How the Chromebook exposed Windows RT's biggest weakness
I know this may be an odd point but hear me out.
I am a university student; my technology arsenal is an Android phone, an iPad 2, a custom build desktop and an aging Macbook that is in dire need of being replaced. I am quite happy with my iPad as an entertainment device, but it is seriously hampered both in terms of software and hardware in order for me to be really productive on it. I haven't found a single comfortable external keyboard for it, nor a suitable app for genuine productivity on the go. My Macbook has served me well, but it is getting very long in the tooth (5 years old), and the battery barely holds much charge anymore either. So I'm looking for a device to replace both the iPad as an entertainment device for media consumption and the Macbook for productivity on the go. It doesn't need to be hugely powerful, because that's what my desktop is for. It needs to do the basic internet browsing, photo and video viewing and offer a good note taking experience, both hardware (keyboard) and software fronts. Of course, battery life is an important consideration too.
My options boil down to a Windows RT device, such as the Surface, and the Google Chromebook. Let's break it down:
- 1.7 Gigahertz dual core Exynos 5 processor (A15) and 2 gigs of ram
- 16 gigs storage expandable via SD card
- ChromeOS with full suite of Google Drive Apps and 100 gigabytes of cloud storage
- 11.6 inch matte screen with 1366x768 resolution
- Full size keyboard and HDMI connectivity
- USB 3.0 support
- 6.5 hour battery life and 2.42 pounds
For the Windows RT device, I have selected the Asus Vivo Tab RT, as it seemed to fit the bill the best:
- 1.3 Gigahertz quad core Tegra 3 processor (A9) and 2 gigs of ram
- 32 gigs storage expandable via Micro SD card
- Windows RT with Microsoft Office 2013
- 10.1 inch touch screen Super IPS+ display with 1366x768 resolution
- Netbook size keyboard and Micro HDMI connectivty
- 8 megapixel rear camera (not that it really matters)
- USB 2.0 support
- 7.5 hours battery life and 1.32 pounds (Tablet)
- 14 hours battery life and 2.3 pounds (with the keyboard dock)
Now the killer point, the Chromebook costs just about 40 percent of what the Asus Vivo Tab RT does! $599 for the 32 gigabyte model with the keyboard dock, vs 249 dollars for the 16 gig Chromebook.
Double the storage is moot, because like I said, it's expandable. The display is touch screen yes, and of much higher quality yes, but it is the same resolution. No sane person would really care about the 8 megapixel camera on a tablet. Finally, the full Office suite is pretty much matched by Google Drive Apps.
So unless double the battery life is worth 450 dollars to you, Google has made a very compelling alternative to all Windows RT devices. Because let's be honest: what are the use cases for the RT platform? Media consumption, internet browsing and productivity on the go with the included Office software. Doesn't Google almost comprehensively cover all those points at a much much more attractive price point? You can browse the entire web with a Chromebook, giving you access to all sorts of media along the way and you have offline productivity with Google Docs.
Not to mention the Chromebook features a full size keyboard because of its 11.6 inch size, as opposed to the more cramped one on the Asus or other devices of the same size. SD cards are also cheaper that MicroSD cards, and finally having USB 3.0 means faster data transfers from your external HDD's and such. As well, the Chrome Web Store probably currently has more apps than the Windows App store...
I'm not trying to bash Windows RT here, I am very enthusiastic about the platform and was seriously considering it. But overall, I think the biggest threat to the Windows RT platform will come from Chromebooks, the current model offers 90 percent of what you get from Windows RT devices, at less than half the price. There are rumours that there will be more ChromeOS devices announced before the end of the year, and so Windows RT has real competition on its hands. Unless the prices come down to better compete with Chromebooks as well as other alternatives to the RT platform, such as iPads or even budget laptops, in that case, it will have a real chance at growing and expanding.
Manufacturers please!!! Lower the entry price points for Windows RT devices!
Currently though, at the $599 entry point for almost all Windows RT devices with a keyboard, I can buy a 32 gig 3rd gen iPad (refurbished from Apple store) AND a Chromebook. That's a much more compelling option!