The Google I/O conference arrived, and with much fanfare, the Chromebook was announced. Usually, if I dislike something, I give it a few days to consider its use before I assume further judgement. But in the Chromebook’s case, I feel the same way I felt two days ago: confused. Namely, I just don’t get why anyone would buy this thing for $349 – $499.
Compare what you can get for the same price, and the Chromebook seems like a bad deal.
For $249, I can get an entry level 10″ netbook with Windows Starter Edition. Two years ago, I bought an HP Mini for that price, and still use it. All this time, I’ve stored honeymoon pictures, creative writing documents, and music. When I go on vacation, I leave my Macbook and Nexus S at home — but my HP Mini comes with me.
Here’s where my HP Mini outshines the Chromebook: forget about taking your Chromebook to Haida Gwaii or Malta. Forget about bringing it on an airplane. Forget about decent computing without an Internet connection. For $100 less, I can get a computer with more features.
Chromebook vs. iPad
The lowest priced iPad costs $499. Like the Chromebook, it has limitations compared to a Windows netbook — namely, it’s lack of real multi-tasking. But seeing how I can install Garageband and Photoshop on the iPad, that’s forgivable. Both these apps does not require Internet access, and more importantly, I can store all my files on my iPad!
Google admits the Chromebook isn’t necessarily built for apps like Photoshop, but at its current price, shouldn’t it? If I’m limited to only using glorified web apps, shouldn’t the price of the Chromebook be significantly less? Docked to a keyboard, an iPad is an adequate machine for daily use — even with its many limitations. I’m not so sure about the Chromebook.
Chromebook versus Android
The most puzzling aspect of the Chromebook seems to be that it competes with it’s other platform. The Motorola Atrix, which costs $199.99 on a two year contract, comes with a webtop application — which converts the smartphone into a traditional desktop interface when plugged into a laptop dock. Here too, I should point out a weakness. Without the handset plugged in, the laptop is useless.
Again, it seems to have more functionality to me than the Chromebook. I can store apps locally on the Atrix as well as files. More ominous for the Chromebook, the Atrix integrates just as well with Google Apps. At a competitive price, I can do everything the Chromebook does with as much Google Apps integration — the additional advantage of not being so dependant on the cloud.
Maybe there’s something about the Chromebook I’m missing, but compared to competitive products, I just don’t see what the big deal is.