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Summary:

In an attempt to take on Microsoft and Apple, Google today announced a cloud computer that costs upwards of $1,299. The device designed in-house is part of Google’s transformation into a quasi-hardware company.

Two-Pixels

IMG_5446Google today announced Chromebook Pixel, its next-generation cloud computer that is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and comes ready to connect to Verizon’s LTE network is based on its Chrome OS. It will ship in about three months. The device is going to cost $1,499 with LTE and $1,299 with just Wi-Fi and it is available to order on Google Play today and from Best Buy tomorrow morning. The Wi-Fi version will be available in the U.K. as well.

Update: Google said later on Thursday that the Wi-Fi models will start shipping next week.

The Mountain View, Calif-based company has designed and built this new machine to carefully integrate the software, its web services and the hardware in a seamless manner. “About two years ago, we decided to rethink the laptop,” said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Google Chrome. The big idea: re-imagine the laptop for cloud services.

IMG_5444For instance, since the web-oriented machine’s primary task is to use the web, the size of the screen has been modified from 16:9 size to 3:2, a development that is going to delight the fans of classic IBM ThinkPad. The device’s screen is reminiscent of Apple’s Retina display and is powered by the Intel Core i5 processor and uses SSD flash. It delivers about five hours of battery time. The Wi-Fi version has 32 GB of flash, and the LTE version has 64 GB of flash as storage. “We think our ecosystem will respond with new devices that use touch and Chrome OS,” said Pichai.

IMG_5443“It brings best of Google together — everything is built right in,” said Pichai. Gmail, the Chrome browser and other Google apps are integrated into this device.The device also has built-in QuickOffice, a mobile productivity suite Google acquired in 2012. And the big news: Google Drive will come with 1 TB of storage space. Why? Photos, of course.

If you have photos on an SD card, then the device will automatically find and upload them to Google Plus Photos, a somewhat creepy and evil tactic by Google to goose its Google Plus un-social network. Of course you can share those photos via Google Plus and other Google services — nevermind the fact that we like to use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to share. Pichai said that services such as Twitter and Facebook can write to their hardware APIs to do seamless uploads.

“Web hasn’t had touch and high-resolution screens before,” said Pichai. He argued that opens up whole different opportunities for developers. It goes without saying that the emergence of the iPad has changed our expectations of how we interact and consume information. The new Chromebook Pixel is a tip of the hat to that new reality of today’s computing environment. “In the future all laptops will have touch built into them,” Pichai said.

In a quick hands-on, the device met the claims made by Pichai and his team. The build quality is top notch, reminiscent of Macbook Pros. The 3.3-pound device has a great keyboard and the screen is indeed a good rival to the Retina display. The device is really speedy, but it is the network speeds that will define how one experiences the Chromebook Pixel.

I surfed through a few websites — and clicked on a lot of ads, unintentionally. I used Google Maps and Google Photos and used touch to experience them. I am guessing that there is a growing number of people who want touch on their laptops — I simply use the iPad for all things cloud.

That said, I have some reservations about the device and its positioning. It is hard to pay $1,299 for a device when I can get a better-equipped MacBook Air, which despite its age is a lot more flexible and expandable. Pichai said that he wanted to focus on the high end of the market because they want power users, early adopters and developers to embrace this platform.

A good idea in theory — except that for developers to develop on this platform, Google needs scale for Chromebook Pixel and that means it needs a whole lot of machines in the hands of people. A Wall Street Journal report from Wednesday indicated that Google sold a mere 100,000 of these devices in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Pichai and I argued a bit about the pricing strategy: my belief is that they need to sell a lot more devices so the price has to be much much lower. Pichai argues that one needs to be able to open our mind to the possibilities of a cloud-based machine. He said that one shouldn’t look at the 32 GB of storage, but instead focus on the terabyte of storage space that comes as part of Google Drive.

“The device is for a segment committed to living to the cloud, and who really want a good, high-end laptop, and we believe we have built the best laptop for that experience,” he added.


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  1. What pro photographers is going upload his RAW files to Google+? It will kill his bandwidth with 4 photos. This is so anti-photographer it’s not funny.

    1. Jimmy

      But you will get 1 TB of storage and if 500 Px develops an app, you can upload to their site directly.

      :-)

      1. that still does not answer the question of bandwith and battery life on LTE

  2. Google lost it’s mind, are they trying to get the worst product of the year award again?
    1300$ for that? Would be hard to sell it at 500$ Someone needs a (100%) pay cut at Google.

  3. Re: “Web hasn’t had touch and high-resolution screens before,”

    And evidently the web won’t need to respond to cursor hover any more either. Can’t “hover” with a touchscreen interface. No cursor.

    1. That can’t be a bad thing @sockrolid?

      1. Actually you can hover with touch if it’s implemented. For example, if I use Chrome (touch-enabled desktop version) on my Windows 8 convertible, one tap on the screen simulates hovering (I just tested it on an xkcd comic), and the second actually clicks on whatever the link is. It’s probably not how touch should ideally work, but it does do hovering.

  4. Four options:
    1. Some weird A/B test to test how stupid developers are
    2. Larry is on vacation
    3. Larry hates data [1]
    4. Somebody has to stop smoking whatever they have going

    1. http://gigaom.com/2013/02/21/more-evidence-of-tablets-slowly-killing-the-pc-market/

    1. I was waiting … @ronald. ;-)

  5. This is insanity.

    Between this and the Glass project, Google is pricing itself out of the consumer market — the very market it must satisfy to get enough users to justify their data collection and advertising efforts. A $250 Chromebook makes *some* sense in a few use cases and helps Google collect data on as many people as can fork over that kind of money for a cloud laptop. And there’s lots of consumers who can do that.

    But what consumers, and how many, will fork over $1,300 for a cloud laptop? A few hundred? The Chromebook has not been a sales success. The Pixel will do far worse.

    I’d snap up a Pixel at $500, think about it but still get it at $600, but at $700 and up I’d have to have some really compelling reason to drop that kind of cash and Chrome OS, which I like, is not worth that much money.

    Consider the most expensive iPad is under $1,000 — even with some accessories — and has far more use cases than the Pixel at $1,300. The iPad has a gigantic app ecosystem and has a refined and proven touch interface. The Pixel fails as a $1,300 laptop but it also fails as a $1,300 iPad replacement.

    I’m glad Google is starting to focus some efforts on high-quality hardware. But their business is mass collection and distribution of data, and ultra-niche products like the Pixel are not aligned with that business model.

    1. Great comment, @johnproffitt. (also cool handle ;-)

    2. “I’m glad Google is starting to focus some efforts on high-quality hardware. But their business is mass collection and distribution of data, and ultra-niche products like the Pixel are not aligned with that business model.”

      In case you haven’t notice, Google is already expanding its market base. I won’t be surprised if they start taking over the desktop market as well.

      “But what consumers, and how many, will fork over $1,300 for a cloud laptop? A few hundred? The Chromebook has not been a sales success. The Pixel will do far worse.”

      It’s just a cloud laptop, for now.

      Keep in mind that ChromeOS, just like stock Android, is easily upgraded. Which means that Google can easily integrate Google Play for the Chromebook. With that hardware, its the only logical path.

  6. matthew_maurice Thursday, February 21, 2013

    “and clicked on a lot of ads, unintentionally.” The first part of that should delight the AdWords people, and the last part should horrify their true customer, the advertisers who just paid for that click they now know is worthless.”

    1. @matthew_maurice It was CNN so not a lot of useful ads to begin with. I guess smaller websites have more focused ads and might actually get some traction.

  7. I see another Nexus Q in this product. Over priced for what it is and does.

    Macbook Air is cheaper, lighter and runs longer but has worse screen
    Macbook Pro Retina runs longer, has more storage and similar screen but is $200 more

    Cloud is cool, but a selling point of the cloud is to drive down hardware prices.

  8. Personally, I don’t see it – but some will buy. Not terribly different than an Ultrabook like computer (which are having some mild success in restoring vanishing hardware margins).

    Great form factor – but a $1000 premium for $200 in incremental hardware plus “thin and sexy” is tempting, but not enough.

    1. @brown_te, i think the hardware is actually pretty nice, but they need to really subsidize it and then people would be interested in this puppy. I am working on it right now and can’t say I totally hate it. But I don’t really love it.

  9. Excellent post. Google knows how to be in competition with big companies so first he tries to compete with Facebook by making Google plus and now they are trying to compete with Apple and they are making laptops. This laptop sounds cool but will they make mobile phone as well?

    Thank you
    James

    1. @james

      Thanks for the comment. I just replied to @netgarden and pointed out that this might be more a “showcase” of what HP/Acer/Asus can do with ChromeOS.

      1. So, like what MSFT did with Surface, “see what we can make”, a reference point? If so, it has a great chance to fare as well as Surface (RT + PRO)

  10. I honestly don’t get it, but it’s a good test to see if there is a market for companies that want to standardize on all things Google.

    If they can do a better job of making tangible what those benefits are (e.g., better technical support, a specific hybrid service that relies on this integration, an interesting platform play for developers that requires this integration, etc.), then maybe it’d be clearer.

    1. @netgarden

      I think this might be a broadside at Microsoft more than Apple because I think they are telling MSFT ecosystem to use them as an option and showing them what is possible on Chrome OS.

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