Editorial

Chromebooks. Should Microsoft be concerned?

Google, a nearly impenetrable force in the search market, is also starting to make waves (no, not that wave) in the operating system market as well. No-one can reasonably say that Google has crafted the perfect laptop/desktop OS, but it is hard to overlook the fact that the platform has been gaining steam over the past few months.

Chrome OS is Google's lightweight operating system that attempts to make the browser the life of the device. In short, nearly everything you do with Chrome OS is heavily dependent on having an Internet connection and as long as you meet that simple requirement, Chrome OS delivers nearly everything you need via its browser.

Chrome OS comes on a variety of products from Acer, Samsung, Lenovo and in the near future, HP. The devices are called a Chromebook (laptops) or Chromebox (desktop) and come with exceptionally low price tags, starting at $199. The innards of these devices are usually quite light and are by no means intended for power users. In fact, Google has moved nearly everything to the cloud for these devices including local storage. (If you want to learn more about Chrome OS, you can read about the platform here.)

Seeing that more and more vendors are picking up Chrome OS as an alternative option for consumers, should Microsoft start to feel a bit concerned?

It is easy to write-off Chrome OS as a platform with limited capabilities, and to argue that it won’t work for the Enterprise (yet), but Microsoft should still be paying attention to this market as they have been unsettled in quite a few areas recently after failing to properly adapt (Windows Mobile, tablets).

Here’s the deal, Google is clearly making a clever pitch to OEMs to get them to start building extremely low-cost machines that appease consumers as they are in similar forms to Ultrabooks and yet cost a fraction of the price. To the simple consumer, these devices are exceptionally attractive as long as they fit a few requirements.

What are the requirements? If you need a laptop for checking email, browsing the web, and a simple word processor, Chrome OS fills all of those needs and does it at a palatable price point.

What we have is Google trying to undercut the market with a low-priced product, much like the failed netbook craze from a few years back. But, if Google’s Chrome OS is able to fill the gaps where netbooks failed (mainly, netbooks trying to be considered full-class notebooks, when they lacked the horsepower) and are properly marketed to consumers, Google could make a strong play.

So, should Microsoft be concerned about Google’s Chrome OS? Put it this way, if they don’t wise up and start fending off the competition early on, they will once again find themselves playing catch-up. Let us not forget too that Microsoft failed miserably at hedging out the iPhone, with Ballmer saying “there's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share”. Granted, that quote was when the iPhone was selling for $500 with a two-year contract.

Even though notebooks and desktops are currently Microsoft’s domain, if they fail to act now, they could yet again find themselves struggling to regain lost market share in the near future.

So, before you write off Chrome OS as another Google flop, think about what consumers will need for casual computing in the next few years. If you think Chrome OS might fit that bill, you will begin to see why Microsoft needs to wise up to Google’s play in the low cost market.

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I would think it is relatively easy to release a WinRT version of something like a Chromebook to blunt this from the start. Make something in the $200-$300 price range and people would be asking Chromewhat?

I think some are missing the point with Chrome Books....

No, MS should be concerned since Chrome books cannot really compete with a full PC system. Chrome books...would be great for schools and people who just need email/web browsing. It is not intended to do everything.

So if anyone buys one and complains their apps wont work on it, or it doesnt do what you need it to do....did you research before buying to make sure you knew what you were getting?

techbeck said,
...

But the thing you fail to see within your own argument is HTML5.

We're moving beyond locally installed bits of execution logic.

This is cause for concern.

However, Google supporting non-standard protocols, like touch, webgl, and their hd codec, they are to the internet what Microsoft was to the desktop in the 90s.

Nothing to worry about today, but definitely sleep with one eye open.

I like this "reduced functionality" trend and I can see where it's heading. Next month Acer will introduce a reduced-reduced-functionality laptop. It won't actually do anything at all, but will look very great. When you turn it on it will boot in under 5 seconds. Then it will just sit there looking at you. All the functionality and storage will be in the cloud, so you don't even have to bother using it.

They'll cost less than $100 - probably $95 with a special two-unit-family-pack for $94. This is what Jerry Wang has been planning all the time. Although knowing Acer, it'll probably break the second time you use or - or don't use it, more the case.

The wife has a Samsung Chromebook, to be honest if you're going to actually do work on a portable device, I don't see why you would get a tablet over it. The Surface is at least $200 more, same with the iPad, and they don't have keyboards.

threetonesun said,
The wife has a Samsung Chromebook, to be honest if you're going to actually do work on a portable device, I don't see why you would get a tablet over it. The Surface is at least $200 more, same with the iPad, and they don't have keyboards.

Why not buy a $250 W8 laptop?

I would like to pick one myself, since my $499 laptop that sit in my bedroom do nothing but use only for web browser.

Thinking about to give it to my sister since she love to play games, work with word and excel... that will be much better than using for only web surfing.

It won't work, or at least it won't take the crown. When netbooks first came about Ubuntu was being pushed out with them as cheaper alternatives. Those came with all the essentials as well and weren't so dependent on the cloud either. Chrome sounds good, it has that Google name, but no one knows what it is except for maybe the same people who bought the Ubuntu netbooks before. I doubt this is anything for Microsoft to worry about as it is. If Google does somehow get in bed with the OEMs and gets them to start pushing out more Chromebooks than Windows PCs, then that's probably when they should worry.

I have been asked about these by non techie people at work. I recommend against them as a cheap win 8 laptop can offer the same. I think ms should not push metro as much as it would be easier for Android on a laptop to compete. I love a bit of desktop detail.

i'm trully curious on how Android for desktop would do.

After all, Android just somekind of linux forks, should be possible to make it adaptable to desktop.

Edited by Torolol, Jan 29 2013, 6:39am :

People buy them, find out it cannot run 'X' and put them on Ebay again.
All this sounds even worse than Linux, and we know how much that is used in homes.......

I recently bought one of these for my mum, £200 does everything she needs and wants from a computer.

is not prone to the viruses and issues that windows has when in the hands of some one not computer literate, its fast booting and has long battery life.

i would honestly recommend them over any windows pc for the people who just want a Facebook computer or web browser they are fantastic.

i wouldn't waste my money. i think these are perfect in a primary school enviroment, but only if they have the bandwidth.
i suppose they cant be centrally managed. my view is they are going to flop like the firefox phone.

too late into an already crowded market.

does the chrome OS support touchscreens?

It looks like most of the people here don't understand how much a Windows 7 or 8 machine cost for a business!

Yes, a geek can get a good machine with a very good price, but that is us, the entire process is very expensive for businesses, they have to pay for the hardware, for the hardware warranty, for the software, for the software assurance or whatever they name it, for licenses (at many levels), for storage, for servers, for Microsoft Server apps and licenses, for third party licenses, for IT employees, for IT consultants to help the IT employees, for …. (You name it)

And everyone charges them more what they charge a home user, much more.
At the end of the day, a small business CEO has to deal with a large bill from IT and constant headache, and when someone from Google demo him Chrome Book, with Google Services, storage, email, documents, etc. and show him how little it costs, many don't hesitate to switch.

Chrome Book and Chrome Box are not for home users, they will not run the latest games (actually they do run many now), but they will run the new Web Apps (in Google, or locally written using ASP.NET, PHP, JSP, etc.) or legacy apps over Citrix, they do not run the latest and greatest Excel 2013, but for someone who just want medium spreadsheet functionality, it does not matter if it is Excel or Google Docs, as long as it works and it cost less, way less.

john.smith_2084 said,
It looks like most of the people here don't understand how much a Windows 7 or 8 machine cost for a business!

Yes, a geek can get a good machine with a very good price, but that is us, the entire process is very expensive for businesses, they have to pay for the hardware, for the hardware warranty, for the software, for the software assurance or whatever they name it, for licenses (at many levels), for storage, for servers, for Microsoft Server apps and licenses, for third party licenses, for IT employees, for IT consultants to help the IT employees, for …. (You name it)

And everyone charges them more what they charge a home user, much more.
At the end of the day, a small business CEO has to deal with a large bill from IT and constant headache, and when someone from Google demo him Chrome Book, with Google Services, storage, email, documents, etc. and show him how little it costs, many don't hesitate to switch.

Chrome Book and Chrome Box are not for home users, they will not run the latest games (actually they do run many now), but they will run the new Web Apps (in Google, or locally written using ASP.NET, PHP, JSP, etc.) or legacy apps over Citrix, they do not run the latest and greatest Excel 2013, but for someone who just want medium spreadsheet functionality, it does not matter if it is Excel or Google Docs, as long as it works and it cost less, way less.


They have to pay for the hardware? Bussinesses do not _have_ to upgrade th eir systems. Windows 8 runs very well on Windows XP systems (you know, those Pentium 4 512mb ram systems) in my experience, Win8 is even faster then XP on XP based devices.
So where is this hardware requirement? Non-existant. Businesses do not need the latest and the greatest. They do not need quadcore 8gb monsters. Not at all.
Most cooperate use of a system is Outlook, Words, maybe 1 or 2 custom applications. A webapp here and there. So these businesses already have the hardware, since they already required systems to begin with.

And you can also NOT lock down a Chromebook like you can lock down a Windows system, also it is not possible from a centralized point (a Windows server for example). And especially major cooperations do NOT want their users to have 'root' or 'admin' like powers on a company device.

And for 200bucks you can easily buy 3-4 year old laptops which run Windows 8 perfectly fine.
You can probably even find them for a 100bucks.

There is nothing the Chromebook can offer above Windows 8. Anything it offers cloudbased, a cooperate Windows environment supported for years already with the same functionality, except with the option of having everything on-site AND off-site.

Well, as I expected, you do not understand how business work, so here we go:

The computer life is about 3 to 5 years, after that it is decommissioned and it goes to recycling, large businesses don't by hardware from BestBuy, they have their providers, and these providers charge a minimum 2,000USD per hardware you can get at BestBuy for 600$
But unlike BestBuy, that hardware comes with ton of support and warranties over the 3 or 5 years, if it is one PC it is easy, but if you need 2,000 PCs you know that some of them will eventually stop working and they will have to be replaced on the spot, data transferred, etc.

ChromeBook for businesses comes on a monthly fee as well, it end up around a 1000 over 3 years, auto replaced every 3 years, a PC for business is much more expensive.

Windows Maintenance is a looooot of work, you have to take care of patches and updates, you keep working hard to make sure everything is locked down, then there is the long exception list of people who will not be locked down, then there are the file servers to store the files, and the SharePoint Servers to store the files better, and the database servers to also store some files (yes some crazy IT people do that for some reasons) etc, work and a lot of work.

There are people who run the show, and there people cost money, a consulting company charges between 150USD and hour to 300USD an hour (Toronto, in NY is double that), they send a few people at this price to help the company organize their files of systems or whatever, all cost money.

Microsoft is making a lot of money from licensing, but Microsoft partners make 10 times that for support, add all tougher and the number is just huge.

With Google Docs, you don't have to worry where the files are stored, should we move the server at this branch or at that branch, you don't have to worry about central networking, you just have to get everything connected on the internet, you don't have to worry about the hard drives being backed up, you don't have to worry about a lot of things, and that all is translated to less money, way less money.

Yes, Google Docs is basic, and ChromeBook or ChromeBox are very limited, but this is what many many businesses really want! And that are billions in loses for Microsoft who ignored what some businesses wanted for so long.

it'd only matter if a year from now windows 8 still sucks. all dependent on how bad the OEM's think Windows 8 is that they start looking for other ways to sell their gear.

I don't see a market for a Chrome notebook. Unless I'm missing something, doesn't the current Android and IOS phones and tablets do pretty much the same thing? That is, casual computing, web surfing, email, etc.? They actually do more than a Chrome device because one can play games on them without an internet connection. You can also take pictures with them. And as for MS, their phones and tablets and do the same as well. I wouldn't spend my money on a Chrome notebook. Just sayin.........................

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