Google Chromebook Price Cuts: Will Cloud Notebooks Catch On?
Chromebooks, the cloud notebooks backed by Google, are getting a holiday price cut. And chatter over at IDC, the research firm, suggests Chromebooks simply aren’t selling. For cloud services providers and channel partners, Chromebooks represented a potential — though unclear — path to recurring revenue from hardware. But is the Chromebook market stalling before it even had a chance to warm up?
Prices for Chromebooks, built by Acer and Samsung, now start at $299. Customers can also acquire Chromebooks as part of a three-year engagement that involves monthly fees of $20 to $30 per device. That monthly approach, called Chromebook for Business and Education, also includes Google customer support and SaaS applications.
The Chromebook buzz has evolved from blogger intrigue to blogger skepticism in recent months. In early October, Talkin’ Cloud noted that Chromebooks had apparently taken four steps forward. But perhaps I was too optimistic. More recently, InfoWorld’s Galen Gruman told readers to skip the devices. IDC, InfoWorld reported, thinks only about 300,000 Chromebook units have been shipped to retailers — compared to 31 million netbooks and 210 million laptops shipped this year.
When Chromebooks surfaced at the Google I/O conference earlier this year, Talkin’ Cloud believed the cloud-centric devices would potentially redefine the low-end PC and notebook markets. Chromebook hardware coupled with Google Apps, I initially believed, would be a compelling combination for consumers and universities — and maybe even channel partners. For its part, Google has continually refined and polished the Chromebook experience, streamlining the user interface and bolstering the Chrome Web Store with new apps.
Still, Google has said little to nothing about Chromebooks during recent earnings announcements. And the tablet craze, driven by Apple, has seemingly crushed low-end hardware rivals. Even Google has had to adjust its Chromebook messaging. Before launching Chromebooks, Google sometimes referred to the forthcoming devices as netbook-like in nature. But when tablets delivered a better user experience than netbooks, Google no longer compared Chromebooks to the netbook sector.
Now, Chromebook makers are cutting prices ahead of the holidays, and there are no official estimates from Google about Chromebook sales figures. Clearly, Acer and Samsung are holding a Chromebook sale. But is anybody buying?