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Is Google's Chromebook a Windows 8 Killer?

While Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman said she is in support of Windows 8, she never promised her company's exclusive support for the Windows OS. HP is apparently hedging its bets with today's launch of its first Chromebook laptop.

The HP Pavilion 14-c010us Chromebook has a 14-inch display, is equipped with 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB SSD and is powered by an Intel Celeron 847 (1.1 GHz) processor. It weighs 4.25 pounds, and HP claims battery life of 4 hours and 15 minutes. It's priced at $329.99.

HP joins rivals Acer and Samsung in joining the Chromebook party. To date, Chromebooks have not lit the world on fire. Unlike Windows PCs and Macs, Chromebooks are bundled with Google's suite of productivity tools, and the computers presume you're always connected using its cloud infrastructure as its platform.

It's a different approach and, in many ways, mimics the network computers IBM, Oracle and Sun tried pushing in the late 1990s with little uptake. Until recently, I didn't know anyone who owned a Chromebook. That changed a few weeks ago when Andrew Brust, CEO of Blue Badge Insights, tweeted he just bought a Samsung Chromebook.

Upon learning HP jumped into the Chromebook pool this morning, I checked in with Brust to see how he likes his Chromebook (I had made a mental note to do so anyway). He pointed out he needs more hands-on time with his Chromebook to fairly compare it to Windows 8, which he uses all day. Brust also has an iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7 and MacBook Air.

"People I respect have been saying the second gen Chromebooks were surprisingly good, so I decided to buy one, especially given the low price of $249," Brust noted. "The thing is surprisingly useable.  I still prefer to use Windows, or even MacOS, with a full version of Office. But the fact remains that the presence of a touch pad and keyboard makes the Chromebook a true content creation machine and at a price point that achieves parity with the cheapest of content consumption-oriented tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7.  And the availability of Chrome Remote desktop also makes Chromebooks useable as thin clients that connect back to beefier Windows machines."

He underscored the Achilles heel of the Chromebook is its requirement of a constant Internet connection. "But with the addition of the next generation of Chrome packaged apps, which will work offline by default, and run not only on Chrome OS, but also Windows, MacOS and Linux, Google really has something here."

As Microsoft looks to gain momentum for Windows 8, its primary target is offering a superior alternative to competing tablets such as iPads and Google Android-based devices as well as ever-so-slick MacBooks. Should Microsoft also be worried about the rise of Chromebooks?

"For Microsoft, this may just be a thorn in the side, but it's one of many," Brust said. "And with now four important Windows OEMs hopping on the Chrome OS bandwagon, it's got to be impossible for Redmond to ignore.  Meanwhile, I question how much revenue the OEMs can get on such inexpensive devices."

How much OEMs will emphasize Chromebooks remains to be seem but one can't blame them for hedging their bets after Microsoft launched the Surface PC/tablet thereby reneging on its 30-plus year legacy of not competing with them. Some, including Acer CEO JT Wang, have made their displeasure known, while HP is showing it by throwing its new Chromebook in the mix.

Have you used a Chromebook or are you considering one? How would you compare it to various versions of Windows and other computing devices you have used? Will Chromebooks emerge as a true player or will they just appeal to a limited niche of users, the fate I have predicted since their launch. Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/04/2013 at 1:14 PM


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Reader Comments:

Sun, Feb 17, 2013

Share your windows PC printer to the Google cloud print, and you can then print from your Chromebook to that printer.......from anywhere in the world. That's cool !

Tue, Feb 5, 2013

ChromeOS makes maintenance easy in some business and school use cases. However, for most consumers tablets make more sense on the low end. The tablet market grows because it's still relatively new (classic marketing principles regarding maturity of markets) and I expect the hybrid/convertible Win8 market to take off once manufacturers put out compelling devices at an attractive price point (i.e., no price premium over traditional PC). Most businesses want best of breed products for productivity so saving a few bucks on a bargain basement ChromeBook doesn't make a strong economic argument.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Al

Chromebook could cut into sales of tablets in general given tablets generally need to be connected to the Internet and you are largely tied to Office-clone software (plus Apple, Surface, and Android regular size tablets aren't cheap). Given the Chromebook size and 4 hours of battery life and great price, it's really a matter of educating potential customers of its capabilities. As another mentioned, having the ability to establish a remote desktop connection also extends the capabilities of the Chromebook. Windows 8 will do fine. I think the gifts to the casual user who just wants to browse, play Internet games, do social media, and email will end up being devices like Chromebooks that are in the $250 to $300 price point. With so many people having cell phones that can be used as 4G LTE modems and so many locations offering free Wi-Fi hot spots, Internet connectivity is not the issue it once was.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Tim Wessels Somewhere in the cloud

Well, I've used an Acer AC700 Chromebook for over 18 months and I think it has worked well for me. My first generation Chromebook was a bit more expensive than the second generation Chromebooks from Samsung (ARM) for $249 and Acer C7 (Intel-Celeron) for $199.00. It will be interesting to see what price HP puts on their Chromebook. All Chromebooks are built around three basic components...Chromebook firmware, Chrome OS and Chrome Web Browser. A Chromebook is browser-centric computing and closely tied to Google services, although I can run Microsoft Office Web Apps from a Chrome Web Browser extension. Basically, Chromebooks have no apps to install aside from Chrome Web Browser extensions. They use Google Cloud Print which usually works just fine. Chromebooks update their firmware, kernel and browser every now and then. You are alerted when updates are installed by an icon indicating that you should shutdown and restart. Takes about 8 seconds to shutdown and 8 seconds to restart. Security is very good...no need to update anti-virus or anti-malware apps. I would like to see more RAM installed in my Chromebook (2GB) as I think it refreshes the web browser tabs too often when you have a lot of them open. My Acer AC700 Chromebook battery life has been consistently over 4 hours, although the new Acer C7 Chromebook has a spinning disk drive (why?) and reduced run-time as a result. I would like to find out if the 250GB spinning disk in the Acer C7 Chromebook can be replaced by an SSD drive. All-in-all, if you can live on the Web and don't like packing up the old laptop every time you go out the door, then a Chromebook might work well for you.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 R Scott Palo Alto California

The Big News on the HP Chromebook announcement is that it undercuts the Thin Client business, Not because the Thin Client vs. Chromebook client hardware is much different price wise. The real savings are all on the back end. Rather than a $250,000 Citrix or VMware VDI server and storage back end to support 400 TC clients, the Chromebooks reduce that cost by 80%. The big win for customers is all on the backend infrastructure and support side. HP partnering with Google on Chromebooks has got to be Citrix and Microsoft's worst nightmare. -RS

Mon, Feb 4, 2013

Use google cloud printing. I've been using that on non-chrome books for years. It makes any printer connected to a computer with Chrome into a network printer.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Maced Universal City, Texas

I can't speak for the Chromebook but I use the Surface RT every day. On the surface (no pun intended), it may be that it boils down to the serivces offered by each instead of the device itself. The Surface is a great tool and when coupled with Windows Live for synchronization between devices, it really is amazing. Remote desktop capability with RDP and the phenomenal Teamviewer add that extra dimension when you need more oomph from an application the RT won't run. Not saying the Surface is without flaws (Store offerings) but it sure is a step in the right direction for MS and its cloud services model.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013

I did look into the Chromebook and was very seriously considering buying one. However, I still like to occassionally print something. I looked over Amazon reviews and it seemed that people who wanted to print were having significant issues. Every user in my family (extended family) has a printer and I could not imagine asking them to all make the shift to no longer ever using paper. I think we will get there someday - maybe even soon, but right now it holds me back to think of dealing with a system that cannot utilize my printer.

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