Google Enlists Bill Nye to Push Chromebooks

Posted on August 13, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook with 70 Comments

Google has published a new long-form ad featuring science educator Bill Nye that pushes Chromebook as a replacement for Windows.

The irony? Few probably remember this, but Nye was the host of Microsoft’s virtual launch event for Windows Millennium Edition (Me) almost 20 years ago.

“You shouldn’t fear switching to Chromebook,” Mr. Nye says during the ad, which is set up like his earlier science/education show Bill Nye the Science Guy. “It’s a good decision. But sometimes it’s hard to let go … of a bad decision.”

Here, he is referring to Windows.

The idea is that you paid for it—in this case, a laptop running Windows—so you want to keep using it. But you should probably move on, Nye suggests. Sticking with something that isn’t working is what’s called “the sunk cost fallacy” in behavioral economics, he says. “Fear of loss can cause an irrational attachment to things familiar to us,” he adds.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” he says, leaning on a beat-up and broken-down car with the license plate “WNDWS,” causing the front bumper to fall off. “But constant updates, patches, it never ends,” he continues. “Not to mention it takes forever to start up. And it won’t be long before it freezes or worse.” As he says this, he tries to start the car, which backfires explosively.

“But when you switch to Chromebook, which starts up fast and updates automatically with no interruptions, you don’t have to worry about any of that. And if you lose it for whatever reason, all your stuff I safely backed up on the cloud.” According to Nye, Chromebooks also work offline, even with Netflix.

“Remember,” he concludes, “when we overcome our fears, we can accomplish great things. So don’t let fear win. Switch to Chromebook.”

I have to say, some of the complaints about Windows are a bit overblown, but some are, of course, accurate. And I enjoy the breezy if mostly factoid-based presentation. But whether Nye is a good spokesperson is, of course, up to the viewer.

So, I’ll just remind you again: He previously hawked Windows Me.

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register
Comments (70)

70 responses to “Google Enlists Bill Nye to Push Chromebooks”

  1. Avatar

    prjman

    I'm old enough to remember when Bill Nye pretended to be a scientist, instead of a SJW nutjob. Hard pass.

  2. Avatar

    Jhambi

    I happen to like ChromeOS over windows. But I wish Google had gone a different direction and released a free version of ChromeOS as a way to "refresh the old tired car".

  3. Avatar

    chocolate starfish

    Outside of poor U.S schools Chromebooks at least to this point have failed dismally in gaining a healthy user base. Low cost Windows 10 laptops are a better choice purely because they offer a wider range of user choices.


    I've always liked Bill Nye because he talks about the facts of scientific matters without bias. It seems no one is immune to the influence of corporate money.

  4. Avatar

    dontbeevil

    "Microsoft Made a REALLY Lame Surface Ad Comparing It With the MacBook"


    "Google Enlists Bill Nye to Push Chromebooks"


    spot the difference

  5. Avatar

    wright_is

    But constant updates, patches, it never ends,

    Erm, but Chrome is also patched on a monthly basis, as is Android (if you are lucky)... Or is Google implying that ChromeOS is now feature complete and 100% bug free and will never need an update again?

    I'd never heard of Bill Nye, I thought it was a misspelling of Bill Nighy.

    • Avatar

      dstrauss

      In reply to wright_is:

      Bill Nye is kind of the Mr. Rogers of science - speaking to that same generation of young adults - in patronizing tones ("Bill Nye the science guy"). Well, that's a bit harsh, but its like you should trade your wingtips for comfortable loafers...I think Sprtfan hit the nail on the head...I am astounded by the number of things so many mainstream users do on their phones and that is better suited than a second watered down device.

  6. Avatar

    nicholas_kathrein

    If all you do is basic stuff which is way more people than are power users can use a Chromebook and it's superior as while it gets updates it doesn't make you sit there while it updates. All you do is reboot and Chromebooks do this in less than 30 seconds. Yes, that counts shutting down and booting back up. My pc can take 5 minutes to 60 to do an update and reboot. Hmm, which would I rather use? Really the only things missing on Chrome OS are full apps like Adobe Photoshop Suite. Like any other OS's you can you find many replacement apps but you will hit a wall if you are a true power user which is really the niche not Chrome OS which is one of the best for most people.

    • Avatar

      Sprtfan

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      From my stand point, the things that a Chromebook is really good at are all things I can already do on my phone. Browse, check email, ect... If I'm going to have 2 devices, I'd rather have it be the phone that I can do the easy stuff on and a PC that can do pretty much everything.

      • Avatar

        nicholas_kathrein

        In reply to Sprtfan:

        Most people who are not us don't need a computer that is different than their phone. They need something bigger with a keyboard to do longer jobs. The phone is good for quick small jobs but as the job increases in time the Chromebook could type that 2 page email faster than on that small phone screen. Same with if you have a bunch of spreadsheet or writing to do. Much faster on a Chromebook using the same app because you have that touchpad / mouse and keyboard and screen. Yes you can get a ton of things done on the phone but whenever I have to write a long email and write something long and Have to do a bunch of comparing between things it's just fast when you have the big laptop / computer screen with full size keyboard and touch-pad / mouse.

  7. Avatar

    bob_shutts

    Interesting, especially since we just saw a lengthy thread on the forums here about how hard it is to print from a Chromebook.

  8. Avatar

    Daekar

    It just occurred to me... instead of a Chromebook, wouldn't most people be better served with a Chromecast (or any other screen-mirroring solution) and bluetooth keyboard? Heck, just a bluetooth keyboard and a decent-sized phone?

  9. Avatar

    kevineddy

    My daughter used a school provided Chromebook in high school. Two big advantages there - 1st was "school provided", which meant we didn't have to buy her a laptop (I know we pay for them in taxes). The 2nd was for the school - if something happened to the Chromebook they could easily and quickly replace it with almost no effort. Chromebooks did the job there well enough. Our daughter had less than zero desire to bring a Chromebook to college, and nobody she knows at her university is using them either. The K-12 advantage doesn't transfer to higher education.

    • Avatar

      jedwards87

      In reply to kevineddy:

      This is what I have said for ever. My kids used them in school for a little while before their school switched to MacBook. They both said they were ok for typing papers but had ZERO interesting in actually owning one. Now they are both in college and both laugh when I ask if they would like me to buy them a nice Chromebook. They physically laugh. The one starting college this fall wants a Windows machine and the other has a MacBook.


      Using them in school definitely does not transfer to owning one when school is out. Nobody wants to use Google for anything except search and I am trying to stop that since Google has proven they are biased towards the left and are looking to interfere with the next election. My boys and 100% of their friends have iPhones and most have Apple Watches. Google hardware is no where on their radar.

      • Avatar

        Stooks

        In reply to jedwards87:

        Google is great at...


        • Ad targeting
        • Data Collection



        Google is good at...


        • Maps
        • Youtube


        Everything else they do is second class. Their search is heavily biased by many factors like $$$$ for pushing results higher and recently extreme political bias. Seriously try Bing for a month and you will have no problem with using it all the time. Google Doc's really good at collaboration but way short in features and that is why it lags way behind in corporate use. Even at the University level Office 365 wins the day. Google corporate cloud is a distant 3rd and once again their politics hold them back from things like US military AI contracts.


        Android is java laden,sluggish OS built to collect data. Just search on iOS vs Android when it comes down to how much data it sends back to the mother ship while a device sits on the counter doing nothing. The Google app store is the wild west where malware is all too common.

    • Avatar

      jrickel96

      In reply to kevineddy:

      This is precisely true. You won't find universities advocating using them. You won't find businesses doing so either.


      I travel a lot and have never once seen a Chromebook in the wild at an airport or restaurant. Not once. I've seen Macs, Spectres, Surfaces. Android tablets are not common, but I see them occasionally. Plenty of Android phones, iPhones, iPads, Windows laptops, and Mac laptops.


      I have seen them used by seniors for checking email and some web browsing. Never seen them used by anyone on the younger side of life except when a school provides them.


      It's great that they provide a cost effective way for schools to provide computers - though I think MS has closed that gap quite a bit with their OEM partners. But real world users are so few and far between. I've seen LINUX on a notebook in an airport - never ChromeOS.

  10. Avatar

    chaad_losan

    These things have not been an issue with windows in 10+ years. I have a wonderful windows system that starts up in seconds. Runs all my software very fast including high end video games (locally, I don't need to rebuy them on stadia thank you) and Room Scale VR. Which a chromebook cannot do. I have it hooked up a great many peripherals, and can watch movies and play video games in Stereoscopic 3D. Thanks to my 1080Ti. It all just works great. A chomebook is good for school work, and watching netflix. And playing blown up phone games assuming your chomebook can run android apps.

  11. Avatar

    Ron Diaz

    wtf. Aren’t all the Windows fanboys panties in a bunch....


  12. Avatar

    skane2600

    In reply to SvenJ:

    I was referring to price, so in this case both words mean the same thing.

  13. Avatar

    Dan

    hahahhaahahha! this Ad was pretty damn funny I must say.

  14. Avatar

    Daekar

    Why on earth does anybody listen to Nye? He's not a scientist! He's a show host! He's no more qualified to talk about anything technical than anyone else.

  15. Avatar

    igor engelen

    The bottom line of his speech can be applied to any soft, hardware or situation even.

    But it's through though. When you've reached the point where you start questioning you're previous choices just check out the alternatives.

  16. Avatar

    skane2600

    I guess by referring to WNDWS instead of Windows protects Google from getting in trouble for making false claims.


    In a way it's ironic because "constant updates" is feature that Google uses to promote Chromebooks.

  17. Avatar

    jrickel96

    ChromeOS is in its death throes and Google is desperate.


    1.35% Desktop usage in May dropped to 0.54% in July as schools in the US were out. That means there are roughly 10 million non-school ChromeOS users globally and 15 million K-12 people that ONLY use it while is school, primarily in the US.


    So 25 million total users globally with 15 million being very much part time users.


    So after several years, Google basically has 10 million regular users of their ChromeOS platform. Chromebooks are one of the most returned items in all of retail. A lot of people probably bought Chromebooks and let them collect dust somewhere.


    If MS and Apple make some headway in US schools, ChromeOS will be officially done.


    So you should be scared of Chromebooks because they might not have any more support in two years.


    When the Mac is 13% and you're under 1%, you're toast. Google has had A LOT of time to grow this market and has not outside of propping it up by getting K-12 in on the cheap as a lifeline. No one is buying a Chromebook for college. No company is switching to these things en masse. I don't see major games coming to the platform.


    Just like Android tablets, ChromeOS is just about dead. They may both struggle on for a few more years, but there is no evidence that either has any hope of recovering and having longterm life.

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to jrickel96:

      You're overstating a bit (e.g. "No one is buying a Chromebook for college") but I agree with your overall point.


      These days Chromebooks aren't even what they were supposed to be. Adding Android support suggests that the original concept, web-only apps wasn't cutting it.

      • Avatar

        jrickel96

        In reply to skane2600:

        Agree, it is overstated. But the market is very tiny and has not shown any signs of growth. Paul has argued that we should ignore web tracking, but those trackers show a drastic downturn when school years end - and web use is an essential part of curriculum as I'm sure there are plenty of searches conducted in a web browser to look up information for papers, study for tests, etc.


        They clearly have found success in the K-12 market, but there is no evidence for growth outside of that space nor evidence of any higher ed or businesses that have caused any major blip on the radar.


        I tend to think it's only a matter of time until quite a large portion of schools abandon them because Windows machines have gotten less expensive for education and added tools. Since universities and employers are going to favor Windows (or Mac to a lesser degree), giving kids machines that do not prepare them for this reality is a disservice to them.


        I've never understood the panic some (including Paul) have seemed to have over the K-12 market usage of Chromebooks. Apple demonstrated quite clearly when I was growing up that dominating the K-12 market did not mean you'd dominate the market when the kids grew up. We adapt easily in our youth and the elder statesmen of a university or business are not going to bend to the preferences of their youngest and least senior employees and students. So the kids adapt.


        This is also why Microsoft has often ignored K-12. I applaud their recent efforts to give students more tools and make their products more affordable and easier to manage, but the dominance of Windows on the desktop was not built by the education sector.


        I've found in my work (I work in sports and gaming) that a remarkable number of teenagers are interested in computer gaming and this actually pulls them to the PC more than anything else - despite a Chromebook in school. The PC remains the best platform for, erm, PC Gaming. Many love consoles as well, but there are many avenues where we want a desktop OS.


        There still is very little compelling reason for ChromeOS. When you look at the specs on most you see they can easily be repurposed for Windows. This allows HP, Dell, etc to easily build out Chromebooks without spending much in design or engineering. If it weren't for this, I'd suspect we'd have far fewer Chromebooks out there and the lack of success of the platform would be even more apparent.

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to jrickel96:

          At one time I think there was also an expectation that Chromebooks were going to be significantly cheaper but as you point out low-end devices all use more or less the same components. That's what killed the "Network Computer" and the "JavaStation" too before they really even began, although in those cases the cost of ownership was actually higher.

          • Avatar

            jrickel96

            In reply to skane2600:

            There's a bit of a chicken and egg problem as well.


            And there's the issue of seeing a similarly or slightly better equipped machine with the same enclosure running Windows 10 for just $50-60 more. Dell's laptop lineup like this. Same with HP. They are not great PCs, but ChromeOS doesn't magically make them more powerful. It does have less overhead, but it also has a much smaller software library.


            You can get a 14" laptop with an i5 and 8GB or RAM for under $450 from Dell, so the Chromebook can't even win the value proposition.


            And having to focus on the low end ONLY hurts your platform. This has routinely happened in the computer history. Back when some machines had 16K of RAM with 32K upgrades available, few wrote for the 32K option - they wrote for the lowest common denominator.


            So there is no appeal to making higher end software work on ChromeOS because the hardware is so low end and any high end hardware is so rare that few will write for it. I get that it is supposed to be focused on web apps, but some of the high end models were designed with Core i7 chips - where will that power ever get used.


            The proliferation of cheap hardware also destroyed the Android tablet market. That market is also practically dead. There are a few hold outs, but usage is so insignificant that apps optimized for tablet are few and far between.


            Same for ChromeOS. The only lineup keeping tablets alive for Android are Fires - and those are forked. And ChromeOS only is living on fumes because of schools, but it won't take too many dumping Chromebooks for some OEMs to reduce repurposing laptops and possibly even eliminate the Chromebook line - which will drive most of the remaining schools away over time.


            Google has been very poor at finding new businesses beyond their core.

        • Avatar

          Chris_Kez

          In reply to jrickel96:

          "Apple demonstrated quite clearly when I was growing up that dominating the K-12 market did not mean you'd dominate the market when the kids grew up."

          True. But while Macs were much more expensive than PCs, Chromebooks are generally less expensive (not only to buy but to manage). And the birth of the web and associated tools and software means Chromebooks are not at nearly the same disadvantage that Macs were; a lot of the day to day activities that used to require Win32 programs are now done via web-based programs. All that said, I agree that Chromebooks seem to get a lot more coverage and concern than seems warranted based on real world adoption.

          • Avatar

            jrickel96

            In reply to Chris_Kez:

            It wasn't just Macs at first. The Apple IIGS was fairly competitively priced when I was a kid compared to PCs and offered similar or superior capabilities.


            In the 90s they were more expensive, but marginally. Good computers were pricey. I remember 486s costing $5000. The prices would drop dramatically by the end of the decade on the PC side certainly.


            The low cost makes the lack of Chromebook adoption outside of US schools even worse. At least Apple was making good money on each Mac sold. Here the OEM is making a razor thin profit and I would not be surprised to see that Google is losing money on the services they are providing. The hope is that it is a loss leader and the kids buy into ChromeOS and/or G-Suite when they grow up (no evidence of that yet). For OEMS there is a benefit even if they don't stick with ChromeOS. If they have a positive experience with HP or Dell, etc then they may be interested in their products later when they have money to buy them.


            But there has been no growth outside of K-12 over the past four years according to the numbers.

          • Avatar

            Daekar

            In reply to Chris_Kez:

            The reason everyone my age left our education system hating Macs is that the ones we were forced to use were terrible. In every way possible.


            The first-hand testimony I've heard from students that use Chromebooks is that they don't like them. They might be in the minority, but that's my experience.

            • Avatar

              jrickel96

              In reply to Daekar:

              Macs were in a pretty bad way after Windows 95 and 98 until OS X finally rolled out (well, really until Jaguar did - 10.2 is where OS X really found itself).


              Both Windows and MacOS made great progress in the 2000s and both were in great shape by 2009. ChromeOS works well for very light use, but it doesn't allow much beyond that. It will end up disappointing most that are used to much more powerful and polished desktop class OSes.


              And that's the problem. A Chromebook is no better than an iPad for very casual use - actually it is worse. Yes, you have to buy a keyboard for an iPad and it has zero mouse support, but it is a fantastic consumption device with a lot of apps.


              I think the Chromebook gets hit on both ends - not as good as a productive laptop running Windows or MacOS and not as good for consumption as an iPad that only costs $329 now. More expensive than the Chromebook, but iPads last a LONG time. I know several people that still use the original iPad Air almost six years after they got it - and they still get updates and still work well. Will ChromeOS be like that?

          • Avatar

            Stooks

            In reply to Chris_Kez:

            "All that said, I agree that Chromebooks seem to get a lot more coverage and concern than seems warranted based on real world adoption."


            Looking at the numbers more people use the old version of Edge than use Chromebooks. Listening to Paul/Mary on Windows Weekly when talking about the old version of Edge, they both say no once uses it or make some comment like "for all 6 of you that use Edge". If no one uses the old Edge (I don't) then what does that say about Chromebooks?


            This site covers Chromebooks way more than most do. I do not get it??? Why not cover Palm OS as well??? Android apps where going to make Chromebooks a huge hit. PWA's were going to make Chromebooks a huge hit. I am not seeing that happening in any way.

            • Avatar

              jrickel96

              In reply to Stooks:

              Because Paul thinks Chromebooks are a threat and has for years. He usually will discount any evidence from Statcounter or Netmarketshare that disagrees with his perspective that Chromebooks are a legit threat - often claiming they don't account for K-12 usage and that these kids will all demand their employers use Chromebooks (and we know that companies always adapt to the new, least senior employees instead of expect them to adapt, right?).


              The problem is Chromebooks are defined by their online abilities and still not capable of doing much offline. So the school machines ARE online and are measured. We see this in the large declines that occur during the summer from Statcounter and NMS.


              Maybe it's a phantom threat just to have something to write about, but Linux is more of a threat to Windows than ChromeOS is.


              I understand articles looking at the success in K-12 and Microsoft's struggles there, but deriving that ChromeOS is a real threat to Windows PCs without ever providing any evidence (other than quoting very non-specific data from Google) just doesn't cut the mustard.


              I appreciate a lot of the other coverage, but whenever a "Chromebook Panic" article comes up, I just have to sigh and roll my eyes.

  18. Avatar

    wbhite

    I'm not in advertising, so I can't speak intelligently about any of this, but why people can't see paid endorsements for what they are is beyond me. Hell, I'd smile and peddle exotic dog turds if someone paid me enough (read: not that much, actually). You think Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston really dug Windows 95?

  19. Avatar

    Bob Nelson

    This man spent his adult life building up a reputation as a impartial scientist, judging things on their merits.

    Then he squanders that rep hawking an inferior product in exchange for thirty pieces of silver.

    What a shame.

    And a sham.


  20. Avatar

    siv

    Sounds like desperation to me from Google! The basic concept is wrong for most users. Again it's aimed at the same crowd who previously went for netbooks and then tablets and now Chromebooks. At the end of the day they are a small niche and they are not really a long term bet unlike people who do serious work and need a full blown PC running Windows, MacOS or Linux. I got one to see what the fuss was all about and it sits on a shelf gathering dust, like my surface tablet does.

    Meh!

  21. Avatar

    jaredthegeek

    My Android phone freezes and locks up more than my Windows computers do. I still have many requirements that Chrome OS can not meet while I pursue my masters.

  22. Avatar

    Stooks

    I have no fear....Chromebooks just suck. Universally rejected by the users at our company when we tried to give them out as loaner laptops just to do VPN/RDP to a VDI at work. My kids hated them when they had to use them in middle school and were so happy when they got to high school and got Windows 8/10 laptops. My daughter starts college in less than 10 days and no one is using them at her university. They are given a iPad and a Office 365 account. The vast majority of students use Windows and the rest use Mac.


    IMHO nobody likes them and in fact they would rather use an iPad or smartphone vs a Chromebook if they can't use a PC or a Mac.

    • Avatar

      HachingMonkey

      In reply to Stooks:

      "IMHO nobody likes them …"


      I do. In fact I can do about 80% of what I need on one. My mum can do 100%. They're fairly cheap, they're fast, secure and pretty much idiot-proof.


      I do use a (headless) Windows box as well, which I connect to using Google Remote Desktop. And I have an iPad.


      But I don't expect readers of thurrot.com to be interested in Chromebooks.

  23. Avatar

    angusmatheson

    I think what bothered me about his a as the at Bill Nye presents himself as a scientists who presents science in a fun and approachable way. Science isn’t based on facts. Whether you like windows or chrome books is a matter of opinion or preference. I wish he had said why he likes chromebooks better, and didn’t present chromebooks are better as scientific fact. It has certainly made me suspicious that Bill Nye doesn’t speak from fact but where his paycheck is from. And that makes me sad.

Leave a Reply