Google unveils Chromebook Pixel, a high-end, touch-enabled cloud machine: My impressions

61 thoughts on “Google unveils Chromebook Pixel, a high-end, touch-enabled cloud machine: My impressions”

  1. Google lost it’s mind, are they trying to get the worst product of the year award again?
    1300$ for that? Would be hard to sell it at 500$ Someone needs a (100%) pay cut at Google.

  2. Re: “Web hasn’t had touch and high-resolution screens before,”

    And evidently the web won’t need to respond to cursor hover any more either. Can’t “hover” with a touchscreen interface. No cursor.

      1. Actually you can hover with touch if it’s implemented. For example, if I use Chrome (touch-enabled desktop version) on my Windows 8 convertible, one tap on the screen simulates hovering (I just tested it on an xkcd comic), and the second actually clicks on whatever the link is. It’s probably not how touch should ideally work, but it does do hovering.

  3. This is insanity.

    Between this and the Glass project, Google is pricing itself out of the consumer market — the very market it must satisfy to get enough users to justify their data collection and advertising efforts. A $250 Chromebook makes *some* sense in a few use cases and helps Google collect data on as many people as can fork over that kind of money for a cloud laptop. And there’s lots of consumers who can do that.

    But what consumers, and how many, will fork over $1,300 for a cloud laptop? A few hundred? The Chromebook has not been a sales success. The Pixel will do far worse.

    I’d snap up a Pixel at $500, think about it but still get it at $600, but at $700 and up I’d have to have some really compelling reason to drop that kind of cash and Chrome OS, which I like, is not worth that much money.

    Consider the most expensive iPad is under $1,000 — even with some accessories — and has far more use cases than the Pixel at $1,300. The iPad has a gigantic app ecosystem and has a refined and proven touch interface. The Pixel fails as a $1,300 laptop but it also fails as a $1,300 iPad replacement.

    I’m glad Google is starting to focus some efforts on high-quality hardware. But their business is mass collection and distribution of data, and ultra-niche products like the Pixel are not aligned with that business model.

    1. “I’m glad Google is starting to focus some efforts on high-quality hardware. But their business is mass collection and distribution of data, and ultra-niche products like the Pixel are not aligned with that business model.”

      In case you haven’t notice, Google is already expanding its market base. I won’t be surprised if they start taking over the desktop market as well.

      “But what consumers, and how many, will fork over $1,300 for a cloud laptop? A few hundred? The Chromebook has not been a sales success. The Pixel will do far worse.”

      It’s just a cloud laptop, for now.

      Keep in mind that ChromeOS, just like stock Android, is easily upgraded. Which means that Google can easily integrate Google Play for the Chromebook. With that hardware, its the only logical path.

  4. “and clicked on a lot of ads, unintentionally.” The first part of that should delight the AdWords people, and the last part should horrify their true customer, the advertisers who just paid for that click they now know is worthless.”

  5. I see another Nexus Q in this product. Over priced for what it is and does.

    Macbook Air is cheaper, lighter and runs longer but has worse screen
    Macbook Pro Retina runs longer, has more storage and similar screen but is $200 more

    Cloud is cool, but a selling point of the cloud is to drive down hardware prices.

  6. Personally, I don’t see it – but some will buy. Not terribly different than an Ultrabook like computer (which are having some mild success in restoring vanishing hardware margins).

    Great form factor – but a $1000 premium for $200 in incremental hardware plus “thin and sexy” is tempting, but not enough.

    1. @brown_te, i think the hardware is actually pretty nice, but they need to really subsidize it and then people would be interested in this puppy. I am working on it right now and can’t say I totally hate it. But I don’t really love it.

  7. Excellent post. Google knows how to be in competition with big companies so first he tries to compete with Facebook by making Google plus and now they are trying to compete with Apple and they are making laptops. This laptop sounds cool but will they make mobile phone as well?

    Thank you
    James

  8. I honestly don’t get it, but it’s a good test to see if there is a market for companies that want to standardize on all things Google.

    If they can do a better job of making tangible what those benefits are (e.g., better technical support, a specific hybrid service that relies on this integration, an interesting platform play for developers that requires this integration, etc.), then maybe it’d be clearer.

  9. I think you glossed over the most important aspect of this offering – not the hardware, but the Google Drive storage. As a separate offering, Google sells 1 TB of storage for 2 years @ $1200.00. With this deal, you basically get a 3rd year of storage plus a fairly powerful device thrown in all for an extra $100. While this may not appeal to the masses, this is a very unique sales model and could prove to be more successful than you think.

    1. @trevor

      Actually that is the point I make in the post – the big news is 1 TB storage — but try telling that to an average consumer and make them excited about why it is a big deal. Google Chrome OS team, well meaning as they are, are underestimating people’s ingrained behaviors around purchasing decisions. I would be the first one to stand up and admit I am wrong about it, but I know all of us (consumers) are highly irrational.

  10. Good comments, especially the point about hover. Steve Jobs said they looked at touch on a PC, and concluded that people don’t want touch on a vertical surface where they have to keep their arms suspended in the air.

  11. Om, in this context then is ecosystem hardware OEMs, software developers, integrators, or? I am just trying to wrap my head around the delta that hardware gains their primary target.

    Hence, the question of support (i.e., one throat to choke – unlikely, since Google is all about self-service), platform or core service as the key “so what.”

    Otherwise, it’s just a bundle, right?

    1. @netgarden

      Think Windows ecosystem – I bet you see same form factor machines from Acer and Asus within 6 months and HP too will introduce similar machines. It is everything a Windows laptop used to be (except it is ChromeTel).

      Also, elaborate your question a little bit so i can answer with the pressure of time 😉

  12. Being a user of this device for couple of months and now moving to it full time (and giving up my macair) I can tell all of you, that this is the best laptop I have ever had. I use it for all my daily computing needs – email, docs, hangouts, storage. The keypad is awesome as is the touch interface. My kids love this device. Its not for everyone for sure – but for people who live in the cloud and are looking for a beautiful simple device this is a great product and with all the free bees a good price.

    @aksingh77

  13. Would be a great product, if they can run MSFT Office on it (for real world people).

    Which early adopter is sitting home and clicking photos to upload into a social network she/he is not using. Price is too high for incremental improvements.

  14. They need to justify price. How about offering the following to users who buy this (Let them select an offer that they like the most)

    1. Free Google Apps for Business for 1 user for 1 year 🙂
    2. Ad free access to Google services to the user for the life of this device.
    3. Giving 50 GB gmail account free with this for the life of this device.

    If this is an A/B kind of test, then the offer only gives them more market research info about the popularity and worth of each of their services in the eyes of the users.

  15. Om, it’s still a bit nebulous in the sense that when you think of WinTel, you see all of the margins flow to two vendors – Microsoft and Intel – in the PC OEM universe. The other source of reasonable margin dollars are ISVs and IT organizations that integrate and support.

    Taking that as a framework, if the goal is to catalyze hardware OEMs to build ChromaTel devices then it seems like a better path would have been to anoint a preferred OEM, as otherwise, why compete with Google if you are HP?

    Put another way, PC OEMs are already making negative margin, so Google either needs to present better margins or a new source of revenue + profitability growth to tip the needle with that audience. Maybe its that a cloud device requires high end capabilities or that buyers will shift their incremental dollars from OS to hardware?

    Alternatively, if they were attacking this from the standpoint of a better all around solution (i.e., end run the OEMs), then it seems like software, services or support become the call to action.

    If it’s none of the above, this feels more like a vanity / branding exercise.

    Where’s the 1+1=3 is my point? It’s non-obvious. Google should create legions of ISVs and Integrators and disrupt Microsoft via a segment that is always looking for new ways to grow profitably. Create an indirect channel into the enterprise, would be a direct hit on Microsoft’s core.

  16. A full TB of storage that won’t be free after three years? Wow. How daft am I wasting 50 bucks on a HDD?

    I expect my broadband or cell connection can match SATA speeds now as well. Not to mention the cost – my PCI slots charge me extra if I use them too much, or at peak times.

    Revolutionary!

  17. I wish they had tiered pricing for this product based on the cloud storage requirements.
    $699 for 100 GB of Drive storage, $799 for 200 GB, $999 for 400 GB, $1299 for 1 TB.
    I can see myself paying up to $699 for this product but no more than that. For $1299 I would rather buy a Macbook.

  18. I get the $250 Chromebook–we have one (happy with it) and when it comes time to send the kids off to college, that’s what they’re getting and I’m won’t be crying in my oatmeal when the call comes that it was stolen or broken.

    But $1299 to our Google Overlords for a cloud based computer? Who do they think they are–Apple?

  19. is the 1TB drive tied to the original purchaser or too the hardware?

    if i wait a couple months and grab a used one on ebay do i get the storage?

    or could i grab one, make a quick sale but keep my 1TB drive?

  20. Everyone that is criticizing Google has it all wrong. Google is taking the concept of VAR and turning it on its head. The old day was to sell hardware at a loss and make money on the service. They are now undercutting their own google drive subscription plan at a loss and selling the hardware. The 1TB plan at 3 years costs $1800. If you are thinking about enrolling in that plan you would be stupid not to simply get the laptop (WiFi or LTE) and save a few bucks. Even if you don’t use the laptop, you still got Google Drive for a cheaper cost.

    The way I see it, you’re not buying a laptop. You’re buying a service that happens to come with a free laptop.

  21. Larry: This Chromebook is a cheap piece of sh*t. I need a thin, light, powerful and sturdy laptop.

    Assistant brings him a Retina Mac Book Pro

    Larry: WTF! I can’t use that. Apple is at thermonuclear war with us. Bring me something else.

    Assistant brings him a Thinkpad.

    Larry: WTF! You brought be a Chinese laptop running Microsoft Windows? Don’t you know both Microsoft and China are at war with us? Screw them all. Go build me our laptop.

    And thus the pixel was born.

  22. Om
    Great article. I wish I had been there to listen in on the pricing argument you had.
    In general I would side with the marketer that they own the pricing but it is up to the market whether or are we are willing to pay that price. It appears Google is taking a similar position Motorola took with Xoom pricing, stating, “the product deserves its price”. No product deserves its price.

    That said given their ethos of data driven decisions it is likely they uncovered and are targeting a very small segment that values touchscreen on laptop and cloud storage and hence willing to pay for it while those of us who raise concern about the price are not in their target segment.

    -Rags

    1. Rags,

      To be clear — I am not knocking Google for trying something new or trying to make new hardware. I just think they need to make it simple for people to adopt their technology. I am working on a follow up and will try and finish it up later tonight/tomorrow morning depending on this damn flu I can’t seem to shake off.

  23. Is it made in the USA like the Q was supposed to be? Maybe they are just trying to keep that facility operating. There’s got to be some better explanation for the pricing…

  24. I’m still digesting this multitude strategy of having Android on one side and Chrome on the other. It feels more like a rift within Google than a thought out strategy. When will Google abandon Chrome OS in favor of running Chrome on Android and port Android to these devices?

  25. It’s interesting that they would release this because a lot of the complaints I’ve seen about the MacBook Pro retina are related to web sites looking weird due to the high resolution. People using iMovie / final cut, aperture, and Xcode love it. So here’s a machine that can only do web and its best feature works against it.

  26. I was somewhat hopeful when I read the headline. I agree with Om, the price is more than ambitious.

    Why would an early adopter choose to subject themselves to the torture of a device that’s basically a connected web browser? iPads are infinitely more useful and cost half. I own both an iPad and a Chromebook and guess which one I’m typing this comment with?

  27. Well, it’s still too expensive, but if you add the price of five years of Microsoft office (now $100/year) it reaches parity with a reg. laptop.

    Now if only Google Docs were as capable as MS Office…

  28. I just ordered one since I can make ready use of the 1TB cloud storage. Dropbox is charging me $499/year for 500GB of storage. So the laptop is almost “free” — extra big quotes around that “free” though.

    Note that you can access the 1TB of cloud storage from your other computers. The 1TB of storage goes with your account, not with this machine.

    I’m also getting annoyed with Apple for trying to stall the web. Apple disallows other people from providing web browsers on iOS. For example, Chrome on iOS is just “chrome” around Apple’s Safari-version of WebKit. This is a problem, because while Apple’s Webkit supports WebGL, they disable it unless you’re an iAd developer. They are actively crippling their web browser so that web apps cannot compete well with native iOS applications. As a web developer, I like the pro-Web statement that this laptop makes.

    I also will run this thing in developer mode, meaning I can get at the shell and install databases, editors, etc. on it. I will still use my Apple iMac as my main development machine though.

  29. Considering how much grief Apple got for the limitations of the Air, it is hilarious that Google builds an even more limited product in the same price range. Someone needs to do some market research at Google.

    The other thing that strikes me is much Google still banks upon the ubiquity of connectivity and nothing could be further from the truth. The cloud is for backup and cloud services that aren’t critical path to my needs (Think News sites, FB, etc.). Everything else (Apps & Data) should be accessible when I don’t have connectivity or you fail in your value proposition.

  30. Om,

    Keep in mind they aren’t testing a product. I see them testing three things here:
    1 – a price point – potentially for Google Glass
    2 – size of their early adopter market at said price point vis a vis (1) and whatever else they have cooking
    3 – business model for cloud delivered services (the included terabyte of web storage you noted

    Of the three, we only have transparency today to one of them (3). The other two won’t become apparent for years but will be obvious in hindsight.

  31. You were a bit unfair on the earlier Chrome book. The Samsung is a brilliant 2nd PC for a non-techy missus. Because:
    1. It’s Cheap.
    2. Doesn’t need anti-virus software.
    3. Software automatically updates.
    4. No need for regular back-ups as it’s all stored in the cloud.
    5. Wirelessly prints to the PC in the Home office via Cloud printing.
    6. Boots in less than the claimed 7 seconds (my wife can’t believe how long it takes for the Windows/Dell to boot).
    7. Small power consumption (so no need to carry a brick around).
    8. Good emergency back-up PC to get on-line if the main Windows PC in the house fails.

    My product of year for 2012 (based on the needs of “real” people, rather than the digital elite).

  32. The 1 TB allotment on Google Drive should be available throughout the entire lifetime of the device. Why set an arbitrary limit of three years? Are buyers then supposed to pay the going rate for 1 TB on Google Drive, just buy a new Pixel or what?

    OT: In a similar vein, I have never understood why the default 5 GB of Apple iCloud storage aren’t granted “by number of devices purchased” but rather once per account. We have a lot of iDevices floating around in the family and five of those use the iTunes family account. But I can’t even do a basic backup of all of our devices without paying Apple extra for it. Does that seem odd to anyone else?

  33. I don’t know if this is their secret plan or not, but I think this is clearly headed in the right direction and google’s model of open experimentation has merits over closed secretive model as this is a very good example.

    The next big opportunity in the client is to take Windows PC out of the enterprise (for bulk of the mobile enterprise users). There have been various attempts at ‘Thin client’. But I was hoping RIM with its infrastructure and a tablet would have filled that gap. Alas it did not. The notion of a high quality device, that is secure with all data in the enterprise private cloud with the local flash as a cache is the right model for enterprise clients. I think they are getting the hardware and testing the usage paradigms. The software stack has to be further tweaked to address a few things 1) security model (like RIM) and 2) access to legacy apps (unfortunately – very do-able today though).. The big shift that could happen is enterprise apps being developed with Android API as the primary API could be the next big opportunity. I would hope Apple would get there, but this is case of knowing the consumer vs knowing the enterprise user.

  34. “If you have photos on an SD card, then the device will automatically find and upload them to Google Plus Photos, a somewhat creepy and evil tactic by Google …”

    Really?! Without the user’s consent and knowledge?

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