I believe 2013 will be the year of the Google Chromebook. As evidence, in addition to Acer and Samsung, Lenovo has joined the ranks with the exciting introduction of the ThinkPad X131e targeted towards education at a suggested retail price of $429 (US).
Stacked up against other recent introductions, some would argue this is a premium price but a Chromebook should be about value and not price.
In my opinion, the technology is available to assemble a high end Chromebook and its time for Google to flex its innovative muscle, set the bar high, and get into the game. The goal of this product would be to entice folks to engage in the Google cloud experience by offering an Ultrabook like device. The assumption is this device will be used frequently for important purposes and its design and build should reflect this assumption.
The following is how I would put it together.
The design of the case becomes a mix of aesthetics, durability, and function. As for me, I lean toward polycarbonate over metal as I would like the case to be durable with a matte finish to hide fingerprints. The product needs to feel firm to the grip and convey the message it’s strong enough to take a bump or two in everyday use. Weight is important but I can certainly live with a total weight around 1.15 to 1.75 kg (~2.5-4 lbs).
This is where I would put the money. I would go with a high quality 11.6 inch display with a resolution of 1920×1200 (HD) or greater coated with a matte finish to resist glare. A Nexus 10 resolution of (2560×1600) or a PPI greater than 200 would cinch the deal. The bottom line is Chrome OS is all about the web and the screen must display web content with clarity and great color accuracy.
Although touch screens are the vogue, with a keyboard and trackpad there is really no need to smear a great looking screen with an oily finger.
Keyboard / Trackpad
The Nexus Chromebook should have a full size chiclet-styled keyboard whose keys are responsive and comfortable with the ability to back light as needed. Out of the box, the first time you use it, the trackpad should just work. Finger rejection should be handled extremely well with accidental clicks being rare.
The web is rich with high quality audio content and the Nexus Chromebook must support it. I would add “Beats”, “THX”, or “Dolby” audio enhancements for high fidelity playback through headphones and install speakers capable delivering clear audio whether it’s in the form of a lecture on YouTube or tunes from Google music.
Performance / Battery
I would go with a high performance low power ARM processor. Nvidia Tegra, Samsung Exynos, or the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor should deliver a positive user experience. I would ship with 2 GB of RAM standard expandable to 4 GB. I believe expandable RAM is a mitigation to a commonly performed test performed by Chromebook reviewers. The test is how many open/active browser tabs will the hardware support without noticeable delays.
I would power all this with a replaceable Lithium polymer battery capable of 7 hours or more of operation.
The Nexus Chromebook should deliver the very best WI-FI experience. This includes dual-band, dual-antennas supporting WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (MIMO+HT40).
In addition to WI-FI, the latest BlueTooth and USB should be supported.
Camera / Camcorder
This is a situation where you need to pick your battles wisely. The question is how much value does a high resolution camera add to a device like this? I suggest the process of taking pictures is better served by a smaller device like a Smart Phone. However, including a HD webcam for video conferencing adds value.
This is quick sand. The truth is in most cases 16 GB of storage is adequate when you leverage the cloud but it sounds inadequate. Folks rationalize larger amounts of storage by stating there will be times when the cloud is not available and they want to listen to tunes or watch a movie. From a marketing perspective offering 32 or 64 GB of storage is a wise move.
- Ambient Light
Now here is the conundrum. This is not a new idea as this device already exists in some form or another from manufacturers like Asus, Acer and Lenovo running the Android operating system. In the case of Asus you have the “Transformer” series, Acer the “ICONIA W5”, and the “IdeaTab” from Lenovo. In addition, the market is seeing new products from Microsoft running Windows 8.
Google needs to take a leadership role, assume a calculated risk, and build a high end Nexus Chromebook as waiting too long will be an opportunity missed and a void someone else will fill.
$499.00 – 16 GB + 100 GB of Google Drive Cloud Storage for 2 years
$549.00 – 32 GB + 100 GB of Google Drive Cloud Storage for 2 years
A leaked document indicates the pending release of a HP Chromebook with a 14 inch screen.
Acer states its $199 Chromebook now accounts for 5-10% of all U.S. shipments.