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Google’s PixelBook: The Target Is Way Bigger Than You Think

The atmosphere around the Chrome Unboxed office this week is one of excitement, anticipation, a little confusion and an overall sense that Google is up to something with the upcoming PixelBook that is much, much bigger than what we have seen on the surface

There are so many thoughts as to why Google would be releasing such a high-dollar device and the opinions are as diverse and ingenious as they come. The fact still remains that until Oct. 4 only Google really knows the motive behind this game-changing Chrome device known simply as the Google PixelBook.

Why did Google drop the Chromebook nomenclature? Who knows, but in my opinion, I think Chromebook PixelBook sounds a bit redundant. There’s also the fact that this device could very well be the Chrome OS counterpart to similar PCs from other platforms. MacBook, Surface Book, etc: it’s kind of like a little club.

Again, Google will hopefully shed some light on all of this in San Francisco in two weeks. Until then, we have been gathering some very interesting evidence surrounding not only the PixelBook but what may be a much larger initiative by Google that will be championed by this new device.

My Theory

I call this a theory but I’ll be honest, between my gut, the mounting pile of puzzle pieces from the Chromium repository and recent moves from Google, I will go so far as to say that I am convinced this is what the search giant is up to.

First, there is the insanely large amount of storage that Google looks to be offering in the PixelBook. Robby and a number of our readers have made some really good arguments as to why the new Chromebook would have so much hard drive space. I’ll let you take a look and form whatever opinion you like.

Let’s not forget that, if we are correct, this new Chromebook we know as ‘Eve’ will be equipped with newer NVME SSD storage which is leaps and bounds faster than the traditional eMMC drives found in most Chrome devices.

But why?

Android Apps? Highly unlikely. The standard onboard storage on any given Chromebook is more than fast enough to read, write or anything else it needs to do for Android applications that were designed for much smaller devices.

Not to mention the sheer size of the storage. I barely flirt with 64GB of storage on my phone. Why on Earth would I need 512GB on my Chromebook when it isn’t normally my go-to device for things like Snapchat or Instagram?

Just saying: it doesn’t really feel like a legitimate reason.

Then there is the rumored price of the PixelBook. If the reports were correct (I saw the ad for myself on my own Chromebook and the number was real), the top-tier PixelBook will come in just under $1800. That’s a lot of cheese, even for a Pixel-branded Chromebook. Then again, this isn’t the same breed of a device as the 2015 Chromebook Pixel and Google’s interests have expanded exponentially in the computer market as of late.

Yes, it’s a lot of money. No, it won’t be a device your average consumer is going to go pick up on a whim. On the flip side of that, many – and I mean many – have scoffed at the price while I have countless friends and acquaintances who have dropped 2-3 grand on a MacBook without thinking twice.

The fact is if you want this device and it’s capable of doing what you need it to do, you’ll buy it. If not, there are plenty of great Chromebooks out there to choose from that will cost you less than $500.

With all that being said, I will cut to the chase and share my thoughts on who I think Google is really targeting with the new PixelBook. From there, we will work our way back and try to fill in some of the blanks.

Enterprise

Now I know this may sound like a simple answer – and believe me there is much more to this than I can comprehend – but over the last couple of weeks, I have stumbled upon more and more signs pointing to the fact that Google has set their sights on the corporate sector.

First, let’s talk VM or virtual machines. Late last month, Google announced the rebranding of the Chrome Management Console to Chrome Enterprises. This was much more than a logistical change in names, however. Along with the upgrade, Google brought some new tools to the table for companies to better adopt Chrome OS while still leveraging the power of their current infrastructure.

This is where virtual machines come in. Companies like VMWare are giving enterprises the capability to access corporate software via virtual environments on the Chrome OS desktop. This is nothing new. VMWare has offered these services for some time but now it has become an integrated part of the Chrome Enterprise platform.

VM Extensions

VM extensions are essentially tools that allow users to access, deploy, configure and install software across multiple virtual machines. One of the biggest uses of these extensions is in the Microsoft Azure container-based, cloud platform developed for – you guessed it – enterprises.

Why does this matter?

Recently, I stumbled upon the addition of VM extensions to one of the devices being developed in the Chromium repository. After a few hours of digging, I found that this device was the first Chromebook to have this “feature” turned on.

Here are the details:

Eve: turn on VM extensions

Stop disabling VM extensions on Eve. VMs will be used to host containers soon.

That’s right, ‘Eve’ or as we are convinced, the Google PixelBook. Whatever Google is planning, it appears that the PixelBook will have the ability to run VM extension making it a host or administrative device for any number of other devices.

Did you notice the commit about mentioned “containers?” Well, this plays a large part in the hypothesis of where Google is headed.

Chrome OS isn’t new to the container game. The long-awaited Android on Chromebooks movement works on this very principle.  I am completely inept when it comes to explaining how the container environment works, but if you’d like to learn a little more about, here’s a handy little PDF that breaks down the details.

Running Android in a container on Chrome OS.

To dumb it down, whatever application, software or program that is being implemented is packaged independently to run on top or alongside the native OS and that package is encapsulated in a container. This allows the program to run using the OS’s resources and structure while keeping it isolated from the core of the OS.

With enough development, the container method could potentially allow full desktop work environments to run “natively” on top of Chrome OS in the same way Android does now.

All of this lines up with what Google is already doing with Chrome Enterprise. Virtual desktops, headless software, cloud computing and even Linux workstations may soon be accessible from Chrome devices.

Speaking of workstations, it’s no secret the Googler’s use a multitude of devices including MacBooks and Linux desktops for development and other tasks. While a Chromebook is capable of running a Linux environment via the hacky, dual-boot method, they weren’t designed with that particular task in mind. So Google and many other companies default to actual Linux stations for development and hosting platforms.

With the abilities of containers on board, a device like the PixelBook would be more than capable of being a well-rounded development computer or even be used as the host for a whole network of computing systems.

I would propose that what Microsoft Azure is already doing, Google is looking to take a bite out of. The PixelBook could be the poster-child of this movement.

The plot thickened, even more, when I unearthed some work being done on Chromebook ‘Eve’ that involved support for Microsoft-specific HID (human interface device) tools. From my limited understanding, it appears that the new Chromebook will have built-in support for Microsoft’s protocols for things like palm rejection on touchpads and touchscreens.

If the Chrome device isn’t running, emulating or “containerizing” some form of Windows or Microsoft software, why the need for this support?

I took a closer look at the owner of the commit, Dmitry Torokhov, and found that he has been a software engineer for the Chrome OS team since 2014. Prior to that, he spent almost 6 years working on Virtual devices for none other than VMWare.

Coincidence? I don’t believe in them, but your guess is as good as mine.

Then there was a little news story going around about Google offering to send Chromebooks to Microsoft Azure partners to give them an opportunity to talk about what they have to offer to the Virtual Machine market.

All of this brings us full-circle and might answer the question about the large amount of storage on the PixelBook. A developer’s device needs drive space. A hosting computer has to have room for stuff. The more, the better.

Clearly, Google is positioning itself in multiple aspects to make its move on the enterprise market. Now, I think all of the pieces are in place and much as they did with the education sector, they are poised to have a major impact on the antiquated business arena.

The PixelBook has the potential to be the perfect device for this kind of move. Yes, as a consumer device it’s pricey. But, as an high-end, developer’s laptop it should have all the computing power a large infrastructure needs while still being cheaper than many of its Windows, Mac or Linux competitors.

The rabbit-hole continues to go deeper and deeper as we dig up details on Google’s new device and their future plans for Chrome OS. Check back tomorrow as we go more in-depth sharing our perspective on what the end-game may be.

What do you think? Could Google be looking to conquer the corporate world or is the PixelBook really just another “because we can” kind of device?

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Gabriel Brangers

Lover of all things coffee. Foodie for life. Passionate drummer, hobby guitar player, Web designer and proud Army Veteran. I have come to drink coffee and tell the world of all things Chrome. "Whatever you do, Carpe the heck out of that Diem" - Roman poet, Horace. Slightly paraphrased.

View Comments

  • If I can run Windows on the PixelBook (in a VM or whatever), I could sell my CB Pro and my Retina MacBook 15" and just have one device. Love it!

    • Even today you can run Ubuntu .. which is what I do. I use it maybe 4% of the time.. If I wanted to run Windows I'd own a windows box.. but yes.. to be able to run Windows 1 or 2 x a year when really needed.. I would.

      The only thing missing for me with Chrome OS + Ubuntu is access to the Adobe Creative Cloud.. but Adobe Spark has been enough so far..

  • Azure you say? I'm intrigued. The main project I'm on and other future projects at my company are moving towards Azure. Hate having to carry the 15" laptop required to get into my work environment and would much rather prefer to just carry a Chromebook. As for who needs so much storage, now that I have processing options through Android, I'm starting to do some of my photo editing on my Asus 302. While you might not scratch the surface of 64GB, on my phone alone, I'm close enough that I look over it once a month to see what I can clear out. If I start doing more editing on my CB and I'm loading photos to sort through and edit, that'll eat 64 real quick.

  • "Pixel" might simply be the marketing motif used to identify devices in Google's premium product range. Putting "book" in the company of "Pixel" might simply be a marketing exercise without any deep significance. Today we have Pixel phones. A Pixelbook may be just around the corner. And, maybe, in the future, Google will get around to releasing a Pixeltab. I'm am not persuaded that we learn anything about Google's platform strategy from any of this.

  • I think Pixelbook was designed by developers, tested by developers, and will be targeting the developers.
    Google wants Chrome OS in education... and now wants the developers souls.
    The generation that is now using Chrome OS in schools will be lost if they cannot use Chrome OS in their professional future.
    Spawning a generation of developers is essential to create apps that make Chrome OS even more useful in a business environment than Windows is.
    The high price seems a bit disproportional unless you fit an OLED display... it would be a very good deal.
    They use the name Pixelbook to make a distinction from the other Chromebooks, and I would not be surprised if something like Businessbooks shows up in the future. Targeting different public... Pixelbook for nerds and developers, Businessbooks for the professionals and Chromebooks for education and the general public.
    This will make developers feel special, businessman feel that their special needs are addressed, and the general public will want to use Chromebooks because it is being used by the developers and businessman, as well as simply doing what one needs to get done without the security problems the other systems have.
    Pixelbook is just a small piece in a very big puzzle.

  • Chromebook Pixelbook is rather redundant... Wouldn't it make more sense for them to simply call it the Chromebook Pixel (2017) though, like the Chromebook Pixel (2013) and (2015) predecessors...

    I hadn't thought of the fact they're not calling it a Chromebook... Though does every Chromebook have the term "Chromebook" in it's name?

    What if this doesn't include the Chromebook title because it isn't a per say technical Chromebook... What if it runs a modified, more desktop like version of ChromeOS? You equated it to a counterpart of Microsoft Surface - which if I'm not mistaken runs full desktop Windows 10.

    If it's less "glorified browser" and more powerful desktop... That could explain both why it needs larger quantities of storage and could possibly justify a higher price tag...

  • I think this:

    "The plot thickened even more when I unearthed some work being done on Chromebook ‘Eve’ that involved support for Microsoft-specific HID (human interface device) tools. From my limited understanding, it appears that the new Chromebook will have built-in support for Microsoft’s protocols for things like palm rejection on touchpads and touchscreens."

    Means that you will finally have proper RDP support for MSFT product lines. Touch and Swipe, touchpad motions Would also be rendered as intended -- network bandwidth permitting.

    MSFT RDP app has improved by leaps and bounds since the first iPad. So has Windows. Funny how Google and MSFT are in a race to convergence of sorts.

  • Things are falling into place for a little theory I've been considering. The pricing would bring the new device more into line with traditional Windows laptops, and the storage capacity and focus on virtualization could be to support a full Windows 10 license and installation that comes with each machine.

    If they do anywhere near the clean integration of Windows apps that they're assiduously developing for Android integration, you could have the best of all worlds (excluding, alas, Mac OS, my personal favorite). I love being able to run full Linux, via Crouton, and having an ultimately portable, versatile development device.

    I'm prepared to go for a bigger more capable machine (than my current Asus Flip C100PA) if it has some modern conveniences like fingerprint authentication along with a touchscreen and versatile form factor. If well integrated, Windows could remove an obstacle for such amazing machines to full consumer market play.

  • Couldn't one do everything you mentioned on a MacBook using Chrome and said extensions? Realistically, the rMBP 13 with Chrome is a high-end Chromebook.

  • Okay, okay. I ordered a Pixelbook. I bought a Pixel XL in late 2016, 99 percent for the Daydream VR. I cannot say enough good things about the Pixel. It runs Office 365, no workarounds needed. ZERO BLOATWARE. Zero. I cannot overstate how much that means to me. Yes, Vive is a bigger VR experience (for now) but Daydream is EASY EASY EASY to use. And everything else about the Pixel sold me on Android, and on Google's Pixel line. The Pixelbook has a Gorilla glass screen, i5 processor (you can get i7 for a lot more money--but do you know why you need i7 on a Windows computer? WINDOWS, that's why) and the Pixelbook can run Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud. That's right--I don't need a Windows machine at all (I only have one now because I can still use Creative Suite 5 on it.) And Chrome OS is way, way more secure than Windows. AND, with Chrome VM (or whatever it's called) it's NOT NECESSARY TO DO A DISK IMAGE BACKUP. Like with Windows...I know, I know, there are chipheads who have to comment on EVERY product review with "But, but, but UBUNTU blah blah blah microseconds blah blah blah. But I expect my devices to work for me--I get sick of working for the device.

    FedEx claims (boy, has that company slid downhill the last 10 years) they're delivering my Pixelbook today. I'll let you know if my hopes are justified...

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