Should Apple Worry About Google’s Chromebook?

Google announced the retail launch of the Chromebook at their recent Google I/O conference in San Francisco, the notebooks that run Google’s cloud-based Chome OS.

The machines, manufactured by Acer and Samsung, will be available in internationally from June 15, a year-and-a-half after Apple’s original iteration of the iPad.

Mobile computing has been significantly redefined in the past 18 months, with countless computer makers coming out with tablets and other ultraportable computing solutions – from the MacBook Air and iPad, to the Samsung Series 9 notebook. All examples of popular manafacturers shifting their product design to portable computing, even more so than before.

In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at whether Apple, the maker of both the highly successful MacBook Air and the iPad, have anything to worry about in Google’s cloud-based Chromebooks.

What Is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is Google’s name for a notebook that operates using their Chrome operating system, that’s based entirely in the cloud with nothing but the OS itself stored locally.

In terms of its technical specifications, the Chromebooks are machines with fast SSDs, very similarily to the drives found inside the MacBook Air and iPad. However, the drive configurations differ; Chromebooks start and end at 16GB capacities, whereas the iPad ranges from 16 to 64GB capacities.

Even though there is solid state storage on board, it’s not intended for mass storage as Google’s focus is on the web. Their philosophy is that with everything stored on the web you can simply pick up any Chromebook (or any notebook with Chrome on), sign in and access all your data.

Being a web app focused device, the Chromebook stores everything on the web, which has both its advantages and disadvantages. On the other hand, the iPad can boast half a million apps available for the majority of customers to download and run natively on their tablet.

The Chromebooks have a clear focus on the web, not on the same native applications that Apple loves to boast about. In fact, like the iPad, there are both 3G and WiFi-only models of any Chromebook so you can have constant connectivity. The real motivation in choosing a 3G-enabled model is that Samsung only asks for another $50, rather than Apple’s $100 premium.

"Nothing but the web" (when you've got a connection!)

An Argument for the Chromebook

Let’s keep this argument balanced and actually point out that the Chromebook might be the future. Google has done their research with Chrome OS; it’s true that most people can live with only a browser. I know I certainly could! For enterprise and education customers, the Chromebook seems like a fitting alternative to traditional desktops or notebooks that you could actually imagine being used. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t really say the same for the tablet.

Google’s Chrome OS team have created something innovative while everyone else is jumping on Apple’s success in the tablet sphere (including Google’s Android team). If the notebook makers start driving their prices down, there’s no doubt that the new, cloud-based net-books will eat away at the traditional ones.

It just seems like this isn’t an iPad killer, but rather, a more amicable solution that could potentially work alongside some of Apple’s future products. Wouldn’t a well-priced Chromebook running cloud-based iWork, iTunes and Angry Birds be pretty awesome as a secondary computer?

I’ll be honest with you. If I were an average joe (and not a massive Apple fan), I’d probably choose a Chromebook over an iPad as a secondary computer. I mean, I love my iPad and all, but I can’t really take it out of the house and be productive on it.

Apple's iPad can have 3G connectivity, but it comes at a $100 premium.

Should Apple Worry?

The Chromebook is really aiming to take a cut out of the notebook’s market share, rather than the tablet’s. We still see a definitive, thick line between notebook and tablet, so it’s highly unlikely that Apple will see any difference in their day-to-day operations right now.

The real difference will come unnoticed as consumers, especially those in business, move off the fence and potentially choose the cheaper, productive Chromebooks over iPads.

Apple hasn’t really targeted the web application market in the same way as they have for mobile or other native platforms. They have been rumoured to be working on a cross-platform web-based word processor, but we have no definite proof. It’s clear Apple and Google are driving in different lanes at the moment and currently there’s no reason for one to bump into the other.

I love the concept behind the Chromebook and would like to get my hands on one, but I doubt it would change my mind about the brilliance of the iPad.

Your Thoughts

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! Be honest, would you choose a Chromebook over an iPad – what are your reasons?

Do they belong in different spaces or are they competitors? What are your thoughts on the type of cloud computing exemplified by the Chromebook?

  • Natalia Ventre

    I think that the Chromebook may be a competitor to the iPhone, because if everything is on the cloud and it’s 3G you have to pay a monthly plan to use it, the iPad is stand – alone in that sense. For me the Chromebook is more business oriented.

    I like the overall concept of Google, but I rather spend money on an iPad and install Dropbox. I’m sure that if I buy a Chromebook I’m going to regret it eventually.

    • Connor Turnbull

      But you can’t make calls on an iPhone.

      • Hammy Havoc

        You can make calls on anything you like that runs iOS providing you have WiFi or 3G. Doesn’t have to utilise a SIM; You can use VOIP and get your own number or use one of the many other VOIP clients like Skype.

        • Connor Turnbull

          My apologises, I meant you CAN make calls on an iPhone. Stupid typo!

          As I meant, you can’t make calls on a Chromebook.

  • Stephen

    “I mean, I love my iPad and all, but I can’t really take it out of the house and be productive on it”

    Assuming that you have an Internet connection, why would that be?

    • Connor Turnbull

      I write a lot of content, just like this, into WordPress. I just simply can’t produce the same results on an iPad, due to the lack of needed features in the WordPress app.

  • Hammy Havoc

    iPad. iPad every time. I already own a MacBook and I’m going to be moving onto a MacBook Pro since I’ve had my MacBook since launch and it’s choking slightly whilst working in Pro Tools HD 9.

    The iPad fills this niche of being able to easily walk around and operate the device. It is the ultimate in portable computing. If I wanted to set the device down on a surface and type, I’d use the MacBook.
    I’ve tried Chromium OS several times and can see why it would be great for most consumers, but I’m not in that majority.

  • Craig Lackie

    iPad. The Chromebooks are not aiming to replace iPads, but they’re aiming to provide a relatively cheap solution to the bulk of consumers.

    Funnily enough, I was talking about this the other day on my online magazine:

    Chromium OS is great and all, but it’s not quite there yet and is why I will be sticking to Snow Leopard on my MacBook.

  • Connor Stuart

    The Chromebook sounded awesome for me to take to school and take notes in a few classes with… until I remembered our school’s really against other devices being on their network (and I’m not paying for another internet subscription). And even if the Chromebook does do some offline voodoo for webapps, with Gmail’s offline mode corrupting on me a couple times I will always prefer a dedicated application or app to a web-app-workaround.

    I mean, the iPad isn’t perfect for productivity so I may end up getting a refurb MBA, but the iPad suddenly becomes a whole load more useful than a chromebook when the internet connectivity dies.

  • Mike Tipton

    The concept of a web based computer is one of the goofier schemes that I have heard of. The “world wide web” is not as world wide as some would like to believe. I have just returned from a fishing trip in SE Minnisota. The “bluff country”. Cellular coverage is very spotty. I had to give one fisherman verbal directions back to the main highway because he had planned to use his iPhone as a gps. But couldn’t download the map. The resort that I stayed at had wifi, but it was slow! with my iPad I could download the emails, work offline, and then email my results. Having to work with the slow wifi in realtime would have been excruciating. I have stayed at other resorts where the wifi was quite good, but the satellite acess to the Internet was slow.

    If you flying, you are probably out of luck for Internet access.

    The Internet computer scheme is on a par with the scheme that was proposed in the ’80s to replace desktop PCs with dumb terminals connected to servers. The idea never went anywhere.