Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Chromebooks and Surfaces

The press has been full recently about how Microsoft has taken a $900m hit on the Surface, a device that was clearly designed to fill the gap between a full featured laptop and a tablet. Clearly it hasn't made it.
At the same time we've had reports of Chromebooks being adopted, for example by journalists - which is not that surprising in the light of my original agonising about buying one as a travel computer.
The interesting thing about having acquired a chromebook is that it has not changed my tablet usage - except for reading RSS feeds and that's due to the lack of an android client that integrates with InoReader - what it has changed is my laptop usage.
My tablet remains a device for email and reading news websites plus some idle couch based surfing. My second 7-inch tablet remains a note taker, plus a device for reading material saved to Pocket or Instapaper. It's the small format and long battery life that drives its usage.
For a lot of simple research and writing purposes the Chromebook is fine - for example we were checking out options to visit various Mayan sites in Central America, and the chromebook was fine for research, clipping things to evernote and writing up a skeleton planning document using Google Docs as way of sharing it with J - it could have been a wiki but shared editing with Google Docs is easier.
It's also worth noting that writing software for Android Tablets is not really there - applications are either too big and slow, or else too minamalist. I usually end up using TextEdit to write a markdown file and then save it to Google drive for further edit by StackEdit, or feeding through pandoc to create an odt document.
Until a couple of weeks ago I would have done this with my windows laptop - I would not have done this with my windows netbook, although it would have been perfectly possible, purely because of the lack of instant-on.
So what we see is the Chromebook hitting the spot as regards price vs performance/usability. My netbook hits the price band but not performance. My windows laptop does the performance metrics pretty well.
In short a Chromebook is usable for something that looks a bit like work. The price is right to make it a second device and the performance is more than acceptable. (The fact I've also sold my soul to the Google software ecology probably also helps).
Surfaces, or more accurately Surface RT's, seem not to have got the price point right. Remember these will in the main be second devices, and need to be priced accordingly.
They were touted as providing access to Office - which a lot of people seem to consider to synonymous with work. Of course what they mean most of the time is 'access to an editor/file viewer' plus 'access to my email'.
In fact for people not tied to a corporate environment there are other solutions. Equally, we know that a lot of Microsoft's revenues come from Windows and Office sales - if the Surface had been successful it would undoubtedly have cannibalised some of these sales. (Incidentally I might have bought a new laptop this year - now I've a Chromebook I probably won't).
A case of Microsoft eating its core business - which is not generally a good way to go - and something that they realised when they restricted the base level of Windows Home on netbooks such that they couldn't run Office in order to protect their core business ...
Written with StackEdit.

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