Google has slowly but very deliberately encroached on territory previously claimed by Windows PCs: low-cost notebooks.Â Now its latest Chromebook may pose a threat to Appleâ€™s dominance of the higher-end market.
Previously, Googleâ€™s Chrome operating system has mostly been confined to sub-$300, bare-bones notebooks, aimed at schools, students, or people looking for a simple laptop for basic tasks like email and light web-browsing.
The problem with most of Chrome OS-powered laptops put out by Googleâ€™s hardware partners (which include HP, Lenovo, ASUS and just about all the other PC makers) is that they werenâ€™t really suitable for more intensive users as a primary PC (because of limited memory, small or low-quality screens, or slow processing speeds). The one exception was Googleâ€™s own Chromebook Pixel, which costs $1,300 and hasnâ€™t been updated in over a year.
Itâ€™s clear, however, that Google is determined to make Chrome a full-fledged OS on par with Microsoft Windows. When I visited Googleâ€™s Mountain View headquarters last year, I noticed that everyone working at Google who wasnâ€™t a developer was using a Chromebook Pixel.
Samsungâ€™s Chromebook 2 delivers
For the first time, it appears that one of Googleâ€™s hardware partners is ready to offer the low-cost but full-fledged notebook that would be required to deliver on that ambition. As Wired put it, this new notebook is â€œalmost a real laptop.â€
The new Samsung Chromebook 2 comes in two sizes: a $400 13.3-inch model with a screen of the same resolution as a true high-definition TV; and a $320 11.6-inch version. Both run on a fast mobile processor, Samsungâ€™s Exynos, which will also appear in some models of the companyâ€™s flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone.
These notebooks donâ€™t have much storageâ€”just 16GBâ€”but that hardly matters, because the point of a Chromebook is that youâ€™ll probably access the vast majority of your data and apps in the cloud (whether Googleâ€™s or elsewhere). Importantly, both models have 4GB of RAM, which is probably the minimum youâ€™d want to have a bunch of browser tabs open without the Chromebook slowing to a crawl.
Will a smartphone processor do the trick?
Itâ€™s easy to look at Samsungâ€™s new Chromebooks and say â€œwell, theyâ€™re not that powerful compared to their Windows and Apple Macintosh equivalentsâ€â€”and thatâ€™s absolutely true. But Googleâ€™s Chrome OS is also a much more lightweight operating system than either Windowsâ€™ or Macâ€™s. This means (according to my own testing and numerous reviews) that Chromebooks donâ€™t require that much horsepower to function at more or less the same apparent speed as competing operating systems on more powerful notebooks.
Overall, the trend in how people get things done is moving away from PCs and towards tablets and phones. But the Chrome OS has the potential to capture a significant portion of the laptop market even as the total size of the pie shrinksâ€”after all, most of us still prefer a keyboard and a trackpad for getting â€œrealâ€ work done.
In other words, if a $400 13-inch Samsung Chromebook is, for most everyday users, just as functional as an $1,100 13-inch Macbook Airâ€”but the Chromebook has a better displayâ€”Google and Samsung could have a hit on their hands.
Chrome OS is outgrowing its dependence on the cloud
Thereâ€™s one other thing that Google is just starting to implement thatâ€™s going to be very important to the future of Chrome OSâ€”applications that live on the Chromebook itself, and run locally, instead of running from the cloud. This is a shift in direction from Googleâ€™s original cloud-only strategy for the Chrome OS, but itâ€™s a reflection of the reality that weâ€™re not always on a fast connection to the internet, and constantly re-downloading apps in our web browser is a waste of precious (and often metered) mobile bandwidth.
These â€œpackaged appsâ€ are not unlike apps on mobile devices or any Mac or Windows PC. And with their introduction, Google has made it possible for developers to create software that works much more like the kind of (mobile and desktop) apps most people are accustomed to.
Chromebooks represent only 1% of all PCs sold in 2013. But the more missteps Microsoft makes, and the more Google comes to dominate mobile computing in general, the more competitive Chromebooks could become. If nothing else, Google has, through constant improvement of both the hardware and software sides of the Chromebook, demonstrated a commitment to the platform. And Google, with its massive revenue from other businesses, can afford to be patient.
Article source: http://qz.com/183488/google-and-samsung-just-unveiled-the-first-chromebook-you-might-actually-want-to-buy/