Intel and Google are Partnering on High-End Chromebooks

Posted on January 8, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook, Mobile with 37 Comments

With Chromebook sales stagnating, Intel is partnering with Google to bring more premium Chromebooks to market, a strategy that’s seen some success with Windows PCs.

“We’re deepening our partnership with Google to bring Athena to Chromebooks,” Intel executive vice president Gregory Bryant said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We’ve collaborated very closely with Google [so that device makers] can take advantage of these specs.”

As you may know, Intel announced its Project Athena logo program for high-end mobile PC last August. The goal is to visually identify those premium PCs that combine the historic performance benefits of Intel’s microprocessors with the mobility benefits that customers now expect, including battery life, power management, and, optionally, cellular connectivity. It is, in other words, a reaction to the rise of PCs based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset line.

Well, it turns out that Project Athena is no longer limited to just Windows-based PCs. At CES this week, Intel revealed that it is working with Google to bring the logo program to Chromebooks, sales of which are nearly non-existent outside of education. And the first two Project Athena-certified Chromebooks, from ASUS and Samsung, were announced this week.

While the ASUS pricing and availability are currently unclear, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, a 2-in-1 design that will debut later this quarter, is predictably expensive: Prices start at $1000.

“This is a significant change for Google,” Google vice president John Solomon said. “Chromebooks were successful in the education sector initially, but in the next 18 months to two years, our plan is to go broader, expanding to consumer and enterprise users. Those users have greater expectations and a broader idea of how to use these devices. That puts the onus on us to deliver more performance.”

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “Intel and Google are Partnering on High-End Chromebooks”

  1. jdawgnoonan

    It seems unlikely that this is going to succeed.

  2. hrlngrv

    PC sales have been declining for years because PCs don't need replacing every other year and there's no more potential growth in the user base. Chromebooks may be in the same place now: everyone who wants one already has one. FWLIW, I have an old one which is now outside support, no updates since the summer, and I have no plans to replace it. Not because it still works great, but it's so old it predated the current standard keyboard layout. It's the standard keyboard I can't stand.

    Anyway, no new users and no need to replace every year or two means flattened sales. Unlike for PCs, I doubt high-price Chromebooks would sell like hotcakes.

    • mikes_infl

      In reply to hrlngrv: I've found a wireless keyboard that I like is a big benefit to my Chromebooks.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to mikes_infl:

        Do you use your Chromebook plus wireless keyboard in coffee shops, in airport departure lounges, on the bus/train while commuting?

        • mikes_infl

          In reply to hrlngrv: I've used them together in airport waiting areas, but I've never traveled enough to warrant getting into the lounges. And I've never used buses or trains for commuting and I find coffee shop prices out of my budget. If I were doing any of those on a regular basis, I'd definitely stick with a laptop that contained a firmly connected keyboard that I liked.

          I guess I was replying without thinking more widely than my own uses. And - I certainly agree about the sales potential of high-priced Chromebooks. Though, more and more people don't consider the costs of their purchases before they make them.
  3. anoldamigauser

    I just do not see this being something that is going to juice Chromebook sales. The idea of a Chromebook is a simpler, lighter OS, at a lower price point, for people that do not need a PC. The Pixel line has never been a big seller, the majority sold are at the lower end of the spectrum, say $200-300 for schools and $400-$500 for individuals that want a nicer device.

    For a grand, I would just get a nice laptop, which can do everything the Chromebook can do and more, at the price of a bit less simplicity.

  4. VancouverNinja

    This goes to show the leadership of Google is still drifting in the wrong direction. The idea of a Chromebook was a lean and slimmed down device that was cost effective and removed client side apps. The platform has failed completely and already has had plenty of premium options for the last several years. So now they want to one up it and think that this will be the key to it gaining ground? Stick a fork in it - Google Chrome has been done for a few years already.

    • aelaan

      In reply to VancouverNinja:

      It think Google should sell off the whole idea of Chromebooks, three years ago this was exciting and interesting but they have, in my opinion, completely dropped the ball. Linux integration still crap, devices are way too expensive with cheaper alternatives available. I might be kicking a lot of people here, and I have been using Chromebooks and ChromeOS for my own company and for some smaller things I still do. A ChromeOS device should never cost more than $400 USD end of story. They are meant for a different generation who does not care about 4K screens and shrugs their shoulders when companies go on about pricing that is matching, or superseding the big 4.

  5. christian.hvid

    I think this strategy makes sense. Thanks to the undeniable success of Chromebooks in the education sector, a lot of kids have barely used any other laptop than a Chromebook. They are now growing up, going off to college, and want something better than the dirt-cheap devices they had in middle/high school. But they don't necessarily want to learn a new and more complex operating system like Windows or macOS. So they just buy a high-end Chromebook. Another few years down the line, they will join the workforce, and still have a preference for Chromebooks. Don't underestimate Google's long-term thinking here.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to christian.hvid:

      I have some ties to education and for the most part students are at best indifferent towards their chrombooks and at worst hate. This is not the fault of ChromeOS it has more to do with the low end crap that schools need to buy.

      I think what you are talking about more would be google services and I can see students continuing to use those after they leave school. Those services can be used on any laptop though but might turn into a bigger issue for Microsoft long term than people buying chromebooks. I know it is anecdotal, but I work at a University and have never seen a student with a chromebook yet.

      • christian.hvid

        In reply to Sprtfan:

        OK, let me rephrase that: I wouldn't be at all surprised if Google's long-term plan is something along the lines I described above. Whether that plan will succeed is anyone's guess, of course, but I don't believe it's a coincidence that Google has been focused so heavily on education.

        At least we agree that most people want nice hardware but couldn't care less about the operating system. And this is really my point: the main reason why you don't see any Chromebooks at your university is probably that you can't buy nice hardware with ChromeOS today. Should this change, then maybe some kids will think twice about getting that MacBook?

  6. longhorn

    Maybe it's just PC hardware with gimped storage? Google must keep the Chrome OS platform alive until Fuchsia arrives so maybe another 5 to 10 years. Chrome OS isn't the future. It's alive to bridge the gap to Fuchsia, whatever form that OS takes.

    I think Google is working hard to unite phone, tablet and PC form factor. I think there already is an option for Chromebooks in Android SDK. Fuchsia will run Android apps or make it easy to transition.

  7. PeterC

    It’s funny, but reading Paul’s article “thinking about windows 2020” a few days ago it was striking at how wide open the door still was for a competitor to MS to step in and take MS desktop market share. While chrome OS isn’t a windows alternative for most here on this site forum, for many users who use android and predominately google services this more higher spec chromebook offering is totally fine on many levels.

    I’m no google fan personally, but I’ve had to return to android from iOS due to MS mobile/desktop app offerings and the ease and simplicity of a joint mobile/laptop offering of android/chrome os is very tempting...... again.

    • Paul Thurrott

      It is fascinating to me that none of the Windows competitors on PC-type devices are in any way as interesting to me. I've used the Mac tons over the years, Chromebooks, Linux. And they're all ... kind of interesting. But that's about it. And iOS/iPadOS and Android are still non-starters on the desktop. I keep thinking this will all change. It never does.
      • hrlngrv

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Interesting is subjective. It's also dependent on exactly what application software one uses. I'm going to guess that I use mathematical and statistical software for roughly 100-fold more time per typical month than you do, and in that realm Linux is somewhat ahead of Windows more to the breadth of offerings; the main titles are available for both. OTOH, if I wrote prose for a living, there'd be a lot more interesting stuff for Windows than Linux.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to PeterC:

      An OS isn't all there is to personal or workplace computing. The OS is like an automobile without tires and gasoline: lots of potential, but not going anywhere.

      I figure the remaining popularity of home PCs is either for gaming (hard to see another OS passing Windows there) and for hobbyist software now more than a decade old which hasn't been updated or replaced by better alternatives but still works under Windows 10 (my wife's knitting pattern editor, the ONLY reason she still uses a PC, being an example). No other OS has DECADES of accumulated FAVORITE programs for hundreds of millions of users.

      The workplace situation is a little different, but not by all that much. Where I work, there are still a few VB.Net in-house applications that are part of the standard image. If there's economic disincentives to replace them with more up-to-date Windows alternatives, there'd be even greater disincentives to replace them under a different OS.

      The notion of a network monopoly is still sound, that's still what Windows plus its wealth of 3rd party application software titles continues to be. The only people who'd benefit from some other OS are those who derive little or no value from Windows PLUS Windows application software. I doubt that group numbers even a hundred million.

  8. Pungkuss

    Good move by Google. Had no idea Chromebook sales were stagnating. Last I heard they were the only PCs growing. Where did you read this Paul, I would love to deep dive into the numbers. Thanks

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Pungkuss:

      Had no idea Chromebook sales were stagnating.

      Neither Google nor Bing web searches turn up anything particularly relevant for the search words decreasing chromebook shipments, so unless we have access to the private data on which article may rely, we wouldn't have heard about this. BTW, neither Gartner nor IDC are out with public 2019 Q4 figures yet.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Pungkuss:

      Two things.

      1, You can ask a question without being so aggressively nasty. Geeze.

      2, Enjoy your deep dive. The very straight blue line at the very bottom of this chart is the past year of Chrome OS usage. As you can see, macOS and Windows both had some movement. Chrome OS change was negligible. What one might call "flat" or even "stagnating" without being worried about being attacked for mentioning it.

    • codymesh

      In reply to Pungkuss:

      "Chrome OS has stalled out" from Android Police dot com:

      • Paul Thurrott

        Why do THOSE guys hate Chrome OS so much?! Conspiracy! :)
        • mikes_infl

          In reply to paul-thurrott: Maybe they're compensating for something? I don't know why else. My old lightweight Windows machines are all being replaced by Chrome OS machines. For a while, Android tablets started to fill some needs, but their short lifespans were irritating. Now that there may be Chrome tablets, things are getting interesting again.

          Windows still has a place for the heavy lifting, but that is needed less and less lately.

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to mikes_infl:

            I always thought Chrome OS might make for an interesting tablet OS, especially if it allows for multiple overlapping (or tiled) windows on screen at once. IOW, more PC-like than Android may ever be, yet a lot lighter than most desktop OSes. Given what does run under Chrome OS and what most people would do with tablets rather than phones or PCs, seems a good match.

  9. rm

    So, what does a more expensive Chromebook give you? More memory for the browser? Maybe it can run some more Android apps better?

  10. glenn8878

    Maybe Chromebooks are stagnating like PCs are. They are in the same category.

  11. edlin

    Honestly, I don’t have time to read all of these comments but I’m trying to present an objective opinion here.

    Markets are ever-changing Amorphis kinds of things but I could say for sure new products are adopted by geeks and then they work their way into main screen.

    As a main stream adopt products that have some quality and value, people keep those products before replacing them, for a while. They cannot satisfy the quarterly financial story boards as pundits project none sense for their own self importance. Unlike the lousy low-end android phone markets, that require six month flips, Chromebooks have a five year lifespan. Thos who purchased will purchase again when they are ready.

    Google’s biggest challenge is how to communicate effectively to NEW markets.. novice users?

    They need both creative and strategic sales approaches by the sales people at CostCo, BestBuy and they need to push this at tutoring centers for k-12 education. They need to speak of the value of these things compared to Windows 10. These are new markets selling to novice beginners. You need to have informational commercials to help seniors, communicate easily with family members. You need to help businesses in an “emerging markets” who are still stuck with FoxPro and get them to the cloud. Then use Chromebooks

    Innovation is good, but these are all new market penetration and Goog needs to diversify sales amd their ingenuity to real future users.