Just days ahead of Google’s annual developer conference, the long-delayed and Android-compatible Samsung Chromebook Pro is finally available for preorder.
This device, along with its less powerful stablemate, the Chromebook Plus, was supposed to jumpstart a new era of hybrid computing. But as I’ve reported previously, this product and the underlying technology that makes it possible have both been delayed again and again.
These two set of delays cast serious doubt on Google’s ability to combine its PC-like and mobile platforms into a single, cohesive new family of products.
Samsung announced its Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro at CES back in January. These devices are mostly identical—2-in-1 form factor, 12.3-inch 3:2 multi-touch display at 2400 x 1600 pixels, 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of eMMC storage, and integrated passive stylus—but offer different underlying processor architectures. The Chromebook Plus, which arrived in February and costs a bit under $450, sports an OP1 ARM processor, whereas the Chromebook Pro, at $550, is based on the Intel Core m3. The Pro was supposed to arrive in March. And then in April. And then in May.
Well, it’s May. And now you can pre-order the Samsung Chromebook Pro from Amazon.com and it will even ship in May, barely. Like May 28, barely.
As it turns out, the delays here are not Samsung’s fault. For that, we can instead blame Google, which promised one year ago to bring the Android apps platform, along with the Google Play Store, to Chromebooks by the end of 2016. And then spent the past year not delivering on that promise.
As I noted in Still Waiting for the Chromebook Revolution that Never Came (Premium), the constant delays have somewhat undercut my confidence in Google’s ability to usurp the PC market. So I’m curious to see how the firm positions this transition at Google I/O this week, given that the company announced its Chromebook/Android plans at last year’s show.
Reading the many reviews of the Chromebook Pro—tech reviewers received early samples back in February—there’s a lot to like, but some important negatives as well. The device isn’t powerful enough to run many Android apps effectively, and of course that platform is still a mess on Chromebook. The keyboard is regularly criticized for being mushy, and it is not backlit.
But I think the central premise of this device, and its Plus-branded stable mate, is solid. That it is an almost Pixel Chromebook-like level of quality for less than half the price is interesting. And of course, the advantages of a PC-based 2-in-1 apply in Chromebook land as well. In fact, you could make the argument that a Chromebook 2-in-1 makes even more sense than a PC-based 2-in-1 because the Chromebook can run Android apps in that tablet form factor.
Well, you could make that argument. I’m on the fence for now, as that ability, to date, has been only theoretically a strength. In the real world, it’s still an unknown. A buggy, inconsistent unknown.
So we’ll see. But if you’ve been waiting for the more powerful of the two Samsung Chromebooks to arrive, your time is here. Well, almost here. May 28 is still two weeks away.
Here’s what I’m going to do.
I knee-jerk pre-ordered this device last night when I found out it was available. But with Google I/O happening this week, I will pay close attention to what the firm announces and then revise that purchase as needed. I have long felt like I need to gain some experience with these Chromebook/Android hybrids, and this seems like it is possibly the best device on which to do so. But that could change.
Likewise, Apple is hosting its own developer show in June, and that firm is expected to belatedly announce a new set of iPad Pro hybrids (also originally expected back in March). That platform likewise presents a clear threat to Windows-based PCs, but as with the Chromebook/Android thing, I’ve stayed out it so far. Maybe the new generation device(s) will put this thing over the top. Hope springs eternal.
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