The early Google Chromebook reviews illustrate a conundrum for these devices that will play out on retail shelves and in the enterprise. How exactly will success be defined and how many of us will really pay to be beta testers?
Let's face it. Google Chromebook buyers---whether via Acer or Samsung's netbook---are going to be a self-selecting bunch. Consider:
CNET's review says the Samsung hardware, battery life and start-up times are great. However, CNET won't recommend the Chromebook "until and unless Google improves the Chrome OS." The biggest beef is opening ZIP files, photo editing in the cloud and the need for a constant Internet connection. But here's the problem: The Chromebook isn't for folks that want offline capability sometimes. In other words, the Chromebook is for the consumer that’s all cloud all the time.
Engadget acknowledges that the Chrome OS has real limitations at this time. The upshot: Engadget is betting that Google will fix the OS over time.
And then there's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. He's an open source guy that'll live in the cloud and not blink. Vaughan-Nichols liked the battery, life, hardware, keyboard and knocks naysayers complaining about being offline. After all, you can save music, documents and video to the local solid state drive. It's not ideal, but the Chromebook isn't a doorstop without a net connection. Bottom line for Vaughn-Nichols is that the Chromebook is a nice complement to his laptop.
Everyone agrees that the Chromebook needs to be cheaper.
In the end, consumers will vote with their dollars and I have a tough time seeing folks drop $500 on a browser-based netbook when there are shiny tablets everywhere. Of course, Google fans will be all over the Chromebook, but that's a crowd of an undetermined size.
The real kicker here is that it really doesn't matter what consumers think. The Chromebook could flop at retail and the only companies that will care are Samsung and Acer (and maybe Best Buy). Meanwhile, it's possible that Samsung and Acer don't care about consumer sales. Why? The Chromebook is an enterprise play and Samsung and Acer will happily take the business sales.