Is Google's Chromebook a Failure?

After we spotted an advertisement for the Chromebook on Google Chrome's new tab page, followed by the recent drop in price of some Chromebook laptops, we started to wonder, "Is Google's Chromebook a failure?"

Earlier this week, Google announced that the price of some Chromebook laptops -- the Acer, which is rumored to have only sold 5K devices, and Samsung Chromebooks -- will drop by as much as 30% down to $299.

Google also recently updated the user interface on the Chromebook to sport a new login screen and started offering Chromebooks for in-flight use on select domestic Virgin America flights.

Matt Rosoff from Business Insider recently wrote that even though Google cut the cost of Chromebooks, it probably still won't sell. He even said, "they should keep cutting prices and make them free."
Google first unveiled the Chromebook in May at Google I/O and made it clear that its web-only device is not a consumer product, but rather for IT departments. The day Google announced the Chromebook, Steve Kovach of Business Insider wrote a story with the headline, "We'll Call It Now: Google's New Chromebooks Are Dead on Arrival."
We posed the question to Quora, read comments on Hacker News and scoured the web for Chromebook chatter, and have noticed mixed reviews.

"I love Chrome OS and my Chromebook; it does everything I need," tech blogger Dain Binder writes on Quora. "The only true reason I have a Windows computer is because I work from home for my day job and the remote tools I need to use are not compatible with a Chromebook. I am not saying there is not a need for a full powered PC; there sure is for many things. Today, the average user can just buy a new Chromebook every year or two and have no need to tweak or install software and hardware."
On the other hand, in October, Managing Editor at Betanews Joe Wilcox gave up on the Chromebook due to beta-like performance issues.

"But there are fundamental performance problems that make Chrome OS feel like beta software," Joe wrote. "Google Talk crashes several times a day, as do some third-party plugins. Flash is a killer (crashes helluva lot), and I'm convinced it's a major source of browser tab crashes, sometimes maddeningly slow performance and complete browser UI crashes. This kind of behavior is simply unacceptable in a shipping, commercial operating system and creates a bad user experience. Instant-on is great, persistent-on is better."
The Chromebook fits best in schools and corporate work environments, users on Quora write.

"We have hundreds in schools," CIO at High Desert Education Service District Rachel Wente Chaney writes. "Some as part of the Cr-48 pilot and some we've purchased. And we hope to purchase more. They're great for the classroom. The quick boot is why the students and teachers love them. The easy management is why the tech department does.

"I have 50 traditional laptops and iPads mocking me me from the corner of my office because I haven't had extra time this month to image them. With the Chromebooks, we just hand the students the box and they take it from there."

Kevin Marks, parent at VP of Open Cloud Standards at Salesforce wrote, "When my son's Windows machine got munged by a virus, he switched to the chromebook and was able to get all his work done via Docs and gmail, while the day-long virus-removal took place. I'd count that as a success."
For corporations that want to hand down restricted devices to their employees, ex-Google employee Shyam Seshadri writes that the Chromebook would be a good fit.

"If your employees need only access to certain web portals out on the field, but you don't want to hand them a fully fledged device, then a ChromeBook could fit the bill," Shyam writes. "Even on my MBP [Macbook Pro], I realize I majorly only use the browser, and all other applications are rarely touched. And with the re-advent of offline support with Gmail, Calendar (through Chrome Apps), it is quite possible to survive with just a Chrome Book."

However, some users find that they still need another computer or laptop in addition to the Chromebook.

Another user, Brian D. Jr, wrote that he is impressed with the Chromebook Google gave him to use, but it's not meant to replace a traditional computer.

"It shouldn't be mistaken for a computer or laptop because it does one thing very, very well: Work with the Googleverse," Brian Johnson who is a PR practitioner, writes. "Other than that, and that's quite a bit, it's perfect."
Many commenters on Hacker News discussed how Chromebooks are just a "shitty idea" because if Google wants to enter the PC market, they need to provide more resources and support.  

"This is a classic case of "how can we make the customer do what we want" instead of "how do we make our customer's life better,'" software developer potatolicious writes on HN. "Yeah, Google's profit is all in ads, so it wants you to spend as much time on the web and as little time on native apps as possible. Guess what Google: your customers don't care about your bottom line."

What's your take on the Google Chromebook? Discuss below in the comments.


Ad for Chromebook on Google Chrome new tab.