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.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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