The staff here at AH know that I love Chrome and I love my Chromebooks. In fact, I'm always looking for some new features or the odd tweak here and there when it comes to Chrome on any platform, really. I have a pair of Chromebooks and I absolutely love them but, there's no denying that they've always been a niche product. Right from the humble CR-48 to the new Samsung Chromebook that seems to be sold out everywhere you look, Chromebooks have been a polarizing device. There are many reasons why that is and a lot of it had to do with Google not having everything together when it comes to their online product offerings and Chromebooks have often been before their time in a lot of ways. Now though, Google have good integration with their online storage offering, Google Docs and even the Play Store - there's a whole world that Chromebooks can now tap into, quickly and easily. Let's also not forget that 90% of what you do on a PC these days is based in a browser window. Of course, professionals and those that need specific software need not apply.
Does this mean Chromebooks are "worth it"? Are they getting better? Is the time of the Chromebook now? Well, if one thing's for sure - Redmond should be taking note of this newfound popularity.
Chrome OS Grows Up
I'm not going to spend too much time on this as a lot of you will already know but, there was a time not too long ago in which Chrome OS was quite literally, just a browser. That's long gone and take it from someone who uses Linux, Windows and Chrome OS, it's a nice place to be when it comes to computing. Of course, the whole focus is in the browser still but, there's a window manager, a decent file browser, integration into Google Drive and you can even do light photo editing within the OS. Not only that but it's easy to add more than one user to the machine and each one gets their perosnalized settings etc. The hardware is also - finally - reaching a price point that reflects the platform. Nobody was ever going to pay full price for a machine that was lightweight and basically browsed the web. It's all I ever want from a laptop but I'm not paying full-price and getting less. That's why the pricing of the new Acer and Samsung Chromebooks make a lot of sense. Also, with Lenovo having entered the market with their new ThinkPad Chromebook and HP soon bringing the HP Pavillion brand into the Chromebook fold, there's going to be more choice than ever before.
Windows 8 Still Unpopular
So, let's get one thing out-of-the-way: I don't hate Windows or Windows Phone. Now that we can move on. It's pretty clear that Windows 8 isn't doing as well as Microsoft would have liked and it's pretty obvious why: people don't like change. Simple as that, the average consumer doesn't like it when things change, all you have to do is think back to Windows Vista to see that. Windows 8, for a lot of people, isn't inviting and the problem that Microsoft are facing is that it doesn't run very well on low-specced machines like a Chromebook would and for those that just want to browse the web they want something quick and easy to use. The Chromebook certainly fits that description and they are sooo easy to use. My father hates laptops, never saw the point in them and hates them but, even he asks me to use my Chromebook for a few minutes at a time.
Acer have experienced this first hand and as I'm sure you all know, Acer sell and ship a lot of laptops but, one of their higher-ups had this to say of Windows 8:
"Windows 8 itself is still not successful," Wong said. "The whole market didn't come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch, that's a simple way to judge if it is successful or not."
That's perhaps not damning or anything but, Chromebooks have made up as much as 10% of Acer's shipments since November. For a platform that was once laughed at that's pretty good and while it's small, it certainly suggests growth when it comes to Chrome OS. On Google+ and the web at large I've seen an increased popularity concerning Chromebooks and it looks like Chrome OS could well replace Windows laptops for a lot of people. Not everyone, as Google would lead you to believe, but most people.
With Lenovo and HP Shipping Chromebooks, Redmond Should be Worried
You can argue that Microsoft shouldn't fear Chrome OS, after all Windows 8 is far more advanced than Chrome OS but, that's not the point here. The point is that Chromebooks fill the gap or replace Windows laptops for a lot of people. I'm a tech savvy guy, right? I don't want to touch a laptop that isn't a Chromebook. That's not me being overly loyal or anything, I prefer Chrome OS to Windows on a laptop. If I'm going to be spending most of my time on the web then...why do I need the rest of it? I don't. With a Chromebook I get access to my history, my themes, my settings etc and it's all done with my Google Account. Setting up a new Windows PC is never easy and especially difficult for those that don't really know what to do with their new laptop.
Lenovo have already announced their Chromebook, which will be hitting schools, that's got to hurt Redmond. After all, getting your systems into education is almost a golden approval. HP have sprung a leak concerning their Pavillion Chromebook and it looks like a good machine but, pricing is going to be key.
The reason Microsoft should be worried is because, once again the web is getting away from them. It's taken Microsoft a long time to get a solid presence on the web and they've gotten a lot better, Outlook is a good e-mail service but compared to Google's offering, they're flat of luck. With Chromebooks, Google are fast becoming the de facto way to get around the web on the go and if that continues, Microsoft's Surface - no matter how good - isn't going to help them one bit.
If you've got a Chromebook and want to learn more or get more involved you can join this excellent Chromebook Community on G+.