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Chromebook Pixel: Cloud crazy Google’s next big play

25 Feb 13

Going cloud crazy? Google hopes you are with the launch of the Chromebook Pixel.

It’s a terrifically expensive notebook replacement with a super-high-res screen and it’s optimised for not much more than surfing the Net.

While some commentators say it makes the Surface Pro look cheap (and useful), carrying as it does a US1299.00 base price, others reckon you’ve just seen the future.

First, the hardware lowdown. Taking a page out of Apple’s well-leafed book of making hardware appealing, the Pixel has a super-high res (2560 X 1700, er, pixels– that’s more than Apple’s Retina) 12.85-inch screen and a fancy-looking brushed alu case.

At around 1.8cm thick, the device weighs roughly 1.5kg.

Based on an Intel Core i5 a dual-core 1.8GHz processor with 4GB of RAM, battery life isn’t that great – Google says ‘up to 5 hours’.

It is, in effect, a netbook. An expensive one. Which runs Google’s Chrome OS, famously derided by Steve Ballmer (which is looked upon by industry insiders as something of a blessing) and which is really geared for the internet and all the cloud services that Google itself offers. Including, notably, a terabyte of Google Drive capacity. Expect that screen to be good and smudgy, too – it is a touch-enabled device.

"It's clear touch is here to stay and it's the future," says Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome at Google.

The point of departure is the new generation – people stuff lives upstairs (in the cloud, not heaven); "We think this is a real game changer in terms of people living in the cloud," Pichai hopes.

It’s Apple in Google’s crosshairs…no, it’ Microsoft. No, it’s both. “"What you're getting from our hardware in many ways is far superior to Apple,” says Pichai.

It is in many ways similar too, especially in terms of premium pricing. The base 32GB WiFi model is, as we’ve mentioned, available in the US for $1299, while a 64GB 4G LTE version is set to arrive in April for $1499 (USD).

But what ties people to Microsoft? Office, mainly (and all those legacy apps from decades of Wintel; say hello to Gootel, since Chrome OS is on Intel).

Chucking that might be a possibility for consumers, who can get to grips with Google Docs and Gmail quite readily; for business, not so much. What ties people to Apple? Loyalty; misplaced or otherwise, it’s going to be hard to shift.

So who’s seen the future? "Google smells blood at Microsoft”, says IDC analyst Crawford Del Prete. "They are an incredibly interesting proposition."

Our view? Bold move, Google. It hasn’t always gone that well with its hardware; the tablet market has shown cloud citizens want portability (1.5kg?) and battery life (5 hours?) almost as much as they want cheap.

Factor these..factors…in, and the best we can say is ‘good luck with that.’

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