At its I/O Conference this week, Google announced that after a long wait, computers running Chrome operating system will be available to customers in June. The computers, dubbed Chromebooks, will be offered by Samsung and Acer. The Samsung option comes with a 12.1-inch display and the Intel Atom dual-core processor. Acer’s option boasts an 11.6-inch HD display and the Intel Atom dual-core processor. Both devices offer WiFi and the option for 3G connectivity.
In essence, these Chromebooks, at least for now, are netbooks.
But now that Google has made its intention known, speculation abounds over whether Chromebooks will actually perform well at retail. On one hand, the devices are offering a new and unique operating system that consumers might get excited about. On the other hand, they’re competing against tablets, which put them at an immediate disadvantage. Combine that issue with all the others that go along with Google’s underdog Chrome OS, and it quickly becomes clear that they will likely fail.
Google, Samsung, and Acer might not like to hear it, but at least for now, it doesn’t look like the Chromebooks will have much success in the market.
Read on to find out why:
1. The market has moved on to tablets
As noted, Chromebooks are basically just netbooks with a different operating system. Unfortunately for Google and its vendor partners, netbook sales are on the steep decline. The reason for that is simple: the market has moved on to tablets, like Apple’s iPad. Tablets deliver the same level of mobility and pricing is similar. Even better, they offer unique functionality. This year, more than 50 million tablets are expected to hit store shelves, making them a force to be reckoned with in the mobile space. That alone spells trouble for Google and its vendor partners.
2. Chrome OS is an unknown
If one combines the fact that netbooks are dying out with the general lack of buyer knowledge with what Chrome OS is and how it works, it’s apparent that these Chromebooks may find it tough going in the market. Google’s operating system might be a great idea to some who can’t wait for cloud-based operating systems to become the norm. But right now, they aren’t. Even worse for vendors, most consumers are more focused on mobile operating systems. Chromebooks might simply be ahead of their time.
3. Are they really necessary?
When Microsoft first launched Windows, it was entering a young PC market that was eager to try out new ideas and operating systems. But Google doesn’t have that advantage. The company’s operating system is entering a market where consumers need to be convinced they need to learn another operating system, cloud-based or otherwise. Customers are currently content with a laptop or desktop and a tablet. It’s highly unlikely that they will want to add another device and operating system into that mix. Chrome OS, and thus Chromebooks, are a luxury, not a necessity. And that could eventually bring those devices down.
4. The 3G options are expensive
Chromebooks will ship with the ability for users to connect to 3G networks and consume up to 100MB of data for free. However, after that limit is met, the data costs start to skyrocket. A single-day pass will cost $9.99 from Verizon. The addition of 1GB, 3GB and 5GB of data will cost customers $20, $35 and $50 per month, respectively. Over a 12-month period, that starts to add up. Chromebooks’ reliance on the Web could be a significant issue for their users.
Where’s the Excitement for the Chromebooks?
5. It’s a developer conundrum
Google will offer customers the ability to add applications to their Chromebooks through the search giant’s Chrome Web Store. However, Google will need to work doubly hard to ensure developers are willing to support its platform. Right now, the most attractive market for application development is in Apple’s App Store or Google’s Android Market. And with the addition of the Mac App Store to Mac OS X, and the rumored inclusion of an applications marketplace in Windows 8, Google’s Chrome store might soon be left behind. Granted, with Chrome OS the most valuable “applications” are supposed to be Websites, not discrete applications. But make no mistake that an application marketplace will be integral to the platform’s success.
6. Consumers will expect power
Chrome OS is designed to compete against Windows, not iOS, Windows Phone 7, or any other mobile operating system. With that in mind, consumers will soon start to expect power from the Chromebooks they buy. After all, if they’re buying a potential Windows replacement, they want to be able to do everything they can on Microsoft’s operating system. Unfortunately for those customers, they won’t be able to do so. That could be a significant contributing factor to the Chromebooks’ demise.
7. The enterprise won’t jump
Google and its vendor partners could be trying to appeal to enterprise customers with Chromebooks. It’s a bad idea. The corporate world is still too heavily invested in Windows and Office to even come close to justifying the adoption of Chromebooks. Even if some companies considered the option, it would take years before a full-scale deployment would take place. Chromebooks will need to survive without the enterprise’s help. By the looks of things, it will be quite difficult to do that.
8. What’s the selling point?
Samsung, Acer and even Google need to quickly determine why consumers should buy a Chromebook over any other device on the market. Right now, it’s not clear. Is it the cloud-based operating system? Is it that the operating system is from Google? Is it the platform’s value proposition as an alternative to tablets? For now, there’s no key selling point that would make any consumer want to run out and buy a Chromebook. If the companies don’t find one soon, Chromebooks might ending up sitting idle on store shelves.
9. Google isn’t marketing it effectively
All in all, Google has done little so far to effectively market its new operating system. Google has been developing and talking about Chrome OS for nearly two years. Yet Google has done very little to build up hype or excitement for the operating system. It’s quite possible that when the Chromebooks are released on June 15, few will notice and the devices will languish on store shelves next to the ill-fated Windows netbooks.
10. It’s an expensive proposition
When one considers the cost of owning a Chromebook over a full-year period, it becomes an expensive proposition. Take Samsung’s Series 5 3G Chromebook, for example. The device will retail in the U.S. for $499. If a user invests in even the cheapest data package-a 1GB plan for $20 per month-they will end up paying $740 in the first year alone. Considering Chrome OS relies upon the Web to do everything, it’s not a stretch to say the cheaper plans with less data might not cut it. For some customers, a Chromebook might just cost a bit too much for what Google’s vendor partners are offering.