readable.

        Paper is also less straining on the eyes, as is eInk, one of the reasons I use a Kindle Reader and not my tablet for reading in bed.