Why the Chromebook will be disruptive

26Feb13

I’m starting a new job at the end of the week, and I’ve been agonising over whether I should treat myself to a shiny new laptop. I’m *really*tempted by an 11″ MacBook Air[1], but at the same time I’m inclined to hold off until a Haswell-ULT/ULX version comes along (which might then have an all day battery rather than 5hrs).

In a brief moment (of insanity?) I wondered if a Surface Pro would fit the bill. And then I remembered this tweet:

PEG_SurfacePro

 

 

That got me thinking… What if Apple made something that brought together the best of both worlds from the MBA and iPad? I imagine these qualities:

  • Similar form factor to existing MacBook Air
  • 10hrs+ battery life
  • 3G/4G connectivity (as well as WiFi)
  • Maybe a touch screen (though I could live without that)
  • Cheap

When I got to the final point my bubble burst. Apple just aren’t going to do that. There’s a strict heirarchy that cannot be disrupted: iPod Touch, iPad Mini, iPad, MBA, MacBook Pro. There might just be room for some kind of iPad/MBA hybrid, but it would come in at $800, which seems pretty premium to me.

Then it struck me… The ChromeBook costs less that the iPod Touch, and has most of the features I’m looking for. What it can’t do is run a bunch of VMs locally. In fact it can’t even run a bunch of the most popular apps (Skype, WebEx and Netflix seem to be the biggest bugbears).

That missing stuff – it matters now. It makes the Chromebook look like a toy. I’m guessing however that we’re seeing a classic case of innovators dilemma here – today’s toy is tomorrows sharper tool – disruption.

PS I don’t think this is necessarily a huge problem for Apple. They’ve got a long sheet for selling premium stuff, and an (ARM based?) MaciPad would likely sell well to a certain audience. The ones who are going to be left without a seat when the music stops are the traditional WinTel vendors (and their problem right now is that I’m not being offered something I’d rather buy than an MBA as it seems that every Ultrabook with a screen <13″ is some ridiculous experiment in touch based user experience design – well done Windows 8 and Metro).

Notes

[1] I’m also considering the Lenovo X230, which is about the same travel weight, but a good deal larger (and a lot cheaper). If there’s a choice to make then it hinges on industrial design, price, and whether I need to edit Keynote presentations.



3 Responses to “Why the Chromebook will be disruptive”

  1. For me I think I’ll wait for the r2 surface pro. So long as they pick the right haswell sku it should have enough horsepower for the odd game or two, and haswell should also help with battery life. Hopefully they will have also addressed the ergonomics of the kickstand (currently useless away from a table…), then the device will be pretty much perfect!

    Lenovo ultrabooks have merits i grant you. I personally really need more gpu wattage tho!

    Glad to hear about t’job!

  2. The Chomebook can have VMs… I’m running Ubuntu and ChromeOS via crouton… alththough its more of a dancing bear (demo) than something most people would use day to day…

    • Thanks for the pointer to crouton, it looks like an interesting project, though it’s not exactly what I had in mind when I mentioned VMs (which was something more like a Type 1 Hypervisor with support for multiple OSes – and yes, I know that gets even trickier when the whole ARM vs x86 thing comes into play – a shame that Transitive ended up at IBM).


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