Google Chromebooks Minor Part of the Post-PC World: Forrester

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 post-PC era.

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 Samsung Chromebook.

"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-??í-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 conventional wisdom.