You might think that everyone in the technology gadget industry these days is trying to be like Apple but it’s just not true. Product differentiation requires PC makers, smartphone makers, and tablet builders to Think Different™.
While commanding a marketshare of barely double digits, Apple’s Mac holds onto half the PC industry’s profits thanks to robust sales, premium prices, and the necessary gross margins to bring profits. Here’s a look at the latest Mac killer at Mac-like prices. It’s from Google.
Pixel Hardware Brand
Apple is a hardware company. Google is an advertising company. Microsoft is a software company. Each one derives revenue and profits in different ways. So, why are the latter two trying to be like Apple? That’s where the technology money is these days. Hardware.
Microsoft entered the PC hardware industry a few years ago with the Surface notebooks, and since then has expanded the line to cover entry-level Surface models to professional level Surface Book notebooks. The market responded appropriately because Surface sales are down while Mac sales are at record levels. Again.
Google entered the smartphone and tablet industry a few years ago and now pushes the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL and the 4-in-1 Pixelbook notebook running Android OS and Chrome OS, respectively.
The Pixel 2 models look much like Apple’s own iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, but without all the cool hardware. Instead, Google is relying on software via AI– artificial intelligence and the built-in Assistant– to differentiate the Pixel models from Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy models.
The Pixelbook is a thin touchscreen device which runs Chrome OS, comes with a big Mac-like trackpad, and a 12.3-inch Quad HD LCD display which puts it in league with Apple’s entry-level MacBook models which start at $1,299 (which, interestingly enough, is the same price as the entry-level MacBook Pro, so there’s that).
The aluminum case features an Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, and an option for 512GB of SSD storage so it’s comparable to either the MacBook or MacBook Pro. Battery life is rated at about 10 hours, but it has a fast-charging feature to get two hours from 15 minutes of plug in time. Stereo speakers, four microphones, and even a 720p camera make it attractive at $999.
This is no Mac killer. Instead, Pixelbook might be the most expensive Chromebook you can buy but you shouldn’t. Remember, Chromebooks only run Chrome OS and Android applications– no Windows, no Office, no Photoshop, and none of the applications you take for granted on the Mac. Meanwhile, Macs run Windows and Linux and macOS High Sierra and all at the same time if you want.
Between you and me and the Brooklyn Bridge down the street, I have trouble figuring out Google’s endgame here. Is Pixelbook a reference design? At $999 I predict it will not be a big seller so what’s the point? Microsoft’s Surface notebook-tablet hybrids have not sold well, and traditional Windows-based PC sales have been going down for years, partly in thanks to cheap Chromebooks, so what does an expensive Chromebook do for anyone?
It’s thin, it’s lightweight, it has a nice touchscreen, but it’s hobbled by Chrome OS and applications of substance, which seems to be what Mac users want and almost nobody else.
Alright, that said, Pixelbook has a few things I like. Touchscreen is one. Apple could do something similar with macOS Bakersfield, due out this time next year, but instead we’re treated to another separate expense with iPad Pro; truly a professional level tablet with a screen to die for, but– oh wait. Nevermind. Apple is in the hardware business. So is Google but you’d never know it.