The Chromebook never did quite make it. You may have seen them in stores or you may be one of the few people who have one for work or school. But for most of us, it remains something we’ll never see, never touch, and probably never think about.
The Chromebook concept started in 2011 when Google announced that it had built an entire operating system around Google Docs and the Chrome browser. The idea was that you could get a whole computer that worked decently without having to pay a king’s ransom for a Microsoft Windows license.
Back in the early days of 2014 I was already calling the Chromebook dead on arrival, saying that any sales figures reported by hardware manufacturers were due to “palettes of unsold Chromebooks.” In other words, retailers may have been buying them but they weren’t selling them.
Here it is over three years later and surprisingly there are still a few Chromebooks out there. Some schools and workplaces like them, not because they’re cheap but because they are largely immune to malware and since there is practically no software for this platform it is therefor impossible for the user to install the wrong thing. But, Chromebooks have been under siege now for over six years, and here’s why:
All the way back in 2009, we all believed the future of computing was a cheap laptop that would cost under $300 and provide a decent, if not wonderful, computing experience. And then, iPad. With the tablet space shrinking as phones get bigger, it’s hard to remember how much of a tidal wave iPads were. The first generation was a total turkey with a slow processor and practically no apps designed for the large screen, and it was still an instant sensation. Over the years as the line has seen 8 generations and four different sizes, it’s taken all the breath out of the mini-laptop movement.
The big reason Chromebooks were invented in the first place was that Microsoft was charging up to $129 per computer just for the operating system. This made a cheap laptop basically impossible. Well, Microsoft sharpened up. They started with the “Starter Edition,” a crippled version of Windows 7 that they gave to manufacturers for free, and then proceeded to give away Windows 8 licenses to pretty much anyone who made a device with a screen smaller than eleven inches. Microsoft is a big company and they proved they’re willing to take a loss in order to crush the competition.
In the meantime they developed Windows 10, which is the most efficient, most secure Windows OS ever, and came up with very reasonable licensing. They even recently revealed “Windows 10 S,” another shot across Chromebook’s bow which adds even more security by taking away the ability to load most apps (including Chrome.) I’m not convinced that people really wanted Chromebooks because of the software it DIDN’T have, but hey it’s just another way for Microsoft to crush the competition.
And most of all…
Chromebooks continue to be a near-failure in the marketplace, because honestly there’s practically nothing fun to do with them. People use phones, tablets, or laptops for work, but they also want to use them on their downtime while traveling. If I had a Chromebook I’d still have to bring an iPad or something else so I could effectively watch the streaming programs I wanted, and when I look at all the little utilities and things that inhabit my other devices, I can’t imagine being stuck without them.
So, all I can say is if those palettes of unsold Chromebooks are still there 4 years later, they must be getting pretty big.