Google Chromebook Pixel; or how do you put a price on the Web?

First off: How great are leaks, and all the buzz and over analysis that follow?

What’s in a price tag? That’s the main question to ask when it comes to Google’s new, in-house designed Chromebook Pixel, now available. At $1,299, it’s definitely a steep price for a product that comes with untested technology, design and, more importantly, an Operating System (Chrome OS) that is both compelling and polarizing, with an ecosystem not quite as robust as it should, or could be. It is, however, the right move for Google to make.

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On the other hand, at $1,299, it’s an investment towards a platform, a concept that is, quite possibly, the future of computing. Perhaps not in this form, or in this product, maybe not even in this generation (next 5 years), but it’s definitely the future: The Cloud. It’s imminent. It’s powerful. It’s also really, really difficult to justify such a price, when there’s no exact measure as to how you value what is essentially the Web. 

A Chromebook, or Chrome OS in particular, is basically a browser-centric system. “It’s just Google Chrome/ It’s just a browser,” is the most common reaction to the concept. And in a way, it isn’t incorrect to think that. But, it’s so much more than that. There’s a very grown, underlying world that is unlocked through this concept of a Cloud-centric platform. The whole web? It’s there, it’s what most of us use as our sole computing activity. Apps? There, too. Full-featured replacements to favorites such as Microsoft Office, Video Editors and even the once-irreplaceable Adobe Photoshop are all available. All more than capable, most of them actually free to use. Games? Staples like Angry Birds have made their way to the web, or even began as web products. What about storage? There are literally hundreds of Cloud storage services (and counting) providing more free space than you could ever need. You have a very lightweight operating system with an infinity of applications that all boil down to the web; a free standard (the Internet) with numerous, very capable and very free applications. How do you put a price tag on such a concept? And so we go back to the Chromebooks themselves.

In its introduction, a Chromebook, in concept, was to be an inexpensive device that freed you of such concerns such as losing files, frustratingly slow user experiences and free of such things as licenses. You could dunk a Chromebook in the water and, being so inexpensive, just buy another one, log in and you’re right back where you left you last session. The notion of such an inexpensive device with theoretically low risks really hit that point earlier this year, when Samsung introduced its latest Chromebook, at $249. Earlier Chromebooks by Samsung itself and Acer launched at prices ranging from $300-500. Not cheap, but not exactly premium. All with cheap components and low margins of profit just to support the notion that computing was more accessible and powerful than ever before. At these prices, Chromebooks weren’t exactly chump change, but nowhere near the usual splurges or full on investments computers usually are. 

And yet here is the Chromebook Pixel. Google’s first proposal for what a Chromebook, or a Computing device should, or could be. A beautifully designed laptop with a beautiful, extremely high definition, almost 13” touchscreen that flaunts an untested 3:2 format and a relatively new Operating System. An unproven device with an unconventional screen and an even more curious platform in Chrome OS. At Retina Macbook Pro level prices. Aiming straight at Apple, at the High End, and at Creative types. It’s a bold 1.0 proposal, that’s for sure. 

It's definitely, however, the right move for Google to make: This is the definitive Chromebook to show off Chrome OS.

But the question that this all brings is, as marketing blitzes from competitors will undoubtedly joke about: How much would you pay for a web browser? How -do- you price the Internet? Give it some guts and call it an Operating System. Add a touchscreen and it just adds to the whole Android and Chrome OS overlap, and who swallows the other... But that’s a mess for another day.

For now, Google is entering the computer hardware business with a very loud, very expensive and very beautiful bang. And what matters, really, is not what Google is doing here. What matters is how the ripples may (or may not) shape the landscape of computing. 2 years ago, when Chrome OS and Chromebooks landed in the market to not very bright sales, it was a very different world. 2 years after, and it might just be a different story. It was a very different world before Apple introduced the iPad to many doubts, and look at where we are now. You can build a beautiful device with a compelling user experience built into an innovative operating system, and it might not even register a blip with the consumer. Then again, it could change the world as we know it.

It’s all in the marketing.

Find me on Facebook right here: Alberto Endavant
Find me on Twitter as well, here: @BetoMcFly

-Credits for photographs and video go to The Verge-

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