Yesterday, Google unveiled its rumored high-end netbook replacement—the Chromebook Pixel. While I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet, I was really impressed by the specs and apparent build quality. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a Macbook Pro, from the anodized case to the super-high resolution Retina-like display. Unfortunately, it also comes with a price to match, as the starting price is $1299. LTE and a larger SSD notch it up to $1449.
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This new Chromebook did get me thinking about the target market. Up to this point, Chromebooks have mostly been a geek-gadget. They’re relatively cheap, require little-to-no maintenance, and necessitate a constant internet connection. And of course running only Chrome apps can be limiting (albeit, a smaller challenge everyday as the catalog grows). Gabe tested one a year and a half ago and hated it due to its low performance and lackluster use case.
But this new piece of hardware is clearly a jump beyond netbook-like performance. And while I still think it’s incredibly expensive for what it does, it opens up a world of possibilities in the enterprise.
I should start with a disclaimer: I realize no corporation is going to run out and replace all their cheap $600 Dell Latitudes with $1300 Google Chromebooks. But by developing this, Google has signaled it wants a halo product to show off the capabilities of their ChromeOS ecosystem.
And while a cursory glance at the product and its price might leave you scoffing, a closer look at what comes in the package changes the landscape a bit. Besides the Chromebook, you also get a terabyte (!) of cloud storage from Google. For free. For 3 years. Current rates for Google Drive storage for 3 years are $1800 by itself even without the Chromebook. Tack on the LTE option and you get 100 MB a month for two years as well.
Google has undercut their own pricing model to put a device in your hands that allows you to do all your work from wherever you are on a premium machine inside a secure environment that requires little-to-no management. Presuming your corporate enterprise can find its way to porting their apps into Chrome, or using one of the thousands already inside the ecosystem, you begin to realize that Google has removed almost all the requisite in-house management from companies and given users storage, management, and remote access, hosted reliably by Google servers—all for $1299.
Of course still making the sales pitch that this is the way to go versus cheaper alternatives to Dell or HP in an entrenched ecosystem isn’t exactly an overnight proposition. And let’s be honest here—from the perspective of many businesses, this product doesn’t do anything better than what they’re already using and may in some cases actually do things worse. Reviews on the Chrome Store show that Citrix Receiver and similar RDP solutions are middling at best on ChromeOS. Google Docs still has a long way to go before unseating Office (keeping in mind we do have Office365 in the pipeline).
But if Google can prove the robustness of the platform and offer a laptop priced in line with current competitor offerings, we might be on to something not too far down the road where the top-to-bottom packaging of the hardware, ecosystem, storage, and management becomes appealing for the price-point and those RDP options don’t matter as the Windows environment's necessity fizzles.