Google's Chromebook is a cloud-based alternative to the traditional Windows laptop. But it could find itself squeezed between Windows and tablets.
Chromebook threaten Windows' lock on enterprise computing?
As revealed at
Google I/O in San Francisco this week, Samsung and Acer will produce
cloud-centric notebooks running the lightweight, Web-based Chrome OS. The
Samsung Series 5 Chromebook will retail for $429 for the WiFi-only model, and
$499 for a version with a 3G radio. Acer's WiFi-only Chromebook will retail for
$349. Both devices will be available June 15 in the United States via
Amazon.com and Best Buy's online storefront.
has plans to offer Chromebooks to businesses and educational institutions on a
subscription basis, along with a cloud-management console so IT administrators
can manage devices, applications and policies. The Chromebook business edition
will cost $28 per user, per month; the education edition, $20 per user, per
month. Those who opt for a subscription will be required to sign a three-year
subscribers will have access to enterprise-level support, warranties and
replacements, and regular hardware refreshes.
Chrome OS differ from Windows? For one thing, it boots faster: With no BIOS
startup process, a Chromebook needs only eight seconds (Google
) to ready itself for use. And unlike Windows, where the
substantial majority of programs reside natively on the local hard drive,
Chrome OS emphasizes the downloading and opening of Web applications, including
Gmail and Google Docs, via the Chrome Brower. Because its center of gravity is
in the cloud, the first Chromebooks feature 16GB SSDs (solid-state drives)-in
other words, not a whole lot of memory for people who want to use a laptop for
storing lots of media and rich documents. Battery life is around eight hours
for both Samsung's and Acer's models.
Google is selling Chromebooks as the new paradigm of simplicity. "Chromebooks
have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy
and maintain," read a May 11 posting on The Official Google Blog
. "Even more importantly,
you won't spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to
subscribers on a three-year contract, a business Chromebook will ultimately
cost you $1,008. During the same timeframe, the education edition will run you
$720. That's not only a substantial markup from the retail non-subscription price,
but it essentially places the Chromebook head-to-head in the price category
against relatively powerful and tricked-out PCs running Windows 7.
Google is also
introducing an always-connected, ultra-portable line of devices at a time when
netbooks-the closest precursor to the Chromebook-is under heavy market share
assault from tablets such as the Apple iPad and-however ironically-a growing
family of Google Android tablets. A March survey by ChangeWave
had 10 percent of
respondents suggesting they'd purchased a tablet in lieu of a netbook, and
netbook-focused manufacturers like Acer have found themselves struggling
In light of
that, the possibility exists that the Chromebook, despite the novelty of its
cloud-based operating system, could find itself squeezed between two very big
rocks: robust Windows laptops that can compete at roughly the same price point,
and tablets that offer similar functionality in a lightweight package.
need to demonstrate that Chromebooks really can meet the robust needs
traditionally associated with a full-featured laptop, despite its cloud tether,
while delivering the updates and upgrades that will make it a genuine value
proposition for years. That could be a tough mission, and one that Google's
competitors-most notably Microsoft-will seek to counter with all the tools at