Google's big Chromebook Pixel gamble: Can it upend Windows at a high price?

With the Pixel, a Chromebook starting at $1,299, Google is trying to break free of good enough computing to dent the Windows juggernaut on the high end of the market.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google's Chromebook has managed to be a thorn in Microsoft's Windows side with two key ingredients: Low pricing, an improving operating system and a decent cloud game. Today, the Chromebook is a poster child for good enough computing.

The launch of the Pixel today changes that equation. Now the Google-Microsoft duel will step up to another level. Google outlined hardware specs, screen pixels and other goodies, but I really only needed to see the price: $1,299 to start.



Also: Chromebook Pixel from Google: Pushing the cloud to the limit | Google's Chromebook gains momentum: Just enough to annoy Microsoft.

Gallery: Google's new Chromebook - pretty as a Pixel

Once you get over the initial shock you realize that Google is going with high-end pricing for a few reasons. Here's the short version:

  • A high-end price doesn't encroach on partners such as Asus and Samsung, who are selling cheaper Chromebooks.
  • There's not much for Google to lose with a high-end Chromebook.
  • And if this somewhat pricey Chromebook sells well it's going to hit the Windows ecosystem right where the margins are.

With that calculus, you'd take a flier on the Pixel too. Google said in its blog post:

With the Pixel, we set out to rethink all elements of a computer in order to design the best laptop possible, especially for power users who have fully embraced the cloud.

By going after the power user, Google is looking to go right into Microsoft's wheelhouse. Apple is also a target, but most likely a secondary concern.

What's unclear is whether power users are going to care about pixel density, touchscreen capability and swell components. On the surface, power users would go for those items. However, the catch is that you have to completely buy into Google's version of the cloud. Typically, the Chromebook means all Google---and the services with it---all the time.

Sure, Google has perks like a terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage included with the Pixel, but this Chromebook probably has a limited audience. Should Pixel grow a larger following it's going to be very dangerous.

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