We’ve written quite a bit about the upcoming Pixelbook before it leaked, after it leaked, during the official announcement, afterward and will continue to cover it extensively for the foreseeable future. We think in many ways this device has the potential to reshape the Chrome OS ecosystem like no other before it.
We are fully aware many of you don’t agree with that, and that is OK.
The most common refrain for those who think the Pixelbook will just be another Chromebook Pixel is simple: It’s too expensive for a Chromebook.
To that, I can only reply with this: it is expensive, but there are things we must consider with a device like this.
So, let’s consider some of those things together, shall we? As is the case with anything we write here, my sincere hope is this becomes a forum for some discussion without too many ruffled feathers. Regardless of what any of us think, we’ll have to wait and see what the next 12 months bring to see what shakes out, so I really hope we can have some real conversation around this.
Let’s Talk Price
So, right off the bat, let’s talk about that price tag. Is $999 a lot of money? You bet it is. Are people, in general, dropping this kind of money on phones? You bet they are.
Consider a few devices with me. First, no logically-thinking individual can deny that year-over-year, iPhone sales are off the charts. Love them or hate them, Apple moves a ton of iPhones and somehow manage to sell more than the previous year.
Guess what? The iPhone 8 is not selling as well as previous iPhones. There were no epic lines at stores this year. There’s little hype around its release, even though the reviews have been positive. Why is this?
iPhone X. That’s why.
Sure, the iPhone X is taking all sorts of flak for the notch up top and the sky-high price tag ($999 sound familiar?), but it is quite apparent there are plenty of folks holding off on the iPhone 8 in order to snag the iPhone X.
Again, I’m not a fan of Apple, iPhones, or Macs, but hopefully you can see where we are going, here.
Despite many naysayers on the internet, it is clear that Apple will likely sell millions of iPhone X. Millions. If I were to limit my understanding of the world and buyer’s habits to online reviews and comment sections, I would fully expect iPhone X to completely and utterly fail. But, I know better than that and so do you, dear reader. You know Apple will be reporting wildly successful sales numbers regardless of what many commenters on the internet would imply.
You know what? It turns out tech blogs and comments sections are not the best barometers for gadget sales numbers.
Yeah, I said it: blogs like ours and countless others don’t represent the general public consumer. I don’t have data for this, but I can tell you from working in a Sprint store a few years back that the general consumer doesn’t know much about tech or gadgets. I can tell you from working with clients in my current job that I talk with people daily that can’t even tell me if they are on a PC or Mac.
That actually happened last week.
All this to say that those of us who frequent tech blogs are not representative of the general public. We just aren’t. And that isn’t to say we are better or worse than anyone: we just aren’t the majority.
What about the iPad Pro? It starts at $799 for 64GB and goes to $949 for 256GB. The keyboard is $169, so the combo of the two puts
the 64GB iPad Pro in at $968 and the 256GB at $1128. Since there isn’t a 128GB model to compare here, you can do the math and see that if there was, it would be just north of $999 for the iPad Pro and keyboard.
Why does this matter? Because general consumers are buying the iPad Pro as their primary computing devices. Even in the small town I live in (less than 50,000 people), I’ve seen quite a few out in public at restaurants and coffee shops. I’ve talked with people who use it as their primary computing device and (gasp!) their laptop replacement.
“But it doesn’t have a desktop-class browser! It can’t run full Photoshop or Final Cut or Adobe Premier! No mouse! No extended desktops! Limited multitasking!”
Yeah, that isn’t as big of a deal as we who frequent tech blogs think it is. For many in the general public, they aren’t that concerned with professional-grade applications. They want a computer to do the things they are used to doing. Browse the web, run some apps, fire off some emails, etc.
I’ll be the first to say I’ve turned my nose up at the idea that the iPad Pro could be a laptop replacement as I’m sure many of you have, but the hard truth is lots of people can and have made the switch.
Now, that isn’t to say everyone can. I know I can’t. I need a desktop browsing experience with developer tools, extended displays and a solid IDE. But I’m not the general public. I’m not the majority. I’m not the target audience.
And if your hangup with the iPad Pro is something about Final Cut, Adobe Premier, Photoshop or something similar, you aren’t the target audience, either.
Into this reality I ask you to now insert the Pixelbook. In the reality where consumers are simply looking for a computer that does what they need and are becoming more and more ambivalent about the OS or who makes it, the Pixelbook becomes quite a different beast.
Imagine going into B&H or Best Buy as a general consumer, looking for a device that can do desktop stuff, tablet stuff, app stuff and look good while doing it all. The iPad Pro becomes an option. So do Surface Pros. So does the Pixelbook.
Presented into this reality, the Pixelbook becomes a completely viable option. It looks great. It is made by Google. It is thin and light. It has a keyboard included, not as an additional expense. It has a vibrant screen. It runs all the apps you expect but also has a desktop, full-fledged browser and an extendable display.
It checks all the boxes the iPad Pro does and way more. It is, in this scenario, a better value for the general consumer.
Not So Much With Surface or Macbook
By now, some of you are ready to lose it and grumbling about a $999 device that can’t run all the stuff a Windows or Mac device can. To those, I’d say buy a Surface or Mac. It really is that simple.
If you edit video for a living, don’t buy a Pixelbook. If you live and breath in Photoshop, for now, don’t buy a Pixelbook. That one may change. If you are a hardcore gamer, don’t buy a Pixelbook.
But, if you are a general consumer and have found your way here, I think if you are considering an iPad, Surface, or other convertible Windows device for general use and media consumption, the Pixelbook could be right down your lane.
And I think Google thinks so, too.
Marketing Thus Far
Notice in these presentations and in the name of the product itself, little mention is made of Chrome OS or Chromebooks. The Pixelbook is simply positioned as a laptop made by Google that will deliver a top-notch experience with apps and Google Assistant. If that feels too simplified or general to you, you are likely someone who spends time on sites like this and that is OK. It all feels simplistic to me, too.
But I see what Google is up to, here. They realize just like Apple does that developers and creative professionals aren’t the majority of consumers. They are just a segment. And segments don’t drive large sales.
The majority does. And that’s where Pixelbook is aimed and will likely be marketed to. From commercials to dedicated displays in stores, this will be the most visibility any Chromebook has ever had. Google isn’t concerned with making sure everyone knows about Chrome OS or even that they consider other Chromebooks instead. They are pushing a high-quality piece of hardware with accessible software and Google Assistant at the core. They are pushing a Googly experience. They are pushing #madebyGoogle.
And in that reality, in that market, $999 just isn’t as big of a deal as it is for we Chrome OS diehards that love great computing at a great price. It will likely have a halo effect for Chrome OS and Chromebooks eventually, but for the time being, Google is selling the Pixelbook hardware and the #madebyGoogle experience that will accompany it. As we watch this play out over the next few months, just keep that in mind.
It’s going to be a wild ride.