Netbooks get a Chrome Finish

May 13, 2011 by · Comments Off on Netbooks get a Chrome Finish
Filed under: Business, Technology 

When you Google “Netbook” you get thousands if not millions of hits.  The most optimistic ones predict the demise of the category.  Others make fun of the rapid growth and crash landing of it.  The remaining ones credit the iPad for talking over that space.  Google, in a traditional Googlesque move jumps in to redefine the category. hmmm.

Let’s recap.  Originally netbooks were small, light and only browser based.  They were the productization of Intel’s shinny new Atom processor, touted as a low power x86 that would allow powerful enough computers in these form factors with unmatched battery life.  They ran some kind of Linux (Ubuntu mostly), had a 7″ screen little memory, no hard drive to speak of, and a WiFi connection.  They would set you back $300 – $400.  Few bought them.  Microsoft, in a desperate territorial move, launched “Windows Starter Edition” at a significantly reduced licensing cost for OEMs.  The Windows netbooks were born.  Few bought them.  Then, OEMs in a smart move added up to 250GB of hard drive larger screens, more memory and a better keyboard.  Now they were selling them.  Unfortunately people bought them instead of laptops.  Wait … they were laptops … only cheaper.  Congratulations!  Microsoft and Intel had found a way to make less money with essentially the same product from essentially the same customers.  Not good.

Then the iPad was born.  Most techies entertaining to buy a low octane netbook either to substitute their aging laptop or as a lighter traveling device opted for Job’s money printing overgrown iPod Touch instead.  Why not?  a lot sexier, lighter, cooler, and just a little more money (there, among other things, relies the brilliance of Mr. Jobs).  So netbooks went into life support.  All OEMs are now jumping into the confused Tablet marketplace.  Apple, at the top, just laughs it out.

Where has Google been?  Well, Chrome is not new.  You may recognizer it from the fastest growing browser in the PC world.  Even as an OS it has been talked about for years.  But the world decided to focus more on Android since it is selling millions of smartphones and is sexier than a boring light OS.

But now  Google would launch the ChromeBook, a netbook with a twist.

Starting at a mere $379 with a $20 – $28 monthly fee on a 3 year contract for a WiFi cloud service. hmmm  again.  In this blogger’s humble opinion, my loyal reader (singular), what the … ?  Unless those cloud services are a real cloud or send you to the clouds using legal ways, I predict a disaster only rivaled by the NEXT computer.   I’m not ready to dump my iPad, at least for one of these.  And I don’t have a bag big enough for a fourth device.

The question is?  Is it a business model problem or a product problem?  Will you get one if you could get it for free and only pay the monthly fee?  Or better yet, what if Google can subsidize it 100% even the monthly fees to make money on advertisement alone?

And there, my fellow reader, among other things, rely the geniuses of Page and Brin.



Couch Potato Meets Herman Miller Potato

May 21, 2010 by · Comments Off on Couch Potato Meets Herman Miller Potato
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Google strikes again!  Now coming to a TV near you. In a much anticipated and with not too much fanfare, Silicon Valley’s fave (at least my fave) unveils TV plans during Google Developer’s Conference in San Fransisco.  There have been several trials, all failed. Bill Gates had predicted the convergence decades ago and with bandwidth becoming more and more available, it had to happen.  Not a surprising move but an interesting approach. 2 of the “three screens” converge.

In an unprecedented multi-partner new product category, Google – providing Andriod OS and Chrome browser, Sony – manufacturing the TV, Intel – providing processors, and Logitech keyboard and remote, WebTV is reborn.  But this time it is a TV that browses the Web, wait, no, a computer that plays TV, no wait, both.  The promise is that: both.  Based on the TV you’re watching, you’ll see ads, tweets, references, blogs, etc. that you can click and navigate to.  Google’s business model fits right in.

Straight forward, right? Not quite, much better.

The TV experience is passive.  You sit down pick a channel (or 17) and watch.  The Web is active: click, click, click.  TV works on a schedule (slightly disrupted by TiVo and other DVRs) and the Web is always available.  TV is to pass time, an entertainment.  The Web is to waste, sorry to spend time, searching, learning, and finding amazing content (like this blog); there’s a sense of discovery in every click.  TV is a family activity, at the very least to avoid talking.  The Web is individual.  What Google seems to want to offer is the Web experience for TV content.  All shows, all movies, all channels, all sports, all reality shows, all news; all of it ready to be found.  In other words, and infinite DVR with Google’s amazing search technology.  Pretty cool, and pretty disruptive for cable and satellite operators, especially with the newer generations that waste, I mean spend much more time online that in front of the TV.

To this humble blogger, these disruptions are what make radical changes in the way consumers behave. This will do to TV content what  iTunes and Rhapsody did to music, Expedia and Orbitz did to travel agencies, or Amazon did to retail.  A totally new way to find and enjoy professionally  produced content (I know you’re thinking “unlike this blog”): on your own schedule.  No more “I forgot to TiVo the game”.  The beauty of these disruptions is that they grow the pie and lengthen the tail.  In other words: more is consumed and there  is room for new suppliers.

Whether the two sets of habits converge nicely is yet to be seen.  But one thing is sure: multi-million dollar TV advertising campaigns will go the way of the LP: a distant memory of other times.



iPad, gPad, or MaxiPad?

May 12, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Well, it seems that the world is ponying up for what I call the third device unlike I had posted before.  Verizon appears to be working closely with Google on a better Pad.  At the same time Google has been posting videos of how Chrome OS will run on a tablet (I like tablet or slate better than pad for obvious reasons).  The thing is “with Verizon” not “supporting Verizon”.    My fellow reader (singular) this could really challenge the emperor’s Pad.

Let me tell you why I think that’s the case:  As lame as the whole category is in this blogger’s humble opinion, an unconnected (i.e. no cellular support) tablet is the lame of the lame.  It brings me back to the 90’s when you had to go home or to your office to get internet access.  Sure, the 3G iPad is about to debut, but @ $600+ i really think the market will be limited.  Now, if our friends in Verizon Wireless agree to pardon the Nexus One debacle and decide to subsidize the gPad, imagine what will that do to the price.  Neither Verizon, nor Google have to make money with the hardware, which really does a job to Jobs (sorry, couldn’t help it).  Estimates of the iPad cost put it at $250 – $300 US, add a 3G (or maybe a 4G – ooooh – radio), we could be seeing a street price in the $400’s.  Still hefty for a useless device, but less than $600+ for the emperor’s Pad (ePad?  now I’m pushing it).

But wait, there’s more!  Chrome Os is the word on the street, not Android.  What that may mean is a real processor capable of Flash (not Flash lite) and real browsing.  Yes, my friend, I believe it will be x86 based which means that every website you can go to on Chrome today – which is virtually any website known to mankind and robotkind – is accessible to your gPad.  Not even Palm’s (future HP’s MaxiPad) running WebOs can do that!  Apps anybody?  Yeah, sure, real apps with Java or the like, not fake widgets that look pixelated.  Content?  Did I mention it is Google?

So there it is.  As much as I hate the category, a subsidized x86 based tablet may be the ticket to ride.  BTW, Adsense must be having a ball with this post!  I’m sure the ads are funny albeit unrelated. Do comment.