Opinion: Chromebooks are doomed to fail

Google wants Chromebooks to be a new era in mobile computing, but they're really just netbooks with limited functionality.

Samsung's Chromebook

Samsung's Chromebook

A month from today, the Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer will hit the street. Google hopes to revolutionize mobile computing and free us from the shackles of the traditional PC experience, but the Chromebook is going to fizzle.

Why? Three reasons: culture, functionality, and price.

CultureThe Web has come a long way, and Google is not wrong in suggesting that everything you want to do can be done on the Web. Well, mostly.

You can use Google Docs (or even Office Web Apps) to replace your locally-installed productivity software. You can store your files, photos, music, and more in cloud-based storage options on the Web. You can use Web-based email. It is pretty much all out there for you.

But, there are some things you can't do strictly on the Web -- like play Portal 2 or Minecraft, and living completely in the cloud takes a significant culture shift. There is also a huge trust factor with storing your entire life online, and the small issue of what happens when you can't get connected to the Internet and your Chromebook is a glorified paperweight.

FunctionalityThe Chromebook is functional enough once you get past the culture shift issues, but it doesn't offer different functionality than you can already achieve with a laptop. Any netbook or notebook can also use Google Docs, or Webmail, or the Amazon Cloud Player. In fact, the laptop is arguably better in this area because you can choose your browser rather than being limited to Google's Chrome.

The Chromebook is not any lighter or smaller than a standard netbook. It boots up faster, and has longer battery life than a full notebook, but so do most netbooks. The difference between the Chromebook and a standard netbook is that with a netbook you can do everything you can do with a Chromebook, and you can still do all of things you normally do with a PC.

PriceEssentially, buying a Chromebook is like buying a television that is only capable of delivering some of the channels, even though there are televisions available for the same price that can give you all of the channels. The Chromebooks are going to retail from $350 to $500. Funny thing about that -- at BestBuy.com there are 15 netbooks listed that range from $230 to $530.

Now, if the Chromebook was $100, or even $200, it might be easier to make a case for the value it provides. But, the Chromebook is basically a handicapped netbook that costs the same or more than some other netbooks that have much greater capabilities. netbook that costs the same or more than some other netbooks that have much greater capabilities.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags telecommunicationGooglemobileacerchromenetbook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?