Manufacturers, Retailers and the Problem with Google Chromebook

When I write about something, I am usually quite passionate about the subject. I try not to rant, and I try not to sound like a raving lunatic…but something has got me going crazy: Chromebooks. In particular, the lack of quality options other than the Chromebook Pixel, which is priced so ridiculously that I am not going to talk about it any further. Other Chromebooks, what I call mediocre options, are plagued by slow processors, availability problems (especially in Canada) and sub-par screens with poor viewing angles. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that Chromebook manufacturers are being held back by dark market forces partial to the old PC world. But I am not making any accusations….

Why do I care about Chromebooks? I think that the utility of a Chromebook has matured to the point that it is a useful tool beyond the education market or the casual user just looking to browse some web pages. With expanding offline capabilities, and the imminent availability of Android apps on the Chrome app store, I believe that Chromebooks have their place as a business tool or a heavy content creation tool. Further, Chromebooks tend to be lightweight with blazing fast startup and resume times. Perfect for the mobile enabled employee, particularly if their company offers access to virtualized apps or desktops through Citrix or equivalent.

But don’t Chromebooks require an Internet connection at all times, especially for business use? The short answer is a resounding no. If your company is using Google Apps for Work as its productivity suite then documents, email and calendar can be stored locally to your Chromebook so that you can work while disconnected from the Internet. The longer answer, in the case that your company does not use Google Apps for Work, is that the utility of a Chromebook is still somewhat tied to having a persistent Internet connection. Let’s be fair though…other than perhaps on an airplane, Internet connections are ubiquitous. Whether it is the office, home, Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, or by tethering to the smartphone that is always in your pocket or handbag, access to the Internet is not a big problem. Citrix and other remote desktop connections work very well on a Chromebook tethering to LTE or even a 3.5G (4G in the USA) network.

So, back to my opening statement: why don’t we have better Chromebooks with better availability to purchase them in the marketplace? Again, especially in Canada. Speaking of which, I just looked at Best Buy Canada and they are still offering the original Samsung Chromebook and not the Samsung Chromebook 2. Why? How about the Acer Chromebook 13 with the new Tegra K1 chip and 1080p screen? Not at any retailer I could find in Canada (Best Buy has it “coming soon”). A quick check of the Acer Canada website shows that the 1080p version (the one with a decent screen) is not available to buy direct, and there is one linked web retailer that I have never heard of. Oh, and visiting that site…the 1080p screen version isn’t available there either due to the product being on “backorder”. Acer does also list CDW as an option, but CDW is asking a whopping $70 (17.5%) premium above MSRP!!! A frustrating experience to say the least.

To the manufacturers and retailers out there: let’s get serious about Chromebooks and ensure that quality options are available in the marketplace. There are buyers. The data shows that the market for Chromebooks is growing faster than the traditional PC market. It is time to let this tiger out of its cage.

 

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