Chromebook Pixel's true target? Your MacBook.
I was as baffled as anyone at Google's pricing strategy with the Chromebook pixel. 1299 for the base model, which is 100$ more expensive than the 13" MacBook Air, and just 200$ cheaper than the MacBook Pro with Retina. What in the world could they be thinking?
Then I saw a post on this very forum about how easy it is to get a Chromebook Pixel of your own by just downloading Chrome onto your MacBook Pro. Just download Chrome...
And that's when it hit me. Chrome is a widely used browser. But what can set it apart is the idea that its a gateway to an OS. A budding OS, to be sure, but one that Google apparently takes seriously enough to build a $1299 laptop that is truly well made.
If Google plays this right, and manages to get the Pixel featured in Best Buys and Staples around the country, I think they'll have a winner in their hands. It won't sell at all. What it is intended for is not to sell itself, but the idea that a Browser based OS is feasible, and can live in your MacBook, your touchscreen Windows laptop, and eventually, your iPad or Android tablet.
Imagine yourself to be Joe Random. You have never heard of Chrome OS. You're in Best Buy, looking for a new computer. What attracts you to the Apple end of the aisle? The stunning industrial design. The beautiful aluminum body, the wonderful keyboard, your finger gliding over the fantastic trackpad...
Then you look at the Windows competition, which is increasingly filled with touchscreen laptops. You slide your finger around the OS, you open a webpage and pinch to zoom. And you think that this is kind of cool.
What is the next thing you wonder about? Isn't there something that looks and feels like a MacBook Pro that has a touchscreen?
"Well", says the Best Buy rep, doubt in his voice, "There's the Chromebook Pixel...". You go to the counter, and there it is. Beautiful aluminum body, awesome keyboard, even better trackpad. AND it has a touchscreen! Wonderful. The best of both worlds!
Then you find out it can't run any of your programs. Its just a browser, and its 1299? Can't I just use all this in a Mac? Or a Windows PC? And the Best Buy rep helplessly answers that you can, of course.
So you move along and make your choice, the Macbook or the touchscreen Asus. You go home, you set things up, and what is the browser that's on your mind? Chrome.
And if Google plays this right, its suite of ChromeOS services, and good ChromeOS apps will be next in your thoughts. Imagine learning that Quick Office, Snapseed for ChromeOS, maybe a nice video editing app, Jam with Chrome... all these apps which can substitute for paid apps from Apple, Microsoft and Adobe can be had for free. You can reduce the cost of buying a new computer by just sticking to Chrome in it.
That's the win Google needs. Doesn't matter which ecosystem you buy into... Google services are there for you. The Pixel exists to implant the idea of ChromeOs running on a lovely machine. And it is priced so you will most likely choose to go for an OSX or Windows machine, and still install Chrome and use Google services. Or you'll buy the Samsung Chromebook, and still use those services. Either way, Google wins. It has shown you the awesomeness of free apps in a nice high res environment.
And as adoption grows, so will the app ecosystem for ChromeOS. And slowly the idea of 1299 for a Pixel won't sound quite so absurd...