Google Chromebooks: How good or bad are they?

Google has earned a well-deserved reputation for innovation. Although the company earned its initial fortune with its world-famous search engine, it has made successful forays into many other markets. Its Chrome web browser has a strong following, its Nexus smartphones have sold fairly well and there are high expectations for its Nexus 7 tablet. As far as Chromebooks go though, it’s safe to say that Google may have an actual flop on its hands. Reviews for the Chromebook have been mixed, and Google has been suspiciously secretive about sales figures for the device.

Chromebooks: What are They?

Classifying the Google Chromebook is a little tricky. It looks a lot like a netbook, but it differs in one major way: It has extremely limited offline capabilities. File storage capabilities aren’t built in, which is why the Chromebook is more like a cross between a cloud client and a netbook.

Top Advantages of Google Chromebooks

When they first shipped to retailers in June 2011, Chromebooks were marketed by Google as being faster, simpler and more efficient. They definitely boot quickly. On average, it only takes a Chromebook eight seconds to boot up and be ready to go. Battery life is exceptional. It operates off the Chrome operating system, which has several layers of security built in to eliminate the need for anti-virus programs. Wi-Fi and 3G models are available, so users don’t necessarily have to pay for data.

Primary Drawbacks of Google Chromebooks

Unfortunately for Google, there are many major drawbacks to the Chromebook. Its biggest Achilles’ heel, by far, is the fact that it has extremely limited offline capabilities. Anyone who is in the market for a netbook that can be used online or offline isn’t going to be satisfied with a Chromebook. The Chromebook has extremely limited amounts of space, and it falls far short in terms of processing power as well. Chromebooks only function when an Internet connection is available. This may not be as large of a hindrance with 3G models, but Wi-Fi models simply don’t work if they’re not within range of a usable connection. So far, Chromebooks have enjoyed the greatest success in schools, where Internet connections are readily available.

Chromebook Sales

Google never released any projected sales figures for the Chromebook. The company most likely didn’t want to make any promises. Official sales figures for the Chromebook have not been released. However, it is estimated that no more than 300,000 Chromebooks have shipped to retailers since the device debuted. As of today, approximately 30,000 Chromebooks are being used in schools. To put these numbers into perspective, an average of 31 million netbooks are sold per year. Chromebooks are sold in the United States, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the U.K., but specific sales figures for each country are unavailable. At the current sales rate though, Google will be lucky to sell more than one million Chromebooks by 2017.

Is the Chromebook Compatible with Other Google Innovations?

Considering that the Chromebook, which is now being manufactured by Samsung, is a Google device, it would make sense for it to feature some of Google’s most popular innovations. As of right now, however, the Chromebook does not support Google Goggles, which is an app that works like a pair of glasses by identifying images that are taken with a built-in camera. No plans have been made to somehow integrate Project Glass, which is a head-mounted display that Google has been developing, into the device. When all of this is taken into consideration, it appears that Google has very little confidence in the future success of its device.

The Future of the Chromebook is Uncertain

There are several signs out there that the Chromebook may be facing a very uncertain future. Although Google has stepped up its efforts to market the device, there is no indication that those efforts are working. For example, Google has trained Chrome Specialists who are now working in Best Buy stores and other locations around the U.S. They are charged with making the Chromebook more appealing and accessible to customers.

One of the most telling signs about the future of the Chromebook is the debut of the Nexus 7 tablet. The tablet has clearly been designed to compete with the Kindle Fire, but it actually competes with the Chromebook as well. When faced with both choices, the average consumer is far more likely to choose the Nexus 7 instead of the Chromebook. Although updates are sure to continue, they are unlikely to boost the popularity of the Chromebook enough to make it relevant and popular in the future.

2 thoughts on “Google Chromebooks: How good or bad are they?

  1. Hi Torsten

    I had a demo last week and was quite impressed. However the sales assistant’s emphasis appeared to focus solely on the centralisation of all the UK catch-up TV web pages..if you don’t watch a lot a TV, it doesn’t hold any appeal. Cloud computing is the future so maybe when Google improve the specs they really will give Apple a run for their money. The fast boot up and response times were impressive…I think it’s a device I would use as an extra toy but not as my main web interface.

    • Hi Sue, what Internet connection did the sales assistant have during the presentation? I think one the hurdles Google still has to overcome is lack of G3/G4 Internet connectivity in countries where Chromebooks could actually be an excellent alternative to existing mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones etc. Many thanks for your quick response. Torsten PS: It’s great to hear from you again.