Categories: EditorialPixelbook

Pixelbook, iPhone X & iPad Pro: Understanding Target Audience

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.

Enter Pixelbook

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.

Order The Google Pixelbook on Amazon

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

From the comments on the stage to the videos Google has already produced to welcome new users to Pixelbook, Google is clearly aimed at the general consumer market with the Pixelbook.

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.

Order The Google Pixelbook on Amazon

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.

Robby Payne

Tech junkie. Musician. Web Developer. Coffee Snob. Huge fan of the Google things. Founded Chrome Unboxed because so many of my passions collide in this space. I like that. I want to share that. I hope you enjoy it too.

View Comments

  • It seems to me that what's happening, maybe subconsciously, is the masses are buying the authorization to produce less. If you buy the top-of-the line product and it won't give the functionality that was previously demanded, then you simply CAN'T do as much work as was expected. And it's OK because you bought the best available. That's what Microsoft has wanted for over 30 years, then Apple came along and showed them how to do it. Microsoft is changing, so why shouldn't Google?

    • Like he mentions if you don't want to pay for the product then there are cheaper chromebooks to choose from. If you don't like ChromeOS then their are Mac and Surface/Windows options too. People aren't buying a Chromebook to do video editing or Photoshop (but it's clear ChreomeOS has gotten Microsoft and Adobe's attention). I could see how a user who does basic things and likes android apps but wants to pay for premium nice hw would get this.

      Like others have mentioned the lack of care past warranty support is still a glaring issue.

  • I've already left a comment about gently warming to the price of the Pixelbook. But here's another example of what I mean.

    The 2016 HP Chromebook G1 - M5, 8GB RAM. Currently being sold on Amazon UK for £968.36 (though cheaper configs are available). Great Chromebook. King-of-the-hill when released last year and must still be in the top three.

    Yet scrape another £30 together and you've got the Pixelbook.

    The more I think about it, the more the 999 (and not 1,200 as first feared) was a masterstroke by Google.

    • I agree. $1,200 and I would have passed. I was so hoping it would be $800-$900 but $999 is comparable to other premium ultrabooks. If I didn't have past experience for years with a Chromebook I would have probably gone with the Surface laptop but I absolutely love Chrome OS so it was the logical decision for what I really wanted!

  • "But but but... apple can charge that much" is exactly the line of thinking that took a profitable Android phone market and put almost every oem in the red for years. I don't think Pixel's in any danger of ending up underwater; they know how to restrict supply to meet proven demand, but their 'premium' strategy hasn't exactly been taking the market by storm, and they've been at it for years. A few CrOS super fans aside, people technically savvy enough to understand what a Chromebook can do (and not dismiss it out of hand), probably also recognize the amazing value proposition represented in several of the mid-range devices to come out in the last 2 years.

  • I can see where you are going with this Robby, but I think your logic is a bit flawed.

    You say the Pixelbook is not marketed towards the "power users" - those of us that frequent tech blogs and are savvy with technology...the majority of us probably work in the IT industry in some capacity. The thing is though, it doesn't seem to be marketed towards the general user either. The way it's priced, Google are saying this is an alternative to Windows or Mac and it really isn't. It has some advantages sure, and the hardware is very comparable, sure. But in terms of software it falls well short - and I believe this is exactly why Google are working with Microsoft and Adobe to bring their popular desktop applications to Chromebooks, and specifically the Pixelbook - cause if it can't run that stuff that the general user expects a computer to be able to run, they won't buy it. In fact, retail stores in Australia used to stock Chromebooks several years ago but have all but stopped carrying stock now because *people were returning them because they couldn't run the applications they needed*. You even said it yourself that many average users don't even know what OS they are using half the time - so you can imagine their confusion when they boot up their new Chromebook and they can't install Office on it.

    The other reason I don't see this as a general consumer device, besides the price, is that unless you do frequent tech blogs, you probably wouldn't know the device even exists, aside from maybe a short news article about what was announced at the Google event on a mainstream site like Yahoo or something. This is especially true if you don't live in the US - and I hate to keep banging on about this but it's 100% true - Google has completely failed at gaining any kind of market share for Chromebooks outside the US, and they don't appear to be making any effort to change that with the Pixelbook. The original Chromebook Pixel and Pixel 2 weren't even released in most countries and currently the Pixelbook is only available to order in the US, with no word at all about international availability. Living in Australia, if I didn't visit technology sites, I wouldn't have even known about it. You think there are storefront displays and commercials about it here? Nope. Not a single one. And this is the case in most countries that are not the US.

    So, it's fine to say "oh tech junkies aren't the target market", but I don't see the target market for this device to be the general consumer either. So who exactly IS the target market then? That reallys beg the question. Maybe Google are not intending this to be a mass market device at all, and it will instead just follow in the footsteps of the original CB Pixel and Pixel 2 - it's not intended to actually sell very many units, it's basically just be a high standard other Chromebooks can aim for.

    Personally, it makes absolutely no sense to me to drop that asking price on a Chromebook, when equivalent specced Windows and Mac machines are available that do so much more than the Pixelbook can.

    • Well, I am Australian, too, and I think the editors of CU are completely correct in their argument concerning the target customers for the Pixelbook.

      "Google has completely failed at gaining any kind of market share for Chromebooks outside the US"
      That is very nearly true but it is not the full story. You may not be aware that there is a significant business on marketing Chromebooks directly to schools that flies under the radar in Australia. Computer manufacturers sell them to schools and companies akin to Value Added Resellers also sell Chromebooks, G Suite and management software and services to schools. Stats, however aren't available on this business but it has grown significantly even as retailers were taking Chromebooks off the shelves. Retailers, that make shelf space available to products based on profit size and margin rarely notice the trends that matter. They reverse decisions as easily as they make them when they see money is to be made. With any luck the availability of Android apps on Chromebooks will force this kind of reversal.

      As to the future availability of the Pixelbook outside the United States and Canada we are all in the dark but, if it were to appear in Australia, I think consumers in the market for a premium laptop would give it a look.

      • I am aware of the business that sells Chromebooks to schools, in fact I found them in my own search of trying to find someone in Australia that actually sells the things.

        A mate of mine has a kid that started high school this year and he was talking about how he needed to buy him a laptop for school. I asked "What kind of laptop did you need to get?" and he replied "Doesn't matter really, as long as it's not one of those web surfer things". Now, he didn't say 'Chromebook' but it's pretty obvious that's what he was talking about when he referred to them as 'web surfer things'. That's just one school out of thousands in this country...sure, but when schools are actually telling parents to *avoid* Chromebooks in this country, that's not a good sign.

        • Chromebooks could only, with some small degree of justification, be called "web surfer things" prior to the incorporation of support for Android apps. I imagine your point is that this perception is out there whatever we may think about it. To that I can only say, people do change their minds. I don't want to claim all the signs are good - release of products more widely, outside North America, still seems to be an issue - but nor do I believe all the signs are bad either. And, it seems to me, that the signs are improving. It wouldn't surprise me if the profile of Chromebooks in Australia was to lift over the next year.

          • The perception is out there yes but the underlying point was that it was the school that told them not to purchase a Chromebook. It could literally be anything else except a Chromebook. Android apps aren't really relevant in this case at all, the school doesn't want their students using Chromebooks with or without Android apps, and I imagine this isn't an isolated case.

            If the profile of Chromebooks was to list on this country then Google needs to get off their arses and do something about it but they don't seem to be the slightest bit interested, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

          • The perception is out there yes but the underlying point was that it was the school that told them not to purchase a Chromebook. It could literally be anything else except a Chromebook. Android apps aren't really relevant in this case at all, the school doesn't want their students using Chromebooks with or without Android apps, and I imagine this isn't an isolated case.

            If the profile of Chromebooks was to list on this country then Google needs to get off their arses and do something about it but they don't seem to be the slightest bit interested, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

  • Agree, and I would argue that the same holds true for the Pixelbook. The folks that will spend $1000 on that product are limited in scope and demographic. They aren't the mainstream consumer as is claimed in this article.

    • Yup the high end segment doesn't end up being the highest devices purchased. But that's where the lower costing Chromebooks still have a footing.

  • Pixelbook pricing has invited a diverse range of comments. Some people who like Chromebooks have been somewhat disappointed that retail pricing on the Pixelbook couldn't have been a bit lower making the case for acquiring one clearer and stronger. Other comments have centred on the good that would served by selling Pixelbooks in a price range that is not beyond the budget of average buyers with modest incomes. While I would jump at the chance to get a Pixelbook at a significant discount on its current price I don't want to offer any opinion about what the right or fair or best price for a Pixelbook is. I do want to address the topic of whether the Pixelbook offers competitive value for money, however.

    After reading comments about how certain computers represented better value for money than the Pixelbook, I decided to have a close look myself. I did not find a single computer that I would regard as offering better value than the Pixelbook. Indeed, the low end unit, at $999 is priced exactly the same as other devices out there with very similar specs. This nonsense about some $699 or $799 computer out there being comparable to the Pixelbook only arises in an invalid apples with oranges comparison. You simply can't get (at the RRP) a laptop with the same configuration of CPU, screen and memory a better value PC than the Pixelbook. Anyone who imagines there is a better value computer out there should name it so we can have a proper debate.

    There is an excellent article in Ultrabook Review that lists and shows the pricing for a lot of fanless Ultrabooks: "A detailed list of fanless laptops and ultrabooks available in 2017". For each and every Ultrabook on that list that has a cheaper ticket price than the Pixelbook the difference (following close examination) is always explained by a spec that falls below (sometimes a long way below) that of the Pixelbook.

  • The Pixelbook is only comparable to the iPad or iPad Pro is a very limited way. Both devices run 'mobile' apps (i.e. Android apps in the former case and iOS apps in the latter) but they are fundamentally different in hardware terms. Disassemble the Pixelbook and the iPad down to their basic components and observe the two different piles of parts on a workbench and you may conclude that the two computers are fundamentally incomparable! Now, disassemble the Pixel C (which runs the same Android mobile apps as the Pixelbook) and lo and behold you have a pile of parts that looks very much like the disassembled iPad. It is reasonable to draw the conclusion that while the iPad and Pixel C are comparable in all important respects comparisons between the Pixelbook and iPad are stretched. The Pixelbook is more comparable (although not perfectly comparable) with the $1299 Macbook which looks like an expensive show pony compared to the Pixelbook.

  • I think that the overall thinking about the pixelbook is: with $1000 I can either buy a nice phone or a nice computer, and a Chromebook is neither of those.

  • What percentage of people (on current trends) who buy products like smartphones (or whatever supersedes them) or laptop computers (or whatever supersedes them) will be from that part of the world we like to call the 'developing world'? Over 70% would be a sober guess. How many companies based outside the developing world fully appreciate that point? I'm not sure but Google, that company which we know takes data very seriously, certainly does. Companies need more than an Asian supply chain to understand the importance of customers from places other than the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia and several other smallish island states. Google is working hard to make sure that Android apps (or whatever supersede them) will be the obvious choice of most consumers internationally in 20 years time. You can improve a simple app quite a lot in 20 years.

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