Chromebooks: Not PC, Not Post-PC

Chromebooks are here and getting a lot of press, just as Netbooks did before them. But in a post-PC world the two categories have more in common than one might think.

For starters, let’s see where a Chromebook differs from the leading post-PC device:

Software

Chrome OS doesn’t approach the rich app ecosystem of iOS. This is further diluted when no Internet connection is available, as some apps require. The basics are there, but the beauty of post-PC—like the beauty of PC—is a wealth of third-party additions to make the machine “yours”. In this regard iPad’s versatility goes way beyond a Chromebook.

Privacy
Chrome OS is from Google. Let’s not pretend a primary function isn’t to gather data about you for sale to ad agencies. It lacks iOS’ easy user-controlled granularity of privacy settings per app, photo access per app, location access per app, etc., as well as default third-party cookie blocking, ability to reset device identity and more.

Hardware
Cheap hardware built to look like a “real” laptop. A major design goal is to beat out the cheapest Windows laptops while not appearing to be a tiny netbook.

Mobility
This is one of the tenets of post-PC, yet Chromebooks are bulky and heavy by any iPad standard. Further, battery life is no better than a “regular” PC notebook.

Netbooks are cheap PCs with small screens and cramped keyboards. They fizzled in the marketplace when it become clear they don’t offer the UX of a conventional Windows laptop. Meanwhile, Chromebooks are “regular” laptop size to avoid the netbook stigma, but remain cheap by ditching the PC OS for Google’s data-gathering tools.

There are many ways to cling to a familiar past while cheating the experience in an attempt to reduce cost and appear “new”. Netbooks and Chromebooks take different approaches but the result is the same: their UX is unlike the laptops they’re designed to imitate. In many ways Netbooks and Chromebooks are the ultimate skeumorphic design. Designed to look like the familiar laptop form we’ve known for 20 years, but in reality being no such thing.

If you want a laptop for its usability and legacy functions, by all means get one. Mac or PC, there are plenty of excellent choices on the market. But be realistic on either cost or functionality. If you’re not, then one way or the other you’ll be disappointed.

This Is One Ugly Rip-Off

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Samsung copies Apple’s iOS devices quite well, but their PC designers are not as deft.

The accompanying review says the Samsung Series 7’s will “rival the Apple Macbook Pros in terms of beauty”. Are they blind? This thing looks like the keyboard and palm rest were taken from two different prototypes and then forced to “fit” together.

Forrester Research: Tablets Will Only Steal Sales From… Desktops?

 

What other conclusion can be drawn from the graph? From 2010, netbook sales barely change (18 to 17%), and laptops barely change (44 to 42%). With the tablet rising from 6 to 23%, it all comes out of desktop share (32 to 18%).

Um…

Forrester’s report is questionable right up front. It predicts sales of 3.5M tablets this year, and 20.4M in 2015. Those numbers are so low it’s ridiculous. Apple is already over 2M sales this year; Forrester thinks they can’t even double that by December 31? Thats nuts. Apple will hit 8M or more this year, and who knows what other tablet players will join the game in the coming months.

As for netbooks, I disagree their sales percentage will remain steady over the next five years. Their sales growth is already slowing. People are figuring out they’re not the “laptop” they promise to be. Netbooks have all the headaches of PCs without the size or power to have enough of the benefits. Cheap laptops make better sense, and a tablet even more-so. Netbooks’ day in the sun is nearing its end; I see a pretty small trickle five years hence. 

Regarding laptops, they’ll feel the pinch of tablets getting faster with more sophisticated software, which won’t take long. Look at where the software is already: iWork or Documents To Go productivity suites; Photogene for great image editing; Reel Director or iMovie for iPhone (iPad won’t be far behind) for video, etc. And these are here now, imagine what we’ll have in just a year. I could argue these apps are already close to doing what the majority of consumers need in these areas. There are certainly rough edges, but they’ll get smoothed. Laptops are going to feel the heat sooner than Forrester imagines.

I agree on desktops’ decline, but that’s already happening and has been for a while. Laptops have eaten their lunch in the past, but tablets will encroach on laptops as explained above. 

The tablet form factor is going to be huge. I’m already on record that it’s how “all” computers will work someday, and I don’t think critical mass will take as long as the GUI did, which is apparently what Forrester is expecting.

Just 20M tablets sold in 2015? They’ll pass that number in 2012. Netbook and laptop percentage will decline more than Forrester is predicting, and tablet percentages will be higher. Forrester’s report seems written to appease those vested in the status quo, but it doesn’t make it realistic.

Netbook Sales Growth Sagging: What Took So Long?

The sales growth of netbooks, priced from $200 to $500 and resembling shrunk-down laptops, slowed markedly in the first quarter, according to market researcher IDC.

This should come as a shock to no one, but of course it will. The netbook is a cheap cheap laptop, OK? That’s all it’s ever been. Nothing more, nothing less. Laptops went from well over $1K, to cheap laptops in the $600 range, and netbooks brought them down to $300.

Those lower divisions brought cheaper components, lower quality, weak processors, etc. They had to. For some that might be good enough, but it doesn’t change the fact that netbooks are a significant compromise to the laptop they emulate. For many, the netbook brought disappointment when they found out there really is no such thing as a $300 laptop.

As for manufacturers, they found out that, while they could brag about sales in terms of number of units, there’s little profit. No wonder the big names are scaling back.

Walt Mossberg Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close

After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.

I already know two people in my household for which the iPad is easily a laptop replacement. In fact, I’m betting they’ll get more things done because the computer’s power is more accessible than ever.

You CanNOT Get a MacBook-Equivalent PC Laptop For A Lot Less Money.

I sent a series of tweets recently inspired by two things:

  1. My search for a MacBook-like PC to run Windows 7.
  2. My realization that no such PC exists for a lot less money than a MacBook, though everyone (including many who should know better) seems to repeat this nonsense.

Below are the the tweets:

  • Dear WSJ and tech pundits: You can’t get a MacBook-equivalent PC for a lot less money; you only get a lesser one.
  • I’m sick of these low-voltage 1.3 GHz no-power laptops being treated as MacBook equivalents. It’s BS.
  • I’m sick of PC laptop starting prices of ~$650 when they use old or weak processors, old WiFi, have no Bluetooth, etc.
  • Closest is an HP Dv3t configured similar 2 MacBook @ $900 with lots of HP giveaways. Nice, but not a lot less $$.
  • The HP has more drive space and RAM. The MacBook has better battery, trackpad, smaller, lighter, unibody.
  • My point is when you’re within $100 on two laptops, take your pick, but the cheaper one is hardly a no-brainer.
  • Oh, and Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo models comparable to MacBook are priced higher.
  • Summary: Go thru PC makers’ lengthy BTO process; see what you really get b4 claiming a MacBook for a lot less.

The summary nails it. As you go through all the BTO screens for so many models, you find where each promising PC either falls off the list (e.g., no Core 2 Duo processors, no LED screen), or the price keeps adding up as you configure it like a MacBook.

Think about this: What would a MacBook cost if Apple used an older Intel processor with just 2MB cache (or a low-voltage Centrino or Atom processor), slower DDR2 800MHz memory, Intel graphics, WiFi 802.11 b/g (not “n”), no Bluetooth, a weak battery, a tray CD drive, etc.? That’s exactly what PC makers do to create the low-end machines they (and a willing press) love to tout so much. And don’t even get me started on the big, heavy, lumbering beasts touted for having 15″ screens even though they have the resolution of a 13″.

Regarding the HP mentioned above, CNET configured one that was the same price as a MacBook. Theirs had a slower CPU, but like mine had more hard drive and RAM. They didn’t even list the MacBook’s great 7-hour battery, incredible glass trackpad, or unibody construction as advantages. Yet for the same amount of money HP didn’t include any of those things. In other words, CNET undersold the MacBook even as they acknowledged getting a PC close to it requires spending similar money!

I’m not blasting the PC makers. It’s a cutthroat industry for them; they need to make dirt cheap machines because they have to advertise dirt cheap prices. But one thing is crystal clear: if you don’t use yesterday’s technology, or drop features, or skimp on the battery, etc., it costs money. There is no MacBook-like PC for $700.

I wouldn’t care as much about this if a buyer knew what he was getting. But given the current tech reporting a lot of buyers think they’re getting a “MacBook” for much less money, and that’s pure, unadulterated crap. I’m disappointed the tech pundits haven’t seen the same trends I have and called it what it is.

Meanwhile, what I’ve learned from this exercise is simple: if your budget won’t allow a ~$1K machine, skip the cheap laptop crap and go straight to a netbook. Yes, they also use weak processors, low-cost components, etc., but at least they’re priced like it. Further, they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop, so they have a tangible advantage cheap laptops don’t.

Posted via email from The Small Wave.

She’s Still PC But It Doesn’t Matter: Lauren’s Back!

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I wrote about her in Microsoft’s ads here and here. In the latter post I went to far as to tell Microsoft “I’m begging you to bring back Lauren #1.”

Well, Microsoft didn’t, but HP did. Lauren’s the star of a new HP ad where she talks about using the laptop she bought in a Microsoft ad (an HP Pavillion dv7) to finish her thesis and graduate.

It’s in the style of HP’s other “hands” commercials, so there’s no headshot, but it’s a smart ad and very well done. I mean, isn’t it a lot more effective when you don’t tell people the primary reason you bought something was simply because it was dirt cheap?

This ad is better than all the Laptop Hunter ads put together and multiplied by 10. Well done, HP.