This post was written when I was a child, I’m only keeping it here for archival purposes. All of these words should be only taken in context.
Google decided that it’d be a wonderful idea to release a 1300$ laptop — the Chromebook Pixel — without any major developer event behind it last week. On the surface, this is a terrible idea. Thinking about it some more, it still seems like a bad idea. It only makes sense if you have been following Chrome OS for some time — even then, it still seems like a bad idea. Incredulously as well, the marketing for the Pixel states that it is for those who live on the web — the same as the 250$ Samsung Chromebook, mind you.
Back in the day of when the CR-48 was the hottest thing around, I was fairly active in theChrome OS forums.1 In said forum, the topic of “What would your dream Chromebook have?” came up a good percentage of the time. Answers would vary from the basic super light and thin, to specs such as: metallic build, backlit keyboard, super high resolution, touchscreen, and LTE.
Sound familiar? It should. Google employees were known to lurk the forums,2 and they took note. Like the development of Unity in Ubuntu, Chrome OS has been very user focused for most development cycles.
Originally, Chrome OS was not consumer oriented. When the first two generations of Chromebooks were released, Google was essentially only targeting education and business for deployment. It was a value add on to Google Apps, which has been spreading in usage highly in recent years.
When the ARM Samsung model was released, it was the first Chromebook targeted towards consumers, hence it being the first Chromebook released that had a huge ad campaign following it. The Nexus 7 of Chromebooks is an apt description for it. But, Google themselves have never made low end hardware their thing. They have always left the lower end up to OEMs to grab. They only release lower end products when they want market share — hence the Nexus 7 and ARM Chromebook.
The new Chromebook is at it’s very essence, the Nexus One of Chromebooks. While the ARM Chromebook is the Droid, and the CR-48 being the G1. The Nexus one was an incredibly nice piece of hardware — albeit costly — that ran an OS that was still a toy. Android 2.1 in hindsight was horrible. Saying Tinkerers and people connected into the Google world loved it is a great justification, but that applies to Chrome OS just as well.3
Might be useful in the future, not entirely sure about now
Like the Nexus One, the Chromebook Pixel is a promise from Google of what’s next, not of what’s now. Google has been transforming Chrome OS from a browser only based system to one of much familiarity in the last year. First they started with the shell, dubbed aura. Now, they have been working on a new app system, called packaged apps. The whole idea of packaged apps is to take what is great about web apps — UI in HTML/CSS rather than XML, running the newest version on launch of the app — and tie it with what we expect from native apps — running in windows, access to lower level features like ports.4
Packaged apps however, are not out of beta yet. You cannot search the Chrome Web Store for a packaged app and expect to find one, nor does Google even ship many with Chrome OS outside of a Calculator and Camera. They should have waited until packaged apps were ready to go to ship the Pixel. I’d imagine that there will be more to be announced at Google IO, but they also should have waited until then to announce the Pixel.
Even more so, packaged apps being out of beta still wouldn’t make much of a difference unless Google switched completely to them for all of the stock apps in Chrome OS. This would have the side effect of making Windows, OSX, and Linux all ship with the stock Chrome OS apps, as packaged apps are cross platform and can run on any platform that Chrome does — Yes, even Android, but i’d be for the good of the platform as a whole.
The Chromebook Pixel will one day be relevant, but this is akin to the first Macbook Air. It’s a great indicator of how Google’s computers will look a couple years from now, but this generation is too costly and lackluster internally for anyone to actually buy it. This’ll be a great laptop a couple of years from now. Like the Nexus program, it will soon become commonplace to see in most nerd circles.
The only OS from Google is Android, Chrome OS is just some toy
As an Android user though, one has to wonder if Chrome OS is even worth bothering with. The answer simply, is yes.
Last year at Google IO, during the Chrome Fireside Chat, the question of “Will Chrome OS and Android one day be merged?” came up. They said yes. Another key point to heed is that during the introduction of Android itself, Vic Gundotra5 stated that the point of Android is to get a capable browser in front of everyone, even though that they couldn’t pragmatically make web apps the app system of Android at launch.
Even if the masses are ardent haters of web apps, the writing is on the wall. This Java based app architecture is the present and past. The future is web, even if the current implementation is nothing but a toy.
Some people write analytical essays on where Android will go, not knowing the real path. I just tell them to look at their laptop.
- Which was an officially sanctioned, ran by Google, group. ↩
- Eventually they added a badge system that would have a blue “G” next to official Google Employees. ↩
- Chromebooks are super hackable with each device having an unlockable bios and other items of note. ↩
- Then the head of Google Developers, not Google+ ↩