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What matters is not whether it sells;
it's what happens next for Chrome OS.

I see all these articles and posts calling the $1,299 Chromebook Pixel a "pricey boondoggle" (+TechCrunch), pitching it squarely against the Surface Pro or MacBook Pro, speculating whether it can "upend" Windows (+ZDNet), suggesting it's competing against the MacBook Air (+MacRumors)... that it's too expensive, too early, or both. But they're all missing the point.

The Pixel is really just an experiment, but one that is crucial for Chrome OS. It may not sell well. Hey, it probably won't. And the Chrome team may not care how many it sells after all. What they will watch closely is what happens next, specifically, the Web Store. In a way, it reminds me of what the Nexus One did for Android.

Consider the 2 biggest complaints you've heard about Chromebooks over the past few years:

1- it uses cheap hardware, and
2- it lacks powerful apps.

Hence, critics have called it just a glorified browser. To them, the Pixel probably doesn't make sense either. I bet most reviews will conclude it's too expensive or the hardware is premature. But as we've seen repeated in the blog post and video, the Pixel is really "for what's next".

What today's announcement shows is that Google has chosen to address hardware first; doing so on its own (not relying on Samsung, Acer, HP or Lenovo) and doing so boldly. No longer are Chromebooks synonymous with budget hardware; they can be cutting edge; specs are no longer a sore point.

Now that hardware is out of the way, it's clear what the next battle is for Chrome OS: cutting-edge applications. The Chrome team has known this for a while; Sundar Pichai certainly knows this today. It's the missing piece they need. It's what consumers have said are keeping them from adopting Chrome OS or switching completely from Windows or Mac. Users need powerful productivity apps and games. The Web Store has to get better. The groundwork has been laid all these years, but Google needs its developers to make the rest happen. Developers also needed a Chromebook they could get excited about. That's the Pixel.

In the next few months, you'll see Google doing its best to get the Pixel in the hands - especially minds - of as many developers as possible. The Pixel will probably be given away at Google I/O next May. Meanwhile, the Chrome team will continue to push development until the web is all users really need - reducing hardware dependencies, bringing in more pieces of Android (notifications), and making Google Now a central part of the experience.

When apps become powerful enough, Chromebooks will finally be more than a glorified browser in the eye of the mainstream consumer. And that is the gamble Google made today.

[My opinion only]
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40 comments
 
I use a Chromebook exclusively (I ditched my Windows 7 laptop a year ago) and I love it. Google gave me a Chromebook Pixel today and I can't wait to start using it on a daily basis.
 
+Jean-Louis Nguyen You are totally right. They HAD to do it. If only to move what is undoubtably the future of computing to the next level. The argument that "it's only a web browser" is fine, but when I "browse the web" I want quality hardware too... why wouldn't I.. I'm not stupid. Maybe a bit early, but they are trying to push the world to pure cloud. There is no doubt that this is where the future is going and Google are just trying to get us there a bit quicker...and with a bit more style. Bravo.
 
You're about to be quoted so hard in this video I'm making. Hope you don't mind ;)
 
Some people aren't keeping in mind that the Chromebook was intended for a certain type of person either. The Chromebook Pixel will simply not appeal to those that are looking for insanely powerful computer's for gaming, video rendering and so on. That's where I think a lot of the flack is coming from.

Secondly, this has to be the best post I've read about the Pixel so far, thanks for writing this up +Jean-Louis Nguyen.
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Definitely agree that it's success depends on how Chrome OS will develop itself from here on out. 
 
A 3x2 aspect display ratio means Google is committed to 20th century antique HTML. Web pages that scroll will be looked at in the future as funny. I code in XML for the ATSC standard of 16x9. My work is designed for tablets, touch screens and HDTV. This piece of junk is atrocious!
 
+James C. Deering so it's not for you, move on. This actually does attract some people and they do not think it is junk. 
 
I am still scratching my head too, about the aspect ratio. Nothing I have ever leaned to date, tells me why this could possibly be?
 
Not sure about this myself. 3:2 is definitely much better for general web browsing, but watching movies/videos on a letteboxed 12" screen is going to suck. There is definitely a trade-off and it's not about new vs. old technology. Reading and web browsing is just not as good on a wide screen. Can't get around that.
M Mosel
 
I don't care how good the hardware is, if it runs all in the cloud, I don't want it. With that said, the hardware looks nice and the screen is impressive. But Chrome OS? Can I run Apache, PHP and MySQL on it? Can I run Photoshop, or a powerful 3d Application? How about Android apps? Show me something useful, please.
 
+M Mosel That's exactly what +Jean-Louis Nguyen is arguing in this post. Now that Google has pushed hardware ahead, their next move is to tackle the remaining issue for Chrome OS: apps and services.
 
I need a new laptop this year and the Pixel is definitely tempting, but I think that ultimately, I'm going to sit this one out. If there was a simple way to install Linux apps (e.g. MacPorts on OSX) I would jump all over this. I think that Cr OS Linux might be better for me. Will wait and see how difficult it is to install linux distros on the Pixel.

Edit. It turns out that it's very simple to install Linux on the Pixel. However, I will also need to upgrade the SSD which adds a couple hundred to the price. I'll wait a few months and see if the price comes down a bit or I have some other options. My Dell is still working ok for now.
M Mosel
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+Matt Wyman Well, it'll be interesting to watch where this goes. If nothing else, it pushes higher resolution screens into the marketplace, and that's a great thing.
 
That sounds contradictory, if I want an experimental device to develop apps to, I'll want it in the hands of the largest number of people possible. If this were the case, they would be cutting off their profits to reduce the price of the device. At this price I'm sure they're getting decent margins.

My theory is that they plan this to be a full desktop replacement when they launch a ChromeOS + Android hybrid at Google IO. But they released it too early, for several reasons, partly because the leaked video forced their hand.
 
I couldn't agree more completely with the article as written. I think getting the various hardware platforms out will push devs to look at the Chromebook and ChromeOS as a serious player in the industry. You have to keep in mind the back lash Google experienced from shareholders when purchasing that little company that "kids posted videos to", what was that called again....oh ya YouTube. Shareholders were upset, people questioned Google's intentions. Have various Chromebooks that range from $200-$1400 is a good idea. Is the Pixel for everyone, no of course not, nor is the Acer. Bottom line is now there is something for everyone. I am not here to "fanboy" Google. From a tech perspective it makes sense. 
 
Dude, you are so right. I went through the exact same thing. Shocked by the price, then looked at the machine beyond the numbers, and ordered CB number four. The machine brings sexy and speed to Chrome OS. Great post.
 
I get the argument and thank you for the new perspective. I hadn't thought about it that way but nevertheless does it lack the motivation for developers to improve the web store. I mean the Cb pixel looks nice and few people will buy it. But as a developer I would only bet on the OS if masses use it, so I can make money out of it. And this product will certainly not appeal the masses as you yourself wrote. I am not saying that Chrome OS is to fail but at the moment it's not an alternative for many people out there to mac and Windows Laptops not only because of the several software as games, office and photo/video editing but also because of the hardware bought as printers, etc that are not guaranteed to run on the OS. The top hardware would not motivate me to invest more in the OS as a developer. I just would have loved seeing the Chromebooks being pushed hard and improved so that everyone would think of switching. I thought that would be the better strategy... 
 
+Vandré Brunazo and +Daniel Campina, I appreciate your insights and logic about a hit device leading to greater adoption.

On the other hand, I believe what Jean-Louis is saying is that people often pigeon-hole Chrome OS into a cheap, "glorified browser" niche.  Rather than trying to be the Macbook Air/Pro of Chrombebooks, spurring mass adoption of one device, Google wanted to inspire hardware makers and app developers to continue to adopt the platform, a la what Nexus One did for Android.

I also really enjoyed this article from Matt Baxter-Reynolds, discussing how Pixel might simply be about grabbing people's attention, which, in my mind (that it did grab people's attention), seems pretty indisputable:  http://www.zdnet.com/in-defense-of-the-chromebook-pixel-7000011645/
 
> Google wanted to inspire hardware makers and app developers to continue to adopt the platform

+Cougar Abogado but how exactly does that work? Could you explain to me, exactly how do you jump from. A = "expensive device that doesn't sell" to-> B = "app devs want to develop for it" and C = "hardware developers want to replicate it". That conclusion seems like a huge leap of faith to me, I would think it's the exact opposite conclusion that would make more sense.

As +Daniel Campina said, as software dev, I will develop for a platform that has users. This does not. I'm going Android first and web second right now, exactly because of that. And the pixel most certainly doesn't change that, in fact, it confirms that I'm going the right path.

Hardware makers want to sell, they want profit. Market research is hard to do, expensive, and often times inaccurate. Before the pixel, a high-end chromebook was an unknown, maybe it would sell well, maybe it wouldn't. After the pixel, it's no longer an unknown. If it indeed sells bad as we're all predicting. Then the pixel is a market research gem for every OEM. They no longer need to conduct their own expensive and lengthy research, that might be inaccurate. Just look at the pixel, and there's your golden research. And it's telling them NOT to build one. Because it won't sell.

It's absurd to compare it to the Nexus One. This is completely different. The Nexus One was priced well, it was a good device compared to the competition. There was demand for devices of that class. It didn't sell well because other OEMs built other ones and marketed them well enough. The Nexus One alone didn't inspire app developers, the rush of all OEMs partenering with Android to build devices was what did. This is much more similar to the Nexus Q than the Nexus One. It's just an over-expensive device that is marketed incorrectly. It's a fair mistake, marketing is hard. But it doesn't change the fact that it's a mistake.
 
I love the analysis, +Vandré Brunazo, thanks.

As you indicate, I believe a lot of it does have to do with a "leap of faith," and a song I learned as a child comes to mind:  "Faith is like a little seed:  If planted, it will grow."

Could Google have gone all out and built a fully-fledged Macbook Air/Pro competitor, geared up with a huge supply chain to match the accordant demand?  Certainly.  Yet, Pixel is, as I see it, a little seed, planted as an inspiration for some possible aspects of "what's next" and in future Chromebook development, rather than what's now, comprised in the all-in-one, perfect i-product package.

After all, what is Google's core competency?  How much sense does it make for it to ramp up huge hardware manufacturing capabilities for one device?  Market research is, indeed, costly.  Yet, Google may, essentially, be taking one for the team, here, by trying out some outlandish specs for a niche market and seeing what kind of feedback it generates.

If Google intended the device to serve as a flagship design for hardware makers to follow and it flopped, then I agree it would be a major backfire and "a mistake."  On the other hand, what if Google simply wanted to generate buzz about and interest in the Chromebook concept and the Chrome OS ecosystem, let Samsung/Acer and others dominate the low price point without stepping on their toes (as MS did with the Surface), and silently demonstrate to the world that, ironically, a $250 Samsung is pretty comparable to a $1,200 Macbook?  I really enjoyed this ZDNet article on the generating interest theory:  http://www.zdnet.com/in-defense-of-the-chromebook-pixel-7000011645/

Again, I really value the logic and analysis behind what you've said and it might be dead right.  On the other hand, a lot of people dismissed Chrome OS and Chromebooks with the Cr-48's inception.  While the Cr-48 was comparatively a minimal prototype and hardware investment on Google's part, let's consider the $250 Samsung.  How many critics then would have predicted its current success, today?  ("It's just a flippin' browser, man!  Why not boot up a real OS that can run the kind of programs 90% of computer users forgo or ignore??")

How does the Pixel fit in with the Cr-48 and the $250 Samsung?  I'm less than 100% certain, and I'm confident Google's Chromebook market strategy is almost the reverse of how Apple rolls out its devices:  Let others take responsibility for building the machines and let demand snowball, rather than erupt like a pent up volcano.  Maybe Google felt like it was on the cusp of wider Chromebook partner adoption and generating some extra buzz would help push the snowball over the top and down the mountainside.

Thanks, again, for the discussion.
 
I hope someone at Google is reading all this because it's great market research.
 
I thought the same thing.  Very nice thinking.  Here's another angle I came up with recently too: http://goo.gl/792wn.  Thoughts?
 
Okay, some Pixel reviews are in.  In a lot of ways, it seems +Vandré Brunazo and +Daniel Campina called it:  "The most brilliant laptop you'll never buy."

On the other hand, the biggest complaints I can recall are that the device was about $200-400 overpriced, the OS is still young, a better battery would be cool, and the device struggles offline.

In short, these all seem to be rough edges that will be rounded off promptly or are architectually inherent in the system's cloud-based design.

E.g., I also read insights like this: "I will, however, be eager to see how Google advances the luxury Chromebook concept. Crazy as it seems, it just might work."

+Vandré Brunazo and +Daniel Campina, what's your reaction, at this point?

Here's what I read, today (some are longer/more in-depth than others):

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/baig/2013/02/26/chromebook-pixel-review/1947927/
http://techcrunch.com/2013/02/26/not-quite-pixel-perfect/
http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/25/4023830/google-chromebook-pixel-review
http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/gadgetbox/chromebook-pixel-review-sweet-touchscreen-may-justify-googles-1-299-1C8531715
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2029355/hands-on-with-chromebook-pixel-google-goes-after-the-macbook.html
 
About what exactly? :P I think not many people will buy it. But the OS will improve and eventually it will be attractive in the future. Maybe as soon as Google IO in May they'll announce a major upgrade that finally makes the Pixel make sense.

The critics' consensus is that the hardware is great, they only think it's expensive because of the OS. And that can be fixed with software patches. Like many are pointing out, the Pixel seems a bit ahead of its time.

For the general consumer the smarter thing is to not buy it right now. Just wait and see what happens. Maybe it gets better, if it does, then you buy it. Personally, I'm waiting for both intel Haswell processors (which promises both performance and battery efficiency at the same time) and the merge between ChromeOS and Android (which is just a matter of time). My bet is that we'll have a chromebook with both by 2014. That's the one I'll be getting :)
 
About whether Google strategically made a mistake in developing, marketing, and selling the Pixel.  My understanding of the previous discussion was that the Pixel was a mistake because few developers would flock to it because few consumers would purchase it.

On the other hand, my perception seems to be that Google is shouting and reviewers are implying, "OEMs:  START YOUR ENGINES!"  I'm confident we both agree, based on its design and Google's own declarations, the Pixel was developed for a very targeted (and limited) market as a showcase/concept device.  I agree it's ahead of its time for consumers, and is it fulfilling its destiny at Cloud City (sorry for the SW reference)?  I.e., is it doing what Google wants and designed it to do?

I hope and trust the processors will get faster and more efficient - bless you, Mr. Moore.

As for Chrome OS and Android merging, I prefer for Chrome OS to increase and Android to decrease.  Maybe I'm a Chrome OS fanatic or purist, and, as an owner of both, I would really prefer Chrome OS to be the OS and brainchild of the future.
 
I do think Google wanted it to well. It won't. OEMs also won't try to replicate it's failure, neither will devs code for it, as I said before. Not today. But I do think, in the future it will get better. And then consumers will want it, and then OEMs will want to do the same. But not now. Right now, the wise move for everyone, is to wait and watch.
 
Hmm.  I submit having the Pixel project go well depends almost entirely on how we define "go well."  If we're talking about the number of units sold, my interpretation is that Google knows it will sell a comparatively small number of Pixels and that Google planned for it to be that way.  If low sales volume is intentional, how does low sales volume, in and of itself, indicate failure?

As for Chromebooks becoming awesome in the future, future Chromebook models are being built and designed, today (or maybe tomorrow).

Why will Chromebooks get "better" (and how do we define that) in the future?  I believe part of Chromebooks' emerging out of obscurity and into more premium models (faster, higher resolution, touch screens, etc.), as well as further Acer/Samsung-type depth (low cost), will be the attention and, for many people, fascination, Pixels garner, today.

Will Google sell very many?  I doubt it.  Will Pixels lead to greater Chromebook sales, tomorrow?  I'm confident they will.
 
Sorry, I made a typo, meant to say Google did intend the Pixel to sell well, but it won't. But they'll learn from it and improve it either way. The hardware is good, it just needs software updates, I'm sure they already have major software features planned.
 
Okay, I'm going to disagree on Google's ultimate sales intentions once more, per the device's principal selling page:

"For what’s next
The Chromebook Pixel is a laptop that brings together the best in hardware, software, and design to inspire future innovation."
http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/chromebook-pixel/

To me, I interpret this as, "Look, we know this is a niche device for a niche market, right now.  E.g., why the light bar? 'Just because it looks cool' [It's non-utilitarian; niche]."
 
One final thought from someone who apparently disagrees with me about Chromebook value, yet seems to agree with my analysis of Google's goals with the Pixel:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57571963-93/why-google-built-the-pricey-powerful-chromebook-pixel/

Case-in-point:  "And so the reviews that say the Pixel isn't for most people are right -- Google itself all but admits it. That doesn't mean it's a failure, though. If a year from now Samsung and Acer are releasing higher-end Chromebooks of their own, and Web apps have come closer to reaching parity with native software, and more Googlers are using Pixels as their main machines, Google can call its expensive laptop a success."
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