Chromebooks Market Niche Still Mystifies

Angry Birds on Cr-48

I’m not sure I understand the Chromebook pricing model. Acer is introducing an 11.6″ Chromebook [Ars Technica] in June, with wifi-only for $350. Samsung’s 12″ model will come with 3G wireless in addition to wifi, and cost $500. I could buy a Gateway dual-core Windows 7 11.6″ netbook today for $330 [Amazon]. The Gateway has 160 GB of hard drive space; the Chromebooks are limited to a much smaller amount of SSD space (16 GB).

So, where’s the market for a notebook computer which costs as much as (or more than) a notebook with a known OS? Don’t get me wrong, I love my Cr-48, which I call Stealthbook. It works pretty well, and it cost me nothing, which is a nice bonus. It really has gotten better since I got it in December, which fits the hype from Google. I have noticed that the single-core CPU in the Cr-48 is not enough to run even Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, so the addition of the dual-core chips for the shipping models is a good move. I said when I got mine that the major stumbling block I foresaw in the entire ChromeOS model was cost. These machines cannot be used as a primary computer by many (most?) people, so if they’re going to be just an additional machine, they need to be cheap. Some may say that $500 is cheap, but it’s not when compared with a full-fledged laptop. I can get an Alienware gaming 11″ laptop for only one hundred dollars more than that, and I can use it to play Crysis! Sure, Angry Birds is a cool little game, but it’s no Crysis.

Carly has a Cr-48 as well, and thinks it’s wonderful. I think it’s neat, for what it is. What it is to me is a quick reference machine, a companion to let me check something on Wikipedia while I’m watching television. I recently ran into a malware site while wandering Google Images (something which my wife encounters frequently and which freaks her out every time). The site is a variation on the theme which has become very common in recent years – the fake antivirus scan. If I were on Windows, the site was ready to download a payload to my computer which many people would probably open. The site looked very much like Windows XP’s security center. Of course, I knew that I was safe and secure, with my Linux-based computer with the tamper-resistent operating system. So, there is that benefit to the Chromebooks, and it’s one that Google is selling to enterprise and education customers hard this week.

I don’t want to say that Chromebooks have no use. When I asked Kat what she’d want to replace her netbook when it inevitably dies, she said she wants another netbook. She likes the small size and long battery life, and doesn’t need anything more powerful than Office to run. I catch her on my Cr-48 frequently, and she has no problems with it as a computer, for her uses. But, if I had $500 to spend on a new portable machine, I’m not sure how I would justify buying a Chromebook instead of a Windows laptop.

What do you think, is the Chromebook priced too high for adoption, or is it a good fit for the netbook niche?

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5 Comments on "Chromebooks Market Niche Still Mystifies"

  1. As you alluded to in your post, I have a very different take on Chrome OS. Personally, I love it, as it’s 90% of what I do on a computer in a stable, fast package. I agree with you that price is an issue, but hopefully those will come down slightly once the newness wears off.

    I can see the benefit of a linux-based, virus proof system for more than just schools and businesses though. For one thing, I’d be more likely to encourage a non-computer savvy family member to buy a chromebook over a comparable windows pc. Less maintenance and upkeep, by far…and unless they’re intent on doing more than just check email and browse the web, a mac is a lot of computer for that use case. A Chromebook, on the other hand, is just lift the lid and go…even my grandma could use it! 🙂

  2. Gary Bunker | May 15, 2011 at 7:26 pm |

    Yes, that is true. Kat uses my Chrome machine without much trouble, but just for web-based things. Not everything is on the web, and the necessity for a permanent internet connection is another issue. Combining the limitations of the platform with the benefits of the tamperproof simplicity, I still come up with a value proposition which lends itself to a price below $300. But, I’ve given up on predicting the markets for things. I was sure nobody would pay $400 for a grayscale ereader in 2007, or $500 for a 16GB oversided iPod in 2010. 🙂

  3. LOL! The one thing that you can be sure of in technology is that whatever you swear won’t happen will probably happen at some point.

  4. Christopher Gavula | May 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |

    For that price I’d rather recommend people get an iPad with a BT keyboard. Its got the simplicity, the larger app pool, including MS office doc handling (via Pages, Number, or other compatible apps like Documents to Go). For me netbooks have always been a non -starter and I’ve never really understood their popularity beyond the price. For me, the cheap price didn’t make up for the performance deficits and compromises. For convenience- hitting email/web while in from of the TV, a tablet does much better *especially with the ability to pinch-zoom the small type on those web pages! If I really wanted to run Windows Apps I agree with Gary – buy a regular notebook, or if that doesn’t suit buy a Macbook or Macbook Air. But if the small size/convenience and tamper resistance are your goal I’d go with an iPad / BT keyboard or iPad / keyboard case combination – cleaner, simpler, and a very large app pool to choose from!

  5. Chromium is the opensource that came before chrome and comodo dragon is a chromium technology ,why comodo dragon is best among these chromium technology is ,its giving a great level of security 

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