Why Chromebooks Have No Consumer Market Future

The question of whether Chromebooks will have a future in pure consumer markets is an intriguing one. There’s no question Chromebooks are well positioned for education markets where they are selling in volume. But I don’t see Chromebooks being successful in pure consumer markets.

At a fundamental level, we have to understand consumers do very little “heavy lifting” with their current PCs. While it is true consumer do quite a bit of basic web browsing on their PCs and this is a primary point for Chromebooks in consumer households, that activity has largely shifted to their smartphones or tablets, which now have over a 53% household penetration in the US. Other devices currently serve consumers with the same value proposition of Chromebooks and offer even more. As larger phones increase penetration, it hurts the Chromebook consumer proposition even more.

The other challenge is the form factor. A Chromebook is a clamshell which means where and how it is used is limited. Things like phones and tablets are more easily carried and used in more convenient ways around the house to browse the web and more. It is the clamshell form factor I also believe is not attractive to general consumers.

Lastly, there is the issue of software. If we step back and look where ALL the software innovation for consumers is happening, it is on smartphones and, to a degree, tablets (meaning the iPad). There is simply no software value proposition on Chromebooks that consumers can’t get on their existing PCs or even their smartphones and tablets.

Even with a fundamental leap in consumer-facing cloud software/apps, I believe the pure consumer market has largely moved past the PC. All the innovation happening in native apps for mobile is accelerating this shift not just in time but priority, with value being placed on mobile computing devices and not “fixed” ones like notebooks and desktops.

Some things I think could be very interesting from Google’s ChromeOS are tablets and smartphones. I think media consumption as a large percent of time spent with mobile devices plays into a future where thin-client and heavy back end server computing can come together nicely. I still feel ChromeOS may be the future of Android but that is just speculation. Where I have a strong opinion is that ChromeOS has little to no future in pure consumer markets in the shape of a clamshell PC.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

64 thoughts on “Why Chromebooks Have No Consumer Market Future”

  1. I’m sure that you’re sitting on a trove of data in making such a strong statement. The problem with understanding Chromebooks for us is that A) Google and other OEMs do not disclose any sales figures, B) the limited data coming from market research companies like NPD tend to focus on a specific market segment. We don’t have any data on what’s actually happening in the consumer market.

    For people who are into Disruption Theory, at first glance, Chromebooks seem to fit the bill. They are cheap, do only a limited subset of the tasks that the incumbent does, and they are apparently simpler to use. On the other hand, I personally dismissed it because as Microsoft has clearly demonstrated with Windows with Bing, the price advantage of Chromebooks wasn’t sustainabe. Furthermore, the simplicity that Chromebooks provide is not large enough to expand the market to non-consumers of PCs. In fact, the dependence of Chromebooks on a network connection introduces a new complexity.

    It would be great if you could discuss some of the data that you have. I would especially like to understand Samsung’s retreat from Europe.

    1. Chromebook’s are averaging about 1.2-1.5 m sales per quarter WW. Not a steep growth curve trend line but moderate. The vast majority of those are Acer at $199 and the vast majority are to education markets. 2014 likely to end at just below 6m total Chromebook sales. Probably getting to 8-9m WW next year.

      While those who cling to disruption theory may see Chromebooks as PC disruptors, those who look more at the job to be done do not. 😉 A full understanding of the JTBD, which is the basis of my position, know that PCs play a role (that market is a certain size) and the value prop (JTBD) in consumer markets are being served by other products better.

      1. Thanks. Your short paragraph full of data points is very valuable, and as far as I know, not available anywhere else on the public Internet. And that compares to total PC shipments of 300m I assume.

        As for understanding the disruptive potential of Chromebooks, yes, I understand a JTBD way of thinking about it is important. It does however make the analysis complex and a bit subjective, so I’ve chosen to simply assume a world where tablets were non-existent (like the netbook era). My conclusion is, even then, Chromebooks would not be disruptive; that they would have followed the fate of Linux-based netbooks.

        1. I believe Gartner’s forecast for Chromebooks this year was 4.5-4.7 and that is a public number. But what I shared is what they actually sell approx. per quarter. I have no problem sharing the hard data in those places because those data points are not why companies pay me. 😉

          1. Thank. One further question.

            You mention that Chromebooks are selling mostly to education markets and I presume that most of that is currently in the US.

            Although I do not know the situation in other countries, at least in Japanese K-12 schools, I’m pretty sure that large deployments of any kind of personal computer (including tablets) are quite rare. This is primarily a cost issue, but is likely also affected by a culture that still emphasises good handwriting (which is understandable given that PCs could only handle our complex characters sufficiently well after 1990, let alone typewriters). You would be amazed at how our children are taught the exact writing order of each stroke (which can be more than 10 for a given character), and the presence/absence of font hinting-like stuff for every of the 1,000 characters that they learn.

            I am quite skeptical of the size of the K-12 computer market outside of the US. Unless Chromebooks expand outside of their current niche, they could be limited to US. I’m wondering if this could have contributed to Samsung’s exit from the European market.

          2. “You would be amazed at how our children are taught from 6-years of age, the exact writing order of each stroke….”

            Honestly, good for them. That’s a very important and underrated skill in my opinion. Tactile learning with physical is still important.

      2. The question is whether there’s a space where the form factor matches a JTBD that tablets and smart phones don’t occupy, either in the present or the future. My guess is that Google is betting on the cloud and web absorbing the last of the utility from Windows desktop and subsume the higher productivity functions of a computer. If that happens, then Chromebook’s disruptive potential becomes fully enabled. After all, isn’t this why Google is building Google docs?

        1. Although I’m not sure that I would use the word disruptive, I agree that Google Docs would seem like an important strategic element for making Chromebooks attractive. In this context, it is interesting to note that Google Docs hasn’t really evolved to be a full-blown competitor to MS-Office, but has always remained a relatively simple alternative that is weak in some rather important features. For example, Benedict Evans recently passed a few remarks on how Google Slides didn’t even support embedding graphs.


          Thinking about why Google Docs has remained underpowered for all these years (since 2006-2007) may tell us a lot about Google’s real priorities. In particular, in Clayton Christensen’s description of disruption, the low-end entrant should eventually move up-market to challenge the incumbent in the mid- to high-end. I think the fact that this hasn’t happened yet speaks to the disruptive potential of web-based MS-Office alternatives.

          1. Man, didn’t know Benedict Evans disliked Google Docs that much XD.

            I’ve noticed that Google Docs has been slowly building some new capability lately. I wonder if it’s a strategy, resource, or timing issue. It could be that in the Google way of things they’re still deciding whether this is the direction they want to go, and we’ll only see fast iteration and development once they’ve made that decision. Maybe the development of docs is tied to the adoption rate of Chromebooks? Maybe it’s an incentive and resource problem and Google just isn’t committing enough to docs. Or maybe there’s some engineering issue on the backend (though I can’t imagine why, because Office 365). I think there are a number of potential reasons why we haven’t seen Docs progress that much, but the reason Google remains scary (especially for Microsoft) is that with its reach and resources it has the ability to release big products out of nowhere.

            On the other hand, perhaps Google no longer sees a need to develop Docs because Office and Adobe are both going into the cloud. If those two ever fully become backend web platforms, there may not be a need to invest in Google Docs to achieve that thin client vision.

    2. There are questions in the long term though.
      1- MS and Intel have chosen to lose money to stay in the game, Google and ARM are making money at those prices. How long will MSIntel keep subsidizing netbooks ?
      2- Chromebooks haven’t needed a permanent connection for almost 2 years: they cache apps and data locally, and sync up when they can.
      3- Chromebooks are starting to run Android apps (officialy hand-picked ones for now, unofficially most of them via a hack). that gives them a first-rate ecosystem, and a lot more versatility. For many uses, Android apps are superior to Windows, starting with the mail client.
      4- It’s not just a bout money. Battery life (at that price), admin, viruses, ease of use, all are strongly in favor of Chromebooks.

      1. I’ve heard these arguments in favor of Chromebooks before, and have no serious reason to doubt them. However, there are also good solid reasons to prefer Windows. It’s hard to know which will win. Hence, comparing the advantages of each platform, in my opinion, isn’t the best way to analyse it.

        That’s why I like to hear the numbers; how the market is reacting. Reading the numbers, in the consumer market, the outlook isn’t yet very bright.

        Disruption theory-wise, the key is how the incumbents will respond. Microsoft has shown strong intent to crush Chromebooks. I think that this alone is more important than all of the feature differences that you describe. Simply because Goliath usually wins.

        1. That’s interesting, I think “better” or “cheaper” usually wins over “bigger” in the long term. See: Detroit, but then IT has stronger network effects.

          Chromebooks are a bit cheaper, current MS and Intel subsidies notwithstanding because ARM SoCs are cheaper/simpler and Google know how to make money on free stuff. Not by a huge amount though, $10-$20 for the SoC, and probably the same for a sanely-valued entry-level Windows Home license; double that with margins and taxes, that’s $60. +30% at $200, but still mostly pocket money.

          Better is very open to discussion, versatility vs no/easier-admin and no viruses. I know I’d love to Chomebookify or Androidify everyone around me so I don’t have to try and salvage personal files from a virus or re-install Windows for a user who randomly moved directories because of a full HD. On the other hand, I’m not convinced The Cloud is safer nor more reliable than local, and it mostly makes backups more of a pain (you need a procedure for each and every provider *and service*… there must be a market, there…)

          1. Although I try to look at the numbers and not dig too much into the feature differences, I’ll just give my opinions on why I think Chromebooks will not be able to win over Goliath.

            As I mentioned, any incumbent of Goliath proportions will have huge resources at its disposal to thwart any new entrants that it deems a threat. Disruption happens when incumbents chose to flee up-market instead of fighting the entrant head-on in the low-end market, or they are otherwise incapable of responding. In the case of Detroit, I think they did not see small, cheap cars as a profitable market to play in, and instead focused on the more profitable big, powerful cars that US customers generally liked more. The Japanese, having gained a foothold in the low-end, then improved their technical offerings and manufacturing prowess to the point that the Big 3 couldn’t easily replicate. They eventually moved up-market, boosted by raising gas prices and environmental regulations. The Japanese were cheaper from the beginning, but they weren’t better. They got better after the Big 3 allowed them to gain a foothold.

            In the case of Microsoft, reducing the price of Windows was always an option. That was how they responded to the Linux netbook threat; they provided a crippled but cheaper version of Windows XP specifically for netbooks. It was obvious from the start that they would attempt the same if Chromebooks ever became a threat. That is exactly what they are doing now with Windows with Bing. As for monetization, if a proportion of these users become Office 365 subscribers, then it should work out OK. Note that Google in Education has been banned from collecting student information for the purpose of future advertising. They aren’t currently monetizing Chomebooks in their usual way.

            Given that Microsoft has strong incentives to respond, the remain possibility is if Chromebooks had an inherent advantage that Windows cannot easily replicate. ARM is one possibility. Another is the ability to work with only small amounts of local storage.

            As for ARM, the reviews for ARM-based Chromebooks aren’t that great. I don’t have the figures but I am under the impression that Intel-based ones are selling better than the ARM-based ones. The capability to run under ARM does not seem to much of an advantage at this point. Of course, things will change as ARM processors get more powerful, but at the same time, Intel offerings will become cheaper and more energy efficient. I expect the effects to cancel out with the net result being that Intel will remain the preferred option as it is today.

            It would have been better if ChromeOS was somehow structured so that it would run much faster on less capable CPUs. That was how iPads entered the market. They ran amazingly fast considering the very low power of the ARM CPUs powering them. However for Chromebooks, this is not the case. Performance-wise, it still seems to be the same as a Linux laptop running a Chrome browser.

            As for storage, Windows-based cheap laptops generally have 500GB hard drives whereas Chromebooks have ~16GB SSDs. The interesting thing is whereas we had many Windows netbooks with SSDs, that isn’t happening for the current crop of cheap Windows laptops. My general impression is that customers seem to be OK with hard drive performance if you get a magnitude more storage. Therefore Chromebooks don’t seem to have much of an advantage here.

            I currently conclude that Chromebooks do not have an inherent advantage compared to Windows. This is very different from the iPad situation. Hence Microsoft has always had the technical ability to respond.

            Combined with Microsoft’s new business model where they monetize in cloud subscriptions and not Windows, they are easily capable of thwarting a Chromebook threat.

          2. I think the inherent advantage of Chromebooks in the Consumer market is admin-less use and idiot-proofness.

            As for the underlying cost advantage: MS’s skit is that they’re moving to paid cloud services, but I don’t think Consumer netbook buyers will subscribe to anything, especially vs Google’s “free” monetizing via ads, or even pirating or FOSS such as LibreOffice. MS certainly can subsidize Windows to go up against Chromebooks and paper over the lack of revenue by hyping subscriptions… we’ll have to double-check those subscriptions actually happen. Ditto Intel’s current popularity in Chromebooks (and Android tablets): mostly because they’re selling well below their usual prices in these segments. Both are not really strategies, they’re firesales. I guess at some point, share at a loss looks better than no share; we’ll have to see if MS and Intel manage to live on those new prices/pricing schemes or to squeeze out the competition and move back to regular prices.

            BTW, eMMC Wintel netbooks are coming. Some recent netbooks use that; Windows 8.1 now has a WIMBoot execute-in-place option, where it runs off the install media in 4GB (at least that’s what the ad says ^^), install of the usual 16-ish install + 8-ish recovery, making eMMC viable for Windows netbooks too, which it wasn’t when 32GB was barely enough to run the OS, let alone install apps and store data, so 64GB was really needed, at which point going HDD made more sense. The HDD in Wintel Netbooks was not so much a choice, as the cheapest way to meet the OS’s space requirements.

          3. I think we have to better understand the crapware business; the business where free-apps are preinstalled with the expectation that a small percentage will want to continue using those apps and upgrade to a paid version. This is essentially what Windows with Bing is. I think it’s generally much more profitable that you are saying, but I don’t have hard numbers either.

            I seriously expect it to be just as profitable as an ad-based model, or maybe even much more for a very well known and used product like MS-Office.

            In Japan at least, we have a huge amount of “opt-out” crapware models in mobile phones. That is, you have to remember to “opt-out” within a month, or you get charged. I’ve been told from an iPhone repair shop that they can repair your iPhone (cracked screen) for free if you agree to install 10 of these crap apps. The repair shop will be paid 9,000 JPY (about 80USD) for this. Much more than a regular repair price. Since the crapware owners much be making more money than they are paying the repair shop, I would guess that crapware owners are actually earning close to 200USD per 10-app install. That’s quite a lot of money.

            I genuinely think Microsoft has a better way of monetizing Windows with Bing that Google has with Chromebooks. Note that since most Chromebooks are in K-12 education, they aren’t used on the web much and do not currently provide an advertising opportunity.

          4. I think schools are a special case. They might bring huge revenue once you get locked-in, but they can also be seen as a marketing expense. MS certainly is doing that, with hugely discounted prices. I remember wanting to bang a few heads when I was working for Novell, which insisted on profiting off .edu, while MS was giving their stuff away like candy. 3 years later (OK, this was *not* K-12^^), busloads of IT techs graduated, very proficient… in Windows stuff. Anecdote aside, I’m really curious to see if MS manage to get any significant revenue for what you call their crapware approach. I think it’s a cache-misère: they’re mostly giving up on revenues just to get share and not let Chrome OS + competing Office apps get a toe in. Hopefully w’ell get both volume and revenue numbers in a few months.
            As always, a pleasure discussing with you.

  2. Interesting thought – if I read correctly // the Chromebooks real opportunity is as a leading wedge for a broader ChromeOS opportunity ? – not as a final consumer product in itself ?

    1. Yes, because my ultimate belief is that Google believes we are moving to a thin-client future, and ultimately will evolve Android in that direction with ChromeOS serving as the developer/catalyst for that ultimate vision.

  3. @benbajarin:disqus I disagree with you post Ben and your reaction reminded me exactly why analysis are very Often wrong when it come to new-market disruption by trying to integrate Chromebook in today technology world view instead of tomorrow capability.

    i do believe that Chromebook+ Big Phone will squeeze Tablet potential for growth because anyone who own a Big phone and a Chromebook will find little use for a Tablet.

    talking about connectivity you seem to forget that a Chromebook can use the same cellular network as your Smartphone and tablet because it doesn’t require much LTE bandwidth

    when it come to Application i will said that if you ever used a Chromebook you will notice that lack of Native application are weak argument because Native App in tablet are not that more powerful than Chromebook App without mentioning Package app that enable developer to run their own Native android App on Chromebook.

    i will say that many of your argument against Chromebook are best suit for the Tablet form Factor

    1. A good job to be done analysis explains my thinking. If you fully understand why PCs are used, and what mainstream consumers do with their products then you would understand my argument. My opinion here, as always is not just willynilly but comes with massive amounts of data and usage behavoir research. You are in an emerging market and I can see some potential of Chromebooks there but right now there is no sales in that area.

      Chromebooks are going no where in the consumer channel as I point out other products are better served to suit their usage.

      And your last point is exactly what I said in terms of a reason to optimistic. Bring Chrome to tablets and smartphones. I brought that out in my last paragraph of the article. So we actually agree in that respect.

      1. can you give us some insight on the job to be done or the job most computer will be hire to do when it come to the consumer market in the future?

        1. Right now consumers use PCs very little as total computing time spent. And more importantly the trend of usage / buying / hiring is moving away from the notebook form factor and back to desktops and all in ones. Consumers who get the value of the PC are making the point that they will keep it a long time so they want to make an investment in a quality one that fits all their needs. Needs are storage, more rich gaming, study, research, personal finance and file management, etc. It is almost as if the PC is evolving more to the personal server with some shades of a workstation only.

          While we can argue cloud becomes only one small part of the overall story. We are a long long way away from being able to have seamless thin client interaction with heavy work load processes, including managing and editing media like rich video and more in the cloud only. So the point is all the things consumers look to do with their existing and future PCs are not solved by Chromebooks. The things Chromebooks are good at are served better other products like tablets and larger smartphones.

          But ultimately it is a form factor issue. In fact I have an issue with the notebook clamshell form factor at the moment. And should Google get aggressive in desktop versions, then it fails to compete on the jobs that that form factor are hired for in consumer markets.

          But ultimately, it has everything to do with software. ALL the software innovation I see is in mobile not on PC form factors. So until we see true consumer cloud software innovation for desktop and notebook form factors I will be hard on Chromebooks.

          But as I pointed out and you did, the premise / value actually makes a lot of sense in a tablet and smartphone.

          1. i have to tell you ben this post remind me of exactly what you said 2 years ago
            about Big Smartphone stated that most of your internal Data and consumer recherche indicated that Big Phone will be a Flop, do you remember that?

            Just as you were wrong then i think that you are wrong today by focusing your attention in the wrong area of the problem that need to solve.

            here is why i expected Chromebook to succeed even surpassing Tablet in the market.

            The New Multi-Screen World

            we are moving in a Multi screen world, while most Analysis are expecting people to go for Phone, Tablet, and TV, etc. i do believe that in the future most people will go for a Notebook instead of a Tablet because Big phone will eliminate a lot of the need for a Tablet while a tablet even with keyboard will not eliminate the need for a notebook anytime soon

            where Chromebook have a lot of potential is due to the fact that everything is account-based and not device-based and with their new material design philosophy what Google is trying to do is to make you experience between your Phone, Tablet, Notebook, TV etc.. seamless the same APP, the same service, the same Data accessible everything without any hassle. and the Chromebook experience are closer to mobile than are PC or Mac

            New Chips
            the new Intel and ARM Chips will make it very easy for OEM’s to build Chromebook that are more powerful and as thin, portable, and touch screen as a tablet itself hence further reduce the need for the tablet.

            Next generation of Mobile Network will eliminate the issue of connectivity by making Chromebook available almost everywhere with a LTE chips.

            Software are loosing their value because consumer doesn’t want to pay for it hence developer are more likely to move to Ads based service which the web is better at monetize.

            also web App in combination with Package App are becoming more and more powerful, who could have predicted 2 years ago that Photoshop will be available in the Chrome store this year.

            when it come to the Cloud i think that you are looking at the Glass half empty because there have been so much progress in there so many thing that we can do in the Cloud or with a Chromebook today that most people such as you 2 years ago said would take decade to be possible.

          2. Kenny, what I am curious about is why you think the Chromebook is a tablet replacement vs a laptop replacement? Or is it that you think it is a PC/tablet replacement?


          3. Exactly. Right now Chromebook is taking share away from bottom end ~$300 Windows laptops.

            They’re not a new category at all. They just replace cheap/bad windows laptops. That’s why I see the value/potential and success.

            I think lower-income people who had to buy cheapest bottom-end windows laptops & suffer with an awful experience – appreciate Chromebooks because they’re even cheaper (`$200) and are decent quality.

            More importantly: way better than Windows.

            Chomebook is really not that hard to understand (and it’s value prop): Dirt cheap bottom-end notebooks – with a better experience than Windows. (and cheaper)

            Because those are the people that buy them – why don’t you (Ben) see a future? – Think of developing nations?

          4. Point 1. Actually all my reasoning for the big phone played out. I stated it was purely an emerging market play and I was right, since that is where all the volume was and is. What our data told us was those markets only wanted one device not two, so larger phones made sense.

            I also said what would make or break the category in developed market was software. If you recall the analysis I did that compared the 3.5″ iPhone to the 4.7″ Android, I showed how the new screen real estate was not utilized. Now that Apple is in big screens and developers can start taking unique advantage of it we see interesting things happen. Both of those points were my conclusions and they played out exactly as our analysis highlighted when it came to the upside.

            To your points, I think you are putting way too much optimism in the desktop web. That is where current Chromebook solutions are positioned. I do not see that changing. All the investment and effort is in mobile web not desktop browser web.

            Photoshop in a browser will not supplant it on a PC for some time even though I think their software as a service in the browser is a decent strategy. Also bear in mind I am not talking about Chromebooks in this analysis in corporate or education ONLY pure consumer markets. People who don’t sit a desk for their day job and use a clamshell PC or desktop.

            What I ask of you since you seem to know everything about the future, is outline for me the job a Chromebook does better than the direction current offerings are going like tablets and larger smartphones for the pure consumer?

            My point, so we are clear, and since I think you keep missing it, is that there is currently no job, nor any job on the horizon a Chromebook does better than current offerings. So give me reasoning to the contrary.

          5. Point -1 i remember clearly after the First Galaxy Note you made an article about android and we were discussing about the Big Phone and you clearly said in the comment section that Big phone along with FNC technology will be a Flop because of Apple not going in that direction.

            i do not predict the future, i just stated the potential of Chromebook

            where i think Chromebook are better is in the area of Simplicity, Lightness, security, versatility and above all Cloud base single Sign-on which make the entire experience and the value that much better in combination with a Big Phone.

            as i said yesterday the majority of what a IPad is best for can also be done as Good with a Chromebook and even more so while the majority of what the Chromebook form factor are best for can’t be done as good with a IPad in it’s current form.

          6. And as you saw my analysis on big phones changed as said evidence and market data reflected it. So you know i’m willing to shift my conviction as I see the changes. I will never call and did not call big phones a flop. What I do is share what the data trend lines say mapped with some view of how the tech aligns with the future. And as upside opportunities change in the market, I include that in my analysis. Consider my analysis dynamic not static.

            I agree on the potential of Chrome OS just not on a notebook form factor. So what I’m asking is for you to tell me why THAT form factor has potential? The point of my article is the form factor not the ChromeOS concept. I’m hoping you understand that.

          7. the reason is because Keyboard and Mouse matter a lot when it come to productivity, because our entire It infrastructure and computer interaction over the last 30 years has been build around it Hence it will require an evolution in the business and the schools world for touch screen to change that. which is not happening at all as we speak.

            this is also the reason why i do Believe that the 2/1 form factor including New generation of ships have a lot of potential at merging the tablet Mobility to Notebook capability as you can see with the Microsoft surface Line.

          8. Have you tried to use a large phone for a week or more ? I couldn’t go back to less than 5.5″ if they paid me to, 6-6.5″ is the sweet spot for me: still mostly one-handed, excellent to read text and watch videos.
            It does take some getting used to, especially because you no longer have a total, all-around grip on your phone, you just rest it on your fingertips, just past the middle of the back.

          9. ” the trend of usage / buying / hiring is moving away from the notebook form factor and back to desktops and all in ones”

            I would never have thought that. You’re the first I’ve heard that from. Really interesting and, now that you bring it up, makes sense. The portability advantage of the laptop is being undermined by mobile computing. Is that the case?


          10. i don’t think it will replace neither the PC nor the Tablet category but i do believe that Chrome OS will take a big chunk of Both market and that Big Phone will eliminated a lot of need young people would have had for Tablet

          11. Yes. A notebook is just a portable desktop. So you have to ask then, for how many consumers is a portable desktop necessary? When it was the only mobile computing option it made sense, desk free computing around the home. Now we have tablets and smartphones you see why the portable desktop value proposition is breaking down in pure consumer markets.

          12. It’s a logical premise, but it’s a severe step backwards in many areas. Mobile is less usable in the sense that it’s cramped, power dependent, performance constrained, and not serviceable. Beyond that, it’s perfect! Mobile is good for what it is, mobility, but it’s inferior to the desktop and laptop in every other way.

            Even laptops are an approximation to the desktop, albeit a closer approximation.

          13. “And more importantly the trend of usage / buying / hiring is moving away from the notebook form factor and back to desktops and all in ones.”

            So according to your analysis, based on current data you have, the future is desktops / tablets / large-screen smartphones?

          14. Big screens and small screens. Notebooks are tweeners that are losing their place in pure consumer markets.

  4. Thing is , as the world moves towards the new paradigm of cloud computing and away from the brief period of laptops each having their own version of software loaded onto hard discs, what will people need to access the rapidly growing suites of cloud-based software? An instant access, easily portable machine with an efficient OS and virus-protected at cloud level. together with a great keyboard. A chromebook.

    1. I’m seeing so much innovation in new input methods, that I’m strongly beginning to doubt the keyboard longevity in mass market applications.

      1. Yes sure, voice communication, touchscreen – whatever are available already in chromebooks. As new input methods evolve, of course they can be incorporated, A keyboard though is just invaluable for rapid touch-typing and writing,say, personal software using an on-line compiler – and my Samsung keyboard is the best I’ve ever had in the last 30 years or so of PC use. It’s perfect for me in so many ways.

        1. Keyboards are fine for the PC literate. The world is moving to mobile / touch literate not PC. I’m not saying I don’t believe in ChromeOS. Just not ChromeOS on a notebook form factor. That’s my overall point.

          1. Yes OK. The advantages of a simple note book are ( in no particular order);

            for mobile use it is very robust – it’s closed so all damageable bits are inside
            I’ve dropped it accidentally a couple of times on hard surfaces- not even a scratch

            it’s very flexible in use, it can be a tablet, a reader, a phone even

            it can do everything a smartphone can, android apps are all becoming available, it has of course the gmail phone incorporated for fanatastic voice quality, very low cost wifi calls

            it can give you superb hd film quality on a decent-sized (for laptop use) screen

            It is basically a complete all-in-one ultra-portable communications/computing device.

            I guess I’m baffled at the dislike of its form-factor. I’ve been using mine for over two years now and its absolutely ideal. I carry it pretty well everywhere I go – free wifi is ubiquitous in high streets in the UK, where I live. What’s not to like?

          2. Don’t get me wrong I like the form factor, I’m just seeing the clamshell notebook form factor begin to lose its value in pure consumer markets. I see high interest in desktops for when they finally upgrade old PCs, but to be the shared / family computer. And then high interest in tablets/ phones as the more everyones computer.

            So that is why as I look at usage trends, I don’t see the notebook form factor as gaining traction in the pure consumer/home computing environment.

    2. I’m not sure The Cloud as the backbone of our computing will be *that* ubiquitous. It requires a connection (which most of us don’t have 100% of the time), it requires a *fast* connection if you’re streaming video, it’s taking advantage of the current total lack of regulation (safety and security lapses are not punished, not even compensated), and it’s mostly building on the very sad state of desktop OSes, which basically need an admin to run correctly.
      I’m personally advocating Android on the desktop. It solves most of the problems associated with Windows and MacOS (viruses, updates, need for an admin, complicated UIs), already works reasonably well though a few tweaks would make it much better, and is the right amount of cloud-y: aware, but not dependent, so your devices keep working when you’re incommunicado.

  5. I just got an Asus Chromebook. It is cheap, small and, in my opinion, very low end. To me, it is rather a disposable device. It can only be a complement to a decent machine, not the main computer of the household. For instance, one cannot print easily, one cannot scan a document. You cannot rip a DVD.
    So, I agree that its a competitor to tablets, not PCs. It may have a niche in the low price market.

    1. Ripping a DVD sure enough is a procedure that goes along with the era of PCs. Who buys a DVD these days, you just download it or stream it. Times have moved on.
      Anyway to rip a DVD you do need a PC/laptop with DVD drive and some software to convert it to mp4 format. Copy the film in this format to a thumbdrive and stick it in the chromebook – it will play it. I use an old Windows XP machine for this sort of thing.
      Alternatively you can download a film from many online locations, sometimes free sometimes not or stream it – again sometimes free sometimes not. Download to google drive or a thumbdrive or equivalent.
      To print and scan buy a cheap cloud-enabled all-in printer and follow simple chrome instructions to print or scan. It’s easy.

        1. Well, many DVD stores have closed in the last year or so – it seems to me to be an historic technology. You can download a film to your Googleclouddrive directly from Googleplay, Amazon or wherever and it is available to you wherever you or are. As well you can download it to a thumbdrive so you can watch it offline. Simple and no dusty pile of DVDs to accommodate.

          1. It’s been a while, but it used to be (may still be) geographically restricted, needing a connection to validate usage rights. Can’t tell you the number of times I crossed borders (even Canada) and couldn’t use media I paid for.
            The reason I don’t know whether that’s the case now, is because I rip. But I only rip purchased media.

          2. Well I can sympathise a little there, a while back in Portugal, Netflix wasn’t available.
            In the UK where I live , everything is available everywhere: Chromebooks had a problem getting Amazon Instant Video, as in the UK they used silverlight, but that is now fixed.
            That’s the thing about the cloud though, the stuff available just continues to increase – Adobe Photoshop is now online. It is where all the activity is – whereas before the Chromebook appeared all activity was directed towards having more and more software copied on to every single laptop.

          3. This brings us to a broader cloud conversation. I expect my PC to not be useless if I don’t have a connection. That is, I use the cloud, I like aspects of the cloud, but I demand that the cloud be a peripheral to the PC, not the PC a peripheral to the cloud. That’s mainframe.

          4. I mostly agree with you, but the non-connected work is quickly becoming a smaller fraction of computing tasks. Still important work—drafting, photo/music/video editing, etc. But usually at that point there are computers dedicated to the task. And even some of those tasks are being handled via remote collaboration. Connectivity is now allowing people to collaborate on a project without everyone needing to be in the same geographic location. The contemporary benefits of our preference are becoming harder to demonstrate.


          5. Well, you could say that it begins with local storage and local copies of whatever you want/need. The cloud is very good at syncing among devices. I would say Onedrive is extremely good at that.

            Then there’s backup. The cloud is a good (not great) source of supplementary backup. In many ways it’s just another mapped drive (when implemented as a peripheral).

            Until we have the planet covered with cheap, fast, reliable, satellite connectivity, the cloud will fall short. Would you tolerate the cloud’s shortcomings from a hard disk, or would you burn it with fire?

          6. Considering I’ve had more hard drive failures (including back-ups) than cloud failures, I’m probably not the best person to ask that question of.

            What I hate is that everyone has _their_ cloud offerings—Dropbox, Cloud Drive, One Drive, iCloud, Google Drive, etc. None of it is convenient. And I don’t mean I need them to cooperate or integrate more or better. But right now, none of them are invisible enough. For me Dropbox “integration” in any of those services still makes no sense in usability.

            I don’t know what the right metaphor is, but thinking of it as an extra drive doesn’t work. Thinking of it as a shared drive is closer, but a typical network shared drive has problems, too. ChromeOS may be a better attempt, but all I see is a different variation on today’s computing, not a new way (much less better) of computing.

            I think the notion of a “network” needs to disappear and that can only happen with the ubiquitous connectivity you bring up.


          7. And I can’t tell you the number of times my connectivity on mobile just flat out stinks. This, while in what is considered to be a well covered by LTE major metropolitan area. I guess, as they say, your mileage can vary…

          8. That’s fine with me klahanas – I’m happy to agree to differ.
            By the way my PC (a high-end laptop in its day) is useless if it has a connection – it has Windows XP. I last used it online when I discovered my Chromebook did it all for me – it’s selling points for me had been the fact it self- updated with no hassle and needed no local anti-virus software – I was fed up with the continual updates required by my laptop and its slowness. Then I gradually became aware of just how good it was at doing most things I needed and subsequently it has just got better and better and in addition a huge range of apps is now available if needed. The fact it is now dominating the schools market in the US – for good reasons over and above its cost- could mean the next generation are not so hung-up on the importance of a local ‘mainframe’ (last time I heard that description was when I worked with computers that relied on cardreaders for input!).
            It looks to me that cloud computing will become dominant over the next few years (as it already is for communication – Outlook 365, Gmail not to mention increasingly Gdocs and Office 365) and something like the Chromebook is what will be needed.
            But there you go, that’s my view – I’ve no interest in converting anyone else to that opinion.

          9. You opinion is respected, and yes, we agree to differ. I think we can agree on what a Chromebook isn’t, that it’s not a PC.

            That’s not to say the mainframe client/server model doesn’t have it’s merits. It does, such as built in IT functions. If you’re old enough to remember punch cards, however, you also remember what the PC was all about. The Chomebook is the antithesis of that.

          10. That’s sort of true – in that it doesn’t have any version of Windows and doesn’t have a local hard disk – that’s the google cloud for me. I used to use my PC 100% on-line via ethernet connections I’m afraid so never did need any off-line capability. My chromebook does all I did with that so – apart from its lightning web connection speed and nimbleness in web usage – you could say it’s no different to my Windows laptop. Nowadays it’s all by permanent wifi connection of course.
            Enough already – cheers!

          11. You’ve gotten me to experiment with a Chromebook (sort of). On one of my PC’s I set the Modern UI version of Chrome, which replicates a Chromebook, as default. Initial impressions is that, under this scenario, I get aspect of Windows and Android in one browser window. I’m interested to see how it goes.

  6. I’m recommending Chromebooks to some users, because
    – they need 0 admin, and I always end up doing that: getting rid of viruses, fixing Windows installs gone haywire, updating antiviruses and apps…
    – again: no viruses.
    – many have excellent battery life
    – they’re cheap
    – their very limitations make them a good choice if you want to limit distractions (say, for kids)

    I think their main competition is a tablet + a keyboard. That’s a bit more expensive ($300 instead of $200), a lot more versatile, and as virus- / admin-free, but you’re limited to 10″ for now if you want to say is the same price range (the Samsung 12″ and Lenovo 13″ do have keyboard cases, but they’re around $500 which is another segment entirely). There are also a few Android netbooks.

  7. Hi Ben – perhaps you could revisit this article? A lot has changed – It would be great to hear your reflections.

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