Monday, September 3, 2018

Chrome OS Is Set to Expand Beyond the Education Market

Peter Bright (via Hacker News):

Most Chrome OS systems are cheap: plastic instead of metal; TN displays instead of IPS; screen resolution that felt cramped and low a decade ago; inexpensive ARM processors rather than more powerful and pricier Intel ones. In a lot of regards, Chromebooks are hitting the same price points—with the same compromises—as netbooks did in the mid-2000s. This has given Chromebooks great appeal in the K12 education market, where the low price and almost disposable nature of the devices makes them a good match for careless student users.

But these $600 machines aren’t aimed at those same students. Lenovo reps told us that its new Chromebook was developed because the company was seeing demand for Chromebooks from users with a bit more disposable income. For example, new college students that had used Chrome OS at high school and families who wanted the robustness Chrome OS offers are looking for machines that are more attractive, use better materials, and are a bit faster and more powerful. The $600 machines fit that role.

And that’s why Microsoft should be concerned. This demand shows a few things. Perhaps most significantly of all, it shows that Chrome OS’s mix of Web applications, possibly extended with Android applications, is good enough for a growing slice of home and education users. Windows still has the application advantage overall, but the relevance of these applications is diminishing as Web applications continue to improve. A browser and the Web are sufficient to handle the needs of a great many users.

Previously: Everything You Knew About Chromebooks Is Wrong, Chrome OS Is Getting Linux App Support.

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Even the low-end Chromebooks often have (non-retina) IPS displays nowadays. Of course there are still lots of poorly-designed PC laptops (Chrome OS or Windows), but there are good ones out there, and when combined with Apple's ongoing keyboard woes, I just don't see a hardware/design advantage for Cupertino anymore. If it weren't for a handful of Mac-only apps and my general familiarity with the OS, I would have switched already.

What frustrates me is most is — unlike the netbook era — present-day Apple has the ability to make a good $499 notebook. All they'd have to do is take the current-gen iPad and turn it into a notebook (larger screen/case/storage + macOS). Apple needs to make an education/entry-level notebook if they want the Mac to remain relevant to the next generation. Or maybe Apple doesn't care if the Mac fades into irrelevance in 10 years... I guess as long as they can keep a handful of schools with iPads, they can still make money and claim to be 'passionate' about education.

Never mind Macs; just watch as Google devours Apple’s iDevice market while Sculley 2.0 sits on his inflated profits and his flat sales and his thumb up his ass. With leadership like that, this’d be a very good time to shut Apple down and give the money back to the shareholders, while it’s still worth more than penny stock.

This seems like a natural progression for Chrome OS. It has every reason to eat into Windows territory because some web apps are good enough, and in some cases better, than their Windows counterparts.

When it comes to the Mac, the current hardware worries me way less than Apple's lack of progress on macOS. All it takes for Apple to fix the hardware is a new generation of laptops. And they have all the resources to make this happen (talent, experience, purchasing power, etc.).

Software, on the other hand, requires continual significant improvements to platform APIs, and adoption of those improvements by the 3rd party development community. Cultivating adoption can be difficult, and the lag time for these improvements is usually measured in years.

Mac apps have always had enough of an edge to make the Mac as a whole feel like a superior experience. I still think this remains the case, but I also think Apple hasn't been pushing forward as much as they should, nor with as much attention to detail as they need. On top of this, the early commentary about Marzipan makes it seem like this strategy will result in embarrassingly bad "Mac apps".

So I think the currently weak laptop lineup is maybe a red herring. If macOS doesn't get more focus, it will be easier for Chrome OS to eat into the Mac's market share just as it's doing with Windows today.

> Mac apps have always had enough of an edge

Too bad Apple makes Mac devs waste time with things like sandboxing and weird App Store requirements, instead of allowing them to focus on making these apps even better.

Nigel: "If macOS doesn't get more focus, it will be easier for Chrome OS to eat into the Mac's market share just as it's doing with Windows today."

Mac market share is irrelevant. The only reason Apple keeps Macs around is as the development platform for iOS. The threat is to iOS market share. If Chrome/Android eat that, the future of Macs is academic as there won't be an Apple to make them.

Lukas: "Too bad Apple makes Mac devs waste time with things like sandboxing … instead of allowing them to focus on making these apps even better."

Yes, because nothing says "positive user experience" like a personal computer full of attractive apps and rampant malware. The security model on PC OSes was always utter garbage, completely unfit for purpose. The only thing more painful for everyone than belatedly retrofitting a marginally-competent security model now is continuing to ignore the problem.

I think Peter Bright is wrong. There have been a lot of Intel powered, IPS display Chromebooks on the market for a while now. Not high end i5/i7 mobile chips generally, but decent basic systems. Who cares if it's metal or plastic? I don't understand what's wrong with supposedly sophisticated tech users when it comes to "the shiny". I once had my daughter put a dent in my MacBook Pro case, it was hundreds of dollars to fix!!!!

Depending on the model of Chromebook, can't it run Android apps, Linux apps, and web apps? Seems pretty compelling to me, but what do I know, I still think desktop Linux is the bee's knees.

[…] Previously: Chrome OS Is Set to Expand Beyond the Education Market. […]

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