Google recently announced a second-generation Chromebook Pixel, a high-end device that seems to serve no particular market. But Chrome OS has had decent success with lower-cost Chromebooks, and this year Google and its partners plan to expand the product lineup in ways that seem to mirror what Microsoft and its partners are doing with Windows.
Granted, they are largely the same partners. We can blame/credit Surface for that, though Surface was of course a reaction to years of crapware abuse by PC makers.
Google announced the new Chromebook Pixel earlier this month. This costly but very limited laptop packs an Intel Core processor, 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM (but just 32 GB on 64 GB of flash storage), a pixel-dense 2560 x 1700 12.85-inch multi-touch display and two USB-C ports (plus two USB 3.0 ports) into a sleek, expensive package ($999 to $1299) that promises up to 12 hours of battery life.
Pixel is … well, Pixel is absolutely pointless, but hey, that’s Google for you. It’s really just an aspirational device, the type of thing Windows enthusiasts have been begging Microsoft to make in smart phone form for months now. But Pixel doesn’t really represent where Chrome OS really is today. Because most Chrome OS-based devices—primarily Chromebook laptops—cost $200 to $350 at the moment.
And there is plenty of choice. 11-inch Chromebooks. 13-inch. 14-inch. Even 15-inch. Yes, low-end Windows laptops like the HP Stream 11 and 13 are just as inexpensive, are more full-featured, and come with nice perks of their own, like free Office 365 Personal for one year. But those devices exists because of Chromebooks. Which are apparently selling pretty well in certain markets, primarily education and consumer.
This year, Google and its partners are pushing at the well-established Chromebook boundaries and expanding Chrome OS into new device types, just as Microsoft has been doing with Windows. As with Windows, we’re seeing new multi-touch devices appear, as well as convertible laptops like the coming ASUS Chromebook Flip, which will cost just $250.
And just as Windows has Windows To Go for businesses and, coming this year, Intel Compute Stick, Chrome OS is coming to a low-cost ($100) new form factor: The HDMI flash drive, courtesy of the ASUS Chromebit.
And if you’re looking at traditional laptop form factors and wondering how cheap they can get, consider these two devices.
So the battle lines are drawn.