Posted by Matt Egan 24 December 2014
Chromebooks: ready for the prime time (but not for everybody)
More people are getting more interested in Chromebooks. But there is still a steep hill to climb.
For the past few years, each Christmas the Chromebook concept has hit the marketing airwaves looking like a strong sell. Cheap but high-quality laptops offering you everything you need, and nothing you don't. But The number of times friends and family ask me whether they should buy a Chromebook, and then balk when I explain that yes it is cheap, but that is because it isn't quite the same thing as the laptop they have at home.
Both Google and the manufacturers have consistently fallen at the consideration stage, with customers saying and thinking: 'oh - you can't run office'; 'the interface looks a bit different to Windows'; and 'I need a proper laptop'.
Which is a shame, in some respects. (See also: Best Chromebooks 2015 UK.)
You certainly can't run Microsoft Office on a Chromebook (but you can do productivity tasks). The Chromebook interface is very different to Windows and, no, you couldn't call a Chromebook a proper laptop. They are in many ways the reverse Surface Pro 3 - a tablet dressed up as a laptop. But that is the thing about Chromebooks: at what they do well they are at least as good as a cheap laptop or a less cheap tablet. And for a bargain price you get a well-built and portable laptop chassis which offers decent performance. (I would certainly recommend a Chromebook over any netbook, for instance. And for many user cases over a tablet. Writing and communicating makes more sense on a Chromebook than on an iPad.)
It would seem that this message is getting through, to some extent.
One third are considering a Chromebook
When asked 'WOULD YOU CONSIDER A CHROMEBOOK AS YOUR NEXT LAPTOP?', out of more than 5,000 PC Advisor readers who responded almost one in three said yes. Either 'Yes, definitely', which garnered 15 percent of the vote, or 'not sure, but interested' (16 percent). People say odd things when responding to online polls, of course, but if 31 percent of the 12 million readers of PC Advisor either intend to buy, or are interested in buying, a Chromebook, Google and the hardware OEMs would be very happy campers indeed.
There are two sides to every story, however. And in this case: three. Because although that 31 percent is higher than expected, a surprisingly high 7 percent of the tech savvy readers of PC Advisor say they 'don't know' about Chromebooks. If that is true it is a worrying statistic for Google and the rest.
Perhaps more expected but no less concerning is the other - biggest of all - chunk of respondents. The 62 percent of respondents who say that they are definitely not considering a Chromebook, and are determined to stay with Windows, OS X or Linux.
These are readers of PC Advisor, not the casual consumer to whom I referred at the top of this article. So I presume they are aware of what is Google Chrome, and aware of the Chromebook concept. Perhaps their reaction is understandable, and Chromebook makes more sense for those who wish only to surf, communicate and undertake office tasks. But although the approval and interest of one third of consumers is a positive sign for Google Chrombooks, that other two thirds will take some time to shift. See also: How to run Steam on a Chromebook: Can a Chromebook really be used as a gaming machine?