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Even if tablet computers, namely the iPad, aren't killing desktops, notebooks and kittens, many in the tech and marketing industries express the sentiment that the tablet is going to be the source of fundamental change in many markets.

So where does that leave Google's Chromebook, which the search giant unveiled to the world yesterday?

The Chromebook, as the name implies, is a smallish notebook computer that runs on Google's Chrome OS.

The assumption behind Chrome OS: as more and more applications get pushed onto the web and into the cloud, you don't need the desktop; you can simply create an operating system that is little more than a thin layer providing access to the web.

Since Chrome OS was first announced, not much has changed. Google is promoting its Chrome OS-driven notebooks as being "built and optimized for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time. So you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers".

The core selling points "instant on, always connected, all-day battery, access your stuff anywhere, gets better over time, security built in" are compelling on paper, even if some of them, like security, should be considered questionable until proven in the real world.

Initially, Acer and Samsung are producing the first versions, which will make their way into the hands of consumers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain next month. Carriers in those countries will reportedly be offering Chromebook 3G plans.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Chromebook is Google's pricing model. For consumers, the devices range in price from $349 to $499, but Google is also offering businesses and educational institutions the ability to lease them for $28 and $20 per month, respectively, with a three year commitment that can't be backed out of.

While some are impressed, it's not quite clear that paying $720 to $1,008 over three years for a small laptop that can only access the web is a compelling offer, particularly for businesses whose employees often need Windows-based productivity and other professional software.

Even less clear: that in the age of the iPad, consumers will jump to spend up to $500 on a laptop that's little more than a web browser. Google isn't pitching the Chromebook as a tablet alternative (which is smart) but obviously, when an iPad that has much of the same capabilities and is far more portable can be purchased for a similar price, it's hard to figure out where the device fits in.

From this perspective, the success or failure of the Chromebook is not likely going to be determined by the technical merits of the product itself, but rather by Google's ability to find a market for it.

Here, it's worth noting that Google has no Steve Jobs to sell its vision, and given that the Chromebook looks and feels like a regular old notebook, it's difficult to see them finding a significant place in a tablet-obsessed world.

Patricio Robles

Published 12 May, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2391 more posts from this author

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John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite, Managing Director at Ergo Digital

I agree. The sub $500 category is going to be all about portability and I wonder whether the Chromebook is really going to punch it's weight. Time will tell, of course.

over 5 years ago

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Nick Armstead, SEO + PPC Consultant at Orantec

A nice read, I have to agree I took one look at the Chromebook yesterday and moved on, it really does seem to be for a very specific market. People are always hammering on at doing everything on line but the reality of it is we download apps or use specific programs to integrate with the web rather than use it explicitly.

over 5 years ago

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Andy Hopkinson, Industrial Placement - Marketing Communications at Mercedes-Benz UK

This is an interesting article. I can't help but think the Chromebook is going to do very well. More and more we see online applications rivalling and sometimes even out-doing their offline rivals.

With more developers turning to web applications, I think Chromebook could do very well.

The only thing holding back the Chromebook is large software applications, which simply cannot run smoothly online.

As Google have said themselves, the Chromebook will improve over time. It will be interesting to see whether the tablet really does remove the need for notebooks.

over 5 years ago

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Kate Davids

I agree with Andy. I like the Chromebook. I think it will do well. I don't know what the market definition will be, but I bought a netbook and all I do is use it online. I would have bought the Chromebook if it had been out. I am not an iPad fan (I prefer typing on a keyboard), and I know I'm not alone, so I think this has a future. Not everyone runs large programs on their more portable computer, after all. That's why you have a desktop or a larger laptop.

over 5 years ago

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Tom Atkinson

Does it work when it has no internet access? I'd like to see the offline stuff working first.

over 5 years ago

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Mehdi Muqtadir, seo analyst at rbs insurance

The important thing is the price point, why buy this quasi-laptop when you can buy a cheap fully functional laptop that can access all these web applications also.

I think this will go the way of the dodo soon enough and we won't see much of a hoopla about it. I think google will quietly kill this off.

The whole idea would work better as a software package or browser that google can make available to all laptop users. Rather than make a specific hardware for it.

over 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

I think many more people use tablets (including the iPad) only for web and email than is often thought. I know loads of people who have iPads at home who use it for email and web surfing and don't have any apps installed. So I think there is quite a big 'home' market for the Netbook as well as a possible 'corporate' traveller market.

But, as has been pointed out, I think the price point is key and Google should have made it considerably cheaper so you don't have to think too hard to buy it (or buy two for home).

over 5 years ago

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Andrew Nicholson

3/4G network coverage is going to make or break this as a product. Pure web dependency is an Achilles heel to potentially wonderful product (though I to have security concerns - do we really trust Google to have ownership of ALL our documents?).

Working from home? Fine. You're on wi/fi.
Working in the city? Fine. You're on 3G
Working on the tube? Ah...
Working from a remote cottage in Yorkshire? Now you're really in trouble

over 5 years ago

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Edu Erondu

The chrome book will absolutely succeed. The connectivity that this device offers is something that a tablet can't do. Allowing you put data back in to the cloud is as important as being able to access all of your data through slick touch screen interfaces. There are plenty of people that need tor create content and don't need bulky programs to do so. People that spend there day in collaboration with peers through web based mediums and such, individual who moderate web communities, marketing based positions, researchers, the list goes on.

about 5 years ago

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Mehdi

If they push it heavily to the corporate market at a much more subsidised price, then we might see it gain a foothold.

Sort of like the blackberry of the laptop world.

about 5 years ago

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son dang, SEO manager at 7gmt

In now, I think surface of microsoft is better tham chrome book :D

10 months ago

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