Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management for Chromebooks, told Business Insider that, unsurprisingly, the Chromebook Pixel was never meant to be a big seller: “Big sales were never the broad goal for the Pixel,” he said.
I say this was unsurprising, because first off, it doesn’t really matter how much better the hardware is, and what kind of specs and components it contains, if the customer can’t do a whole lot with it. I understand the vision behind the Chromebook – to get everyone to simply use only the web – and that’s a nice goal, if not a prediction for the future – but it hasn’t really happened yet, and it probably won’t happen for a few more years until free Wi-Fi is everywhere and until you don’t have to spend a lot of money per month for only a few gigabytes of data for a LTE connection.
That doesn’t mean Chromebooks can’t be successful, but Google has to sell them at a pricepoint where it matches its current value right now. So far that that pricepoint has been at around $250-$300, which is where Chromebook have been the most successful. Samsung’s ARM Chromebook for example, has been #1 on Amazon’s laptop best seller list since the day it launched a year ago, so clearly a lot of people see value in a $250 Chromebook.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Google couldn’t try to experiment with Chromebooks that cost $400, $500 or even $700, but they’ve already tested the $400-$500 ones before and they didn’t do so well. To be fair, those were based on Intel Atoms that had very poor performance, and cost too much for that level of performance. The Samsung Cortex A15-based one seems to be just fine for people, performance wise, and it costs almost half what those Atom-based Chromebooks used to cost.
What I’d like to see next from this sort of ARM Chromebook is 10h of battery life, which should be easily achievable. Samsung’s Chromebook had an incredibly small battery, of only ~4,000 mAh, which lasted about 6 hours, and they could hit the 10h mark with a 7,000 mAh battery, which is usually what gets used in 10″ tablets (at a minimum).
I’d also like to see either a Snapdragon 800 or a quad core Cortex A15 in the next version, to improve performance, and if a 1080p resolution isn’t possible this year at the same pricepoint (probably not), then I’d like to see at least an IPS panel that looks great. Then next year, they can add the 1080p resolution (or perhaps 1920×1280, if they want the 3:2 ratio of the Pixel), and make it based on whatever ARMv8 chip is the best then (Cortex A57, etc).
These low-cost Chromebooks will continue to do much better than much more expensive ones, and it’s best for Google and its partners to focus on them for now.