While the least expensive Mac notebook is the MacBook Air at $999, Chromebooks can be had for as little as $199, with other models at $299, $399, $499 all the way up to $1,299. Depending upon your perspective, a plastic-coated Chromebook is just like a MacBook, but less expensive, right?
Making The Case For $199
Call me lucky, but I had to travel quite a bit between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I ventured into half a dozen stores to compare Samsung products, among them the aforementioned plastic Chromebooks.
What’s not to like? $199. Free Google apps. If you don’t mind Google rummaging through all your data, and have the privilege to be connected to WiFi or 3G/4G LTE all the time, and you can live with the most basic of basic apps Google can muster, a Chromebook looks like a bargain compared to a $999 MacBook Air.
Shoppers can be swayed by a low price and a brand name and it’s likely the surge in Chromebook sales (someone is counting, but nobody is revealing the numbers) is more price oriented than a MacBook sale.
Still, Chromebooks are a threat to traditional PC notebook makers (already suffering with low margins), and probably the Mac (although there’s little evidence… yet).
That’s why Microsoft has been running a bunch of TV commercials pointing out that customers are being ‘scroogled‘ by Google, and that a cheap Chromebook isn’t a ‘real computer.’
Yes, customers are being scroogled by Google, but a Chromebook is a real computer. It’s just not real powerful in the traditional sense when compared to a MacBook Air, for example.
Tablet With Keyboard
When you get down to the basics, a Chromebook is really nothing more than a tablet with a keyboard. Compare a Chromebook with an iPad. Add a physical keyboard, and thanks to the large number of apps, is probably more powerful and more useful than a Chromebook.
After all, what does a Chromebook do that you can’t do on an iPad?
The big difference is price and usability, which means the Chromebook is more like a MacBook Air than an iPad. But without all the capability and the premium price tag ($1,299 Chromebook notwithstanding).
Other than the large number of far more powerful and capable apps that are free and run on a MacBook (it’s a long list, starting with iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, iTunes, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, not to mention Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X, Aperture, Adobe’s Lightroom, Photoshop, et al, and Microsoft’s Office– but you get the idea), a Chromebook is just like a Mac.
It’s a lightweight notebook that does documents, email, contacts, web browsing, manages photos, plays music and movies, and does what almost everyone of us does on our Macs, but less. Is the Chrombook phenomenon a threat to Apple and the profitable Mac line?
Cheap vs. Premium
Cheap is always a threat. Except when it’s not. Many capable Android devices– smartphones and tablets– seem to be a threat to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, yet it’s Apple that prospers. The challenge for our favorite Mac maker is to create usable value in OS X, the free apps, and pro apps, that can go far beyond anything Google can build into a Chrome browser window, and yet make it easy enough for the masses to use.
That is, the masses of discerning buyers of premium products, rather than the great unwashed masses of humanity that scoop up Android tablets, smartphones, and Google Chromebooks only to have them gather dust in a drawer or closet.
Yes, the Chromebook, at the very basic level is exactly like a MacBook Air, and it can be had for $199. It just won’t do what a Mac can do. In fact, a Chromebook is not even as powerful as an iPad or an iPhone. Scroogled, indeed.