Google's Chromebooks by Samsung and Acer are bold, but Forrester Research isn't convinced they will live large in its vision for the post-PC world.
Google argues that cloud computing
notebooks based on the company's Chrome Operating System will over time phase
out on-premises machines based on Microsoft's Windows operating system.
At no time has Google pushed its Chrome
OS philosophy more than during the Google I/O developer conference, when
company officials introduced
Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer.
Samsung's Series 5
WiFi-only model will cost
$429, with a 3G version going for $499. Acer's will cost $349. Both machines
will be available in the United States and in the U.K., France, Germany,
Netherlands, Italy and Spain June 15.
These lightweight machines have no
BIOS, boot up in 8 seconds and have little storage. Google wants consumers and
businesses alike to conduct more of their computing in the cloud and to do it
with the company's hallmarks of speed and efficiency.
However, don't be fooled into thinking
Chromebooks and tablet computers strut arm in arm over the graves of
traditional Windows desktops and notebooks. Desktops, laptops and tablets will
enjoy their fair share of placement in homes and businesses, according to Forrester Research's vision
of the so-called
Forrester estimates consumer laptop
sales will grow 8 percent per year between 2010 and 2015, with desktop sales
declining only slightly. Five years out, 82 million U.S. consumers will own a
tablet, compared with 140 millions consumers owning laptops. In short, for many
the tablet will be a companion device to the laptop.
Don't expect the lion's share of those
laptops to be Chromebooks by 2015, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told
eWEEK May 17.
"I see the Chromebook as more of a
thought experiment than a viable product at this point," Epps said, noting
that while the Chromebook hews to Google's cloud computing visions, consumers
aren't there yet.
One of the reasons is that few
consumers have cottoned to the notion of storing their data in the cloud. With
the exception of email services such as Gmail, most consumers still store data
locally on their computers or on memory sticks.
She further noted that the current
Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer are priced more than most netbooks and more
than even some full-bodied PCs today. To that end, Google and its computer
maker partners don't have much bait on their hooks for consumers.
Google does have a subscription model
for schools and businesses,
but will this be enough to sway these organizations?
It's unclear, said Epps, who tested a
"Chrome OS is basically a portable
Web browser. Does a portable Web browser have to be in a notebook form factor?
I don't know," Epps said. "There is nothing about that device that's
better, and there a lot of things you can't do on it."
Google may have to subsidize its
Chromebooks the way Amazon sold its Kindles at a loss. Amazon even took a page
put of Google's playbook (no pun intended vis-??Ã-vis RIM) when it introduced
ad-supported Kindles last month.
Despite Google's Chromebook
deficiencies and question marks, Google's cloud computing vision meshes with
some of characteristics of Forrester's post-PC vision.
These traits include speedy boot time
(hello, Chromebooks); anytime/anywhere computing done on a smartphone or tablet
(hello, Android and possibly Chrome late); and living room and bedroom
computing (Chromebooks and Android gadgets).
Now if only Google can get its
go-to-market strategy to take off, flying in the face of the current