The Guardian is keen to point out in the opening paragraph in its article on the matter that the Chromebook represents an “audacious attack on Microsoft” as it will ship not with Windows but Chrome OS, Google’s own operating system.
However, this doesn’t seem to be an attack on Microsoft per se or, if it is, then it is, at most, a snub. Considering that Microsoft is a rival to Google in many markets, namely in search via the Bing/Yahoo! vs. Google Search fracas, it was always going to be unlikely that they would agree to share profits over the sale of these laptops.
No, the obvious contender in Google’s market is Apple. Google, as we know oh so well, have announced their encroachment into the already saturated online music market and are currently enjoying the fact that Android smartphones are currently outselling iPhones. Apple, on the other hand, can boast about how they have overtaken Google as the world’s most valuable brand. Thus, by my reckoning, recent point-scoring goes 2-1 in Google’s favour. Microsoft, by comparison, is not even in this fight, sitting in the stands gloating about their recent acquisition of Skype for $8.5bn – a company that has barely posted a profit. Congrats, Microsoft – you are the epitome of a sleeping giant.
Apple is well known for its sleek design and combined software/hardware products. It’s primary focus is user experience and the new Google laptop is all about that. Apparently consumers don’t want to mess around with their computers anymore. They don’t want to have control over it. They just want it to work with the minimum amount of fuss.
Anybody who knows anything about the Apple/Microsoft debate will know that Apple users always boast about how their iMac “just works” and is so “usable”. Clearly, therefore, the qualities going for Google do not challenge Microsoft at all. It’s Apple who should be worried. It’s Apple’s business model that has a new competitor.
Like Apple, people trust Google – perhaps too much – but they do. Run-of-the-mill consumers seemingly begrudge Microsoft and its Windows products. Microsoft can market itself all it likes using the current buzzwords like ‘cloud computing‘ but out of three only Google seems to know anything about it and they’re the only ones taking it seriously.
The Chromebook will have limited disk space – very limited. The idea, they argue, is that so long as you have an internet connection, you can use your laptop. You can access all of your Google services (and they are numerous) and do all the things you would do with on an OS X or Windows system but without the fuss of having to pay for licenses, finding the right software or storing them. It’s all on Google’s servers, waiting for you to use for free. This is the Apple business model one step further – their architects thinking, “how far can we push the focus on user experience?”
The Chromebook is a challenge to Apple, not Microsoft. However, it does squeeze Microsoft; after all, they want to see be seen as keeping up with the trends and embracing cloud computing – but they’re a step behind. The Chromebook is a fantastic step for Google and, as the Guardian article points out, an audacious one. It seems like one that will pay off.