Over the past couple of weeks, a new effort by Google has started coming into focus. First discovered as ‘Chromebook X’ and later revealed to be moving forward as ‘Chromebook Plus’, Google’s move to create a differentiation in the Chromebook ecosystem is one that could have lasting ramifications on the market as a whole. Specifically, the consumer market is the main target of this new branding, and if it gets leveraged in the right way, I think Google could use ‘Chromebook Plus’ to push us to a new level of fit and finish in the ChromeOS landscape.
What is ‘Chromebook X’ or ‘Chromebook Plus’
You can read the original findings on ‘Chromebook X’ here or the follow-up post about all of this falling under the ‘Chromebook Plus’ branding moving forward; but if you want to stay put, I’ll give you the quick and simple rundown.
‘Chromebook Plus’ (how I’ll refer to it from here on) looks to be a branding that will do a few things for Chromebooks. First, it will give them added branding on the outside and on the inside with additionas like a custom boot screen. Second, it will mean those Chromebooks will be in line to get additional features that standard Chromebooks won’t have (stuff like 16 virtual desks). And third, it will give Google back a bit of control over 3rd party manufacturers who want to be included in the new ‘Chromebook Plus’ marketing.
While this sort of move could be looked at as Google splitting things into premium and non-premium devices, it goes far deeper than just that. Included in the early ‘Chromebook Plus’ findings is the fact that entry-level processors are in the conversation. 12th-gen Alder Lake-N chips are already being included in the ‘Chromebook Plus’ equation, so none of these changes allude to a premium-only sort of club. Instead, ‘Chromebook Plus’ will likely be all about user experience meeting the Google-set standard.
How Google could leverage this to push for better Chromebooks
Think about the devices Google has made over the years in the ChromeOS space. The Chromebook Pixels (2013 and 2015), Pixelbook, Pixel Slate, and Pixelbook Go are all fantastic examples of what it means to pay attention to details that many times go untouched. While some of those Chromebooks had big specs for the time they were released, devices like the Pixelbook Go delivered the same excellent, enviable user experience on pretty middling hardware.
Now consider the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook and how good that device is to use. Sat next to even their prior, just-as-expensive Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, the Dragonfly Pro simply feels different to pick up, to hold, and to use. The build feels considered and the attention to detail is clear even if you aren’t looking for it. And that device has Google’s DNA all over it.
What if we could get more of that? Devices like the Lenovo Duet, Duet 3 and Duet 5 are smaller examples of this, seeing Google a bit more involved in the overall crafting process than normal Chromebooks. And you see the result of this, right? Those devices are – generally speaking – just better to use than others in the same price range. Why is that? It’s not mind-blowing specs or super-expensive parts. Instead, it’s attention to the details that make for a better overall user experience.
And that is precisely how this could all work moving forward. If Google can create a new baseline that qualifies any device for ‘Chromebook Plus’ status, all a manufacturer has to do is meet that standard. Sure, the internal specs need to be there, but a better webcam, better screen, a solid keyboard, etc. all need to factor into this as well. If Google can add that final touch that they seem so good at for any Chromebook that wants to be included, wouldn’t that be a great thing for Chromebooks in general?
And as more manufacturers give it a try, more people see and love those experiences, and more Chromebooks get made that carry the ‘Chromebook Plus’ branding. While manufacturers will be just fine making standard Chromebooks, if this catches on and buyers know to go into the store and simply look for the ‘Chromebook Plus’ label to find the best experiences across the board, I can’t imagine any company that builds a Chromebook not wanting to get in on this down the road.
As this happens, Google will have a bit of the control they would normally have if they were building their own fleet of Chromebooks. We’ve talked at length about why that won’t happen, but ‘Chromebook Plus’ could be the thing that gives Google the best of both worlds: partnering with manufactures while maintaining a bit of control over the end products. And again, if a company like Dell still wants to build a Chromebook to their own liking and doesn’t care about this new ‘Chromebook Plus’ seal of approval, they’ll still be free to do so.
I could see a future 12-18 months from now where there are a handful of ‘Chromebook Plus’ devices on shelves at Best Buy stores and those devices are the simiplest to recommend to potential buyers. Just like we do with devices like the Duet 5, folks like us will keep recommending these types of devices simply because they provide a great overall experience. As the Chromebook market keeps growing and we have mind-numbing numbers of options for consumers who simply want a “good Chromebook,” this new ‘Chromebook Plus’ branding could be the best way Google has of cutting through the noise and showing consumers the easiest way to choose a fantastic Chromebook that they’ll love. And here’s hoping ‘Chromebook Plus’ comes with a bit of oversight on the naming of those devices, too. But that’s a story for another time.