Here’s more stuff for Google to sell through its forthcoming retail stores: touchscreen Chromebooks. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google and unnamed hardware partners are developing new Chromebooks with touchscreens:
Google Inc. has developed the first touchscreen laptops powered by its Chrome operating system to be sold later this year, according to people familiar with the matter, as the Internet giant tries to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system.
Interestingly, the new Chrome devices also would compete with devices powered by Google’s other operating system, called Android, which took the smartphone and tablet market by storm in recent years, propelling Google as a force in mobile-device software.
The distinctions between low-end laptops and tablets with keyboards are starting to blur (or merge in the case of Surface), which is why the WSJ may be asserting that these hypothetical new touchscreen Chromebooks would be competing with Android devices. But perhaps we’ll also see Chrome-based tablets, too.
The $249 Chromebook (by Samsung) is number 7 on Amazon’s Electronics Bestsellers list. And, the Acer-made C7 Chromebook is even cheaper at $199. The extraordinarily low price of these machines makes them not only highly affordable but almost irresistible in some ways.
Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who promoted the concept of a cloud-based “Network Computer” years before the cloud was in vogue, could not have imagined how inexpensive these machines would become. His idea of a low-cost box was $499. It’s now difficult for PC makers to sell a full-featured laptop for much more than that.
Assuming the WSJ report is accurate, there are two questions: 1) what will be the pricing of these new touchscreen Chomebooks? 2) will there be tablets and other non-traditional computing hardware that use the Chrome OS?
The PC industry has seen its consumer sales flatline amid competition from tablets and lower cost machines like Chromebooks. For example, Dell Computer’s Q4 earnings fell 31 percent (as the company tries to go private to execute a turnaround).
Postscript: Google just announced the touch-friendly Chromebook, called “Pixel.” It has a very high resolution screen, includes a terabyte of cloud storage and there’s a version that comes with three years of free LTE data (100 MB per month) from Verizon. Unfortunately Pixel is much more expensive than previous Chromebooks: $1,299 US and £1,049 UK for the WiFi version; the LTE version is $200 more.
It’s available to buy starting today on Google Play.
CNET offers a hands-on review of the machine, which is generally favorable. However the high price tag is likely to keep most “ordinary” consumers away from a machine that doesn’t run conventional software or have much on device storage.