What if Chromebooks were made by Apple?

Why do so many of us drool after luscious, high-priced Apple hardware (myself included), but Google's Chromebooks remain niche, utilitarian players?
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

If my calculations are correct (because I'm that big a nerd), the new 11" MacBook Air I ordered will be coming into the Memphis FedEx superhub any minute now. Again, because I'm pretty nerdy, I was surprised to not see the typical Shanghai to Anchorage leg for my laptop (and a few thousand other Apple, HP, and Dell products that fly out of Pudong International every day). After all, FedEx invested heavily in Anchorage because of the ability to fly cargo through it easily with relatively short hops from most of the developed world (short hops=less fuel=more cargo). Then I saw it. One of FedEx's relatively new Boeing 777 extended range cargo jets, FDX Flight 90, now flies direct from Shanghai to Memphis.

Why do I share this shameful little story of geeky, gadget lust-driven OCD? I like Apple products, but I'd hardly consider myself a fanboi. If I'm a fanboi of any type, it's of the Google variety. Because I'm hardly the only one that Apple manages to lure to sights like FlightAware and FlightStats in the hopes of seeing just where that particular bit of Jobsian goodness might be on its journey to my laptop bag. Which, by the way, probably needs updating to accommodate my new diminutive computing companion.

A quick search for Shanghai to Anchorage flights yields almost exclusively results for people wanting to track their Apple shipments. People are really passionate about their Apple products, even if they're not particularly passionate about technology.

A little update, by the way. FedEx Flight 90 just landed in Memphis and my FedEx tracking status just updated (they sit side-by-side in a couple of browser tabs). My Mac is in Memphis: Boeing 777-200LR/F (long-range freight) to the rescue. Alaska no longer stands between me and Apple hardware. Just a 13-hour flight straight to the continental US, a mere single time zone away. So for those of you who just couldn't resist an updated Mac and live somewhere near the east coast, Flight 90 is your friend.

The point of all of this is Apple's ability bring out the inner gadget junkie in many of us represents something of a secret sauce. Compelling products + reality distortion field + short upgrade cycles = geeks who refresh their FedEx tracking pages a bit too often.

The MacBook Air that has me all a-twitter is really the ultimate netbook. Full-sized backlit keyboard, virtually instant on, and basically the size of an iPad. Oh yeah, and a Core i7 processor to boot. Google's Chromebooks actually fit the typical usage of a MacBook Air pretty well and the two have been compared ad nauseum. And yet, when it comes down to it, I bet there aren't too many people, no matter how geeky, tracking the whereabouts of their Chromebooks literally to the second as they near their destination.

I love my Chromebook and I think that Google has done something very cool with Chrome OS. If you live in the browser, it's a great tool and the business and educational applications are extensive. And yet, one of the more innovative products to hit the PC market in a long time landed on American shores with something of a sigh. Now if Apple had made a browser-only product, with great hardware and a brilliant screen, done something cool with an offline mode, and applied their marketing muscle, people would have been tracking their Safaribooks (I just made that one up) with the same zeal they apply to iPads and MacBooks.

The point? The Chromebook concept rocks. The implementation? It has a ways to go. The marketing? Well, let's just say that it's too bad the Apple folks don't talk to the Google folks very much anymore. They might learn a thing or two from each other.

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