Google’s Chromebook Pixel Strategy

Google’s new Chromebook Pixel is very, very high spec, and very expensive.


The most common response so far seems to be: “Why would you pay more than £1,000 for a chromebook??”

The answer to that is – I think – 2 things. The first is immediately obvious, the second is not obvious.

1. Trying to ‘out-Apple Apple’

This is fairly obvious. The ‘Pixel’ is very light, fairly thin, and very high resolution. If you remove the OS, those are basically the main attributes of a (forthcoming) Macbook Air Retina.

2. Positioning Chrome OS In the Eyes of Manufacturers

This is less obvious I think: The Chromebook Pixel is as much about encouraging other manufacturers to build high-spec Chrome-based laptops as it is about selling a product directly.

Android has been extremely successful on phones & tablets, partly because it spans the full market, from very cheap, low-spec phones, to things like the Nexus 4, Galaxy S3 LTE, etc.

Chrome-based laptops are seeing lots of success, and have risen to (for some retailers) 10% of all laptop sales. At the moment though, all Chrome-based laptops are very low spec, almost throwaway machines. Manufacturers are getting nicely into the pattern of churning out these low-spec laptops, and that is where they see them: low end. But Chrome can only grow so far as an OS when it is strictly confined to the bottom end of the market.

To convince manufacturers to produce higher spec Chrome-based laptops, they could spend tens of millions lobbying manufacturers, sat in partnership negotiations, offering funding pilot projects, etc.

Or – as they have done – they could simply release their own laptop at the very top end of the market. Doing this firstly gives them the control to make sure the first ‘high spec’ chromebook is high quality. More importantly, it changes the positioning instantly in the eyes of other manufacturers, encouraging them to think of Chrome OS in different terms, and produce higher spec models themselves.

2 replies
  1. Sam C
    Sam C says:

    Very interesting points Dan. The only thing I still wonder about though is that, although you (and Google) are positioning this as “the very top end of the market” I’ve yet to read a single non-biased (i.e. not a Google employee) review of the device that would set it anywhere near the top end of the laptop market.

    Though I suppose a big part of that is the OS holding it back as much as anything else. Will be interesting to see and it definitely seems like a bit of both factors could be at play but I’m not sure it is going to have the desired impact.

  2. Frankie Roberto
    Frankie Roberto says:

    I suspect that the reason Google developed the Chromebook Pixel was primarily so they could use it for their own staff and dogfood on their own desktop operating system, which given their huge number of global employees, will give them extra insights on what’s missing from the OS and where the pain points are.


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