Google's Pixel has certainly generated plenty of publicity. I have read more in a shorter time about the Pixel than any other Google hardware product. If nothing else Google seems to have learned how to get some free publicity on a product.
Some articles like the one on CNET, Google laptop shows Apple a thing or two, argue "that cool hardware is the first step in luring consumers to a new operating environment." Then David Pogue at the NY Times writes that " The Chromebook Pixel is lovely, polished and just a little bit silly."
The truth has more to do with what you want out of a computer than what someone on the web writes, but it is not the hardware that I would worry about if I were in Tim Cook's shoes. The Pixel is certainly a nice effort at hardware that has made the industry take notice, but it really is not the biggest danger for Apple. The Pixel does not fit the needs of many people unless you happen to be among those us who have mostly moved to the web. Certainly the Pixel shows that Google can create a compelling hardware product, but there a few pieces to the puzzle missing including price and USB 3.0.
However, most writers are completely missing the point. It is not the Pixel's hardware that is an immediate danger to Apple. The issue is that Google is making enough progress with the Chrome OS in one of Apple's strategic businesses that they feel comfortable putting out a device that is very attractive but likely will not sell in substantial numbers. It certainly should be a wake-up call for Apple.
Beyond that Apple should be more worried about the Chrome environment as detailed in this article, Google In Education: Chromebooks Now Embraced By More Than 2000 Schools, than the hardware specs of the PIxel.
It could be argued that Apple's business has been built on education and education is still a key market for the company. The iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone are the current hot products for Apple and in general are well received in the education market. However no product stays at the top in education forever and Google attacking Apple's education pond is a much bigger problem than Google coming out with an arguably over-priced Chromebook.
It is certainly time for a little dose of reality when it comes to tablets of any stripe in education. Let's be honest and admit that writing a paper on a tablet without a real keyboard is just not a lot of fun. Once you put a keyboard with a tablet you have essentially gone with something that looks a lot like a laptop and in Apple's case probably puts the cost per student pretty close to what you would pay for an inexpensive Windows laptop.
It gets more dicey for Apple if the keyboard comes on an even less expensive Chromebook with software designed with the web in mind.
This article, Why Three Districts Chose Chromebooks Over Tablets, talks about production devices and consumption devices.
Tablets, especially iPads, have received a lot of attention recently. They’re great for some things, but I still think of tablets as consumption devices and laptops as production devices. Some kids can type on a tab but if teachers want kids to write a lot and to produce media, they need a keyboard. Chromebooks have the instant on and long batter life of tabs but with a full keyboard and the functionality of a laptop.
A less apparent difference is that Chromebooks are fully web-centric and are not locked in to one family of mobile apps. When instructional resources, portfolios, and communication streams are all web based, they are available any where on any screen.
My own use of tablets confirms that they are not what you want to use if you are producing a lot of content. However, I wrote much of my most recent book, A Taste for the Wild, Canada's Maritimes, using Google Docs. I had no issue when I moved the document to Word for final formatting to get my book on the Kindle Store.
What is so powerful about Google Docs and many of the applications that run in the Chrome browser or OS is that I can use them anywhere. Google docs works on the Mac, Windows, and Linux. While I am not certain that I see the need, I can certainly look at and edit any Google docs document on my Nexus 7 tablet and for that matter my smart-phone.
The Google document is divorced from the hardware. The whole Chromebook concept is web centric and that just happens to be where Apple needs to improve its game. iCloud is just not a suitable environment for collaboration as currently structured. To be blunt, Google understands the web, sharing, and the whole suite of web services that Apple just cannot seem to get right.
Google Drive is a much better designed solution for collaboration, sharing, and working. Apple's inability to get the web right for its users is likely the company's biggest weakness currently. They have tried many iterations and keep misfiring. I have been writing about Apple's challenges on the web for over six years, and unfortunately I have been using their web services for even longer.
Google's web-centric Chrome OS should worry Apple. Getting web services right is a lot harder than it looks. I just do not see Apple's abandoned Pages and Numbers as real competition to Google Docs.
If Google is getting its software in shape to match its already strong understanding of web services and sharing of all things on the web, I think Apple needs to rethink its web strategy yesterday. I still believe the heart of the problem lies with having a leadership at Apple that does not have a real vision for where technology should go beyond the next gadet. Apple loves to make gadgets. But what happens if the learning or work enivornment around Apple's gadgets does not look as good as the solution environment around another company's gadgets, Apple will be in serious trouble especially if the other company has already figured out how to make gadgets almost as nice as the ones that Apple produces.
I would suggest this quotation is very worrisome for Apple.
Having said that, I’ve spent the last week using the Chromebook Pixel not because I felt like I had to, but because it’s a joy to use. It’s been the machine that I’ve picked up rather than my MacBook Air, out of choice, because using it with the web services that I use every day is a brilliant experience. I love the feel of its keyboard. I love its pixel-free screen. I love its purity, it’s single-minded devotion to the web and just the web. I don’t love the fans, which just kicked in and (compared to the almost-silent Air) sound like a small but irritating vacuum cleaner being used in the room next door.
But I do love the Pixel. And I am really going to miss it when it goes back....
If part of the reason for the Pixel was to prove that Google can create really good hardware design, it’s done its job: The Pixel is the best laptop I’ve used that didn’t have an Apple badge on it (and it’s better than quite a few laptops which did). It’s a different concept, it’s not fussy old Windows, and it’s making me want to be at least occasionally unfaithful to my beloved Mac. For a first attempt at hardware from a software-and-services company, that’s pretty damn good.
Isn’t competition great?
It comes from Ian Betterridge's article, A Mac user’s view of the Chromebook Pixel. I have a lot of respoect for Ian and his opinions.
I also have to agree with Ian. The Pixel is a very attractive laptop especially when combined with Googles services and the software that has developed around Chrome. I don't see an iMovie but there is not much missing in the Google world. Undoubtably schools will find Chromebooks a compelling solution that are less expensive to support and manage especially when compared to expensive Apple products. I would argue Chromebooks certainly serve the older grades better than iPads.
It looks like a perfect storm for Apple when there are already doubts about the man at the helm of the spaceship in Cupertino. This time the doubts are more than just the ones that I have already expressed.
I still maintain Apple needs a leader not a manager, and the leader needs to be someone who lives and breaths technology not someone just in it for the money.