Google throws cheap Chromebook at multiscreen bid
New $249 price and Google Play should boost cloudbooks, but results highlight mobile and Motorola pressures
Published: 19 October, 2012
Google managed to distract a little from disappointing results with its latest bid to dominate the landscape between the PC and the phone. It released an aggressively priced new Chromebook, selling for $249 with access to the Google Play store, and said it wanted to control all a user's screens with a single experience.
Of course, that is the goal of its rivals, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, too, but converging the two operating systems - mobile, download-focused Android and cloud-based Chrome OS - improves Google's proposition, as does a highly affordable Chromebook. These devices, a modern take on the old 'thin client' idea, have attracted interest but limited sales, partly because they have sold in the same price range as high end tablets or midrange notebooks. AT that price, users and even enterprises have failed to fall for the charms of the model which puts nearly all the applications and storage in the cloud, accessible via the browser.
But the new price tag could encourage customers to experiment with the still embryonic cloud-only approach, buying a Chromebook as an additional device or instead of a tablet - another form factor which many regarded only as 'nice to have' until they could be bought for $199 (soon to be $99, if Google releases its rumored entry level Nexus slate).
The 11.6-inch Chromebook is co-branded with its manufacturer Samsung, and like the Samsung Series 5 550, released in May, it runs the second generation of Chrome OS and increases the processing power compared to first wave models. The latest device is slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, clearly targeting the MacBook Air, which is the most popular ultra-portable notebook product, though more conventional than the Chromebook with local apps and storage. If the new pricing, and the promise of aggressive retail marketing, does give the Google platform the fillip it needs, it could woo buyers from tablets and also from Intel's preferred design for the hybrid market, the ultrabook. It strikes a blow at the x86 giant in another way too, by using an ARM-based processor (previous models used x86).
Google, never one to underplay its hand, proclaimed: "It's the best computer that's ever been designed at this price point," as Sundar Pichai, SVP for Chrome and Google Apps, put it. He added: "We are going to take more of an active presence in the market.We believe we have a device for the mainstream. You'll also see us run a marketing campaign like we've done with Chrome."
CEO Larry Page enlarged on the broader strategy during the earnings call, saying that the search giant aimed to deliver common content and ad serving tools, under a seamless user experience, across every screen a user may have. Increasingly, of course, Google is also designing those screens itself, via its Chromebook and Nexus partners and its Motorola subsidiary.
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