Hardware, Opinion, Technology

Opinion: Where Next Chromebook?

Acer ChromebookI’m promoting a conversation with Chromebook Enthusiast from a previous post in order to look further at the implications of the Chromebook Price cut.

“The Chromebook is a great concept as a thin client… for education, in the classroom, with Internet access, and access to my VDI infrastructure, it’s a very compelling solution. The total cost of ownership is really nice. They’re also not throwing in the towel just because the price is dropping. They’re actively developing new products, enhancing the operating system and management systems.” [Chromebook Enthusiast]

CE: granted the concept is sound, particularly where the infrastructure is in place to support the Chromebook with reliable, always-on Internet connectivity. You may be right in that the education market may save it. But only if it achieves momentum through market penetration. It has to reach into education, business and consumer markets in order to continue. I recall from my education we had the RM Nimbus and the BBC Micro, neither of which could resist the home and business market domination of the IBM PC clone. Perhaps it’s a bad comparison, but one sector by itself will not guarantee continued sales.

We know that Chromebooks are under pressure from the tablet market, hence the price cut. Tablets are not only cool but do have sufficient internal storage to take out and about. I know Chromebook owners who have hit the limits of the platform in terms of access and storage, at which point they take flak from friends and colleagues who then taunt the embarrassed Chromebook owner by saying “you paid how much for that?”

For sure, Google is not pulling out and if any company has the staying power to develop a mature platform, Google is it. However, without manufacturing the devices itself, Google is reliant on the likes of Acer and Samsung to put hardware into hands. How long they will stay in if profits, shareholder and market confidence do not hold up is a different question. Volume enables price cuts, anything else is at the expense of margin and the hardware business is tight on both right now. Conventional workhorse laptops and shiny tablets-cum-e-readers are the fashionable stars of the day. With public spending cuts, the education sector has its’ work cut out to make the case for non-standard kit in ‘niche’ platforms. Only if the total cost of ownership is compelling, with the politicos keeping out of decisions, can the education sector stay on board. I’m all for freedom of choice, but economics and marketing may yet lose the day for the Chromebook. AJS

The response from Chromebook Enthusiast that kicked this along;
“You’re such a consumer. The Chromebook is a great concept as a thin client. We’re in education, and it’s very attractive. It may not be the best thing for the consumer at home – because of all of the things it won’t do – but for education, in the classroom, with Internet access, and access to my VDI infrastructure, it’s a very compelling solution. The total cost of ownership is really nice. They’re also not throwing in the towel just because the price is dropping. They’re actively developing new products, enhancing the operating system and management systems. If you want to talk about a device with limitations, talk about the iPad. Users don’t seem to mind buying them anyway. But the difference is, they seem to be OK with buying the iPad for what it’s good for, and also buying a full computer to get their work done. If you’re going to do that, you can buy a Chromebook for less than an iPad, and get most of your work done. Fall back to the full computer when you need to. Don’t knock it until you try it.”

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.

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