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11 Jan 12 CES 2012: Samsung, Google Won’t Let go of Failed Chrome OS, Plan New Models


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New Series 5 Chromebook and Chromebox to launch in Q2 2012

Chrome OS was a pretty nifty idea.  Unveiled back in November 2009, Chrome OS was supposed to be Google Inc.’s (GOOG) next greatest thing since sliced bread (or … er Android, we mean).  It was biled as a potential “Windows competitor”.  Instead it saw delays bump its full-fledged beta December 2010, and its commercial release to May 2011.  

I. Chrome OS: The Flop

That late start didn’t help the fledgling OS make its tough case of selling users on Linux.  Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.’s (KS:005930) $430 USD introductory price point for a Wi-Fi Chromebook and $500 USD price point for a 3G Chromebook definitely didn’t help either.  And the fact that a notebook relies on internet connections for most of what it does couldn’t handle authentication tokens properly, making it impossible to log in to coffee shops and networks that use webpage-driven authentication?  That was definitely didn’t help.

Unsurprisingly the platform was a sales flop, though we’ll never know just how bad a flop as Samsung, Google, and the third Chromebook player Acer, Inc. (TPE:2353) refused to release sales figures.  But Google and Samsung are scrapping Chromebooks.  Their response to the failure can be summed up by great lyricist David Bazan:

II. Samsung and Google Man the Deck as Chromebook Ship Takes on Water

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the pair was back at it again, showing off a pair of Chrome OS devices.

The first is a refreshed Series 5 Chromebook, which still features the same 16 GB of NAND flash storage and 12.1-in. 300 nit screen.  The biggest bump is from Atom to a slightly sportier Core Celeron processor from Intel Corp. (INTC).  Hopefully this move doesn’t backfire in terms of battery life, but only time can tell.

Chromebook Refresh
[Image Source: Engadget]

Otherwise the notebook remains practically unchanged, with only a superficial packaging makeover.  The new models will continue the slightly reduced most recent pricing of the current Series 5 — $400 USD for a Wi-Fi only model and $450 USD for a 3G model with service through Verizon Wireless –

Sources were unclear whether the Chromebook refresh would land immediately, though slightly farther out in Q2 2012.

Also slightly farther out in Q2 2012 a “Chromebox” — a desktop with Chrome OS aboard — will land courtesy of Samsung.  Little is known about the box except for its target price point of $400 USD and its observed ports – ”five USB 2.0 sockets, DVI, DisplayPort and a headphone jack.”

[Image Source: Engadget]

Samsung — perhaps realizing that the device is a weak competitor to HTPCs and Apple, Inc.’s (AAPL) Mac Mini — hope to peddle the PC to K-12 school buyers on the merits of its small size and low price.

III. Chrome OS: A Puzzling Mess

We had an interesting talk with sources at ARM Holdings plc. (LON:ARM).  ARM suggests that a reason for the flop of Chromebooks is Google, Acer, and Samsung’s perplexing lack of an ARM Chromebook.  There’s no clear reason why this is the case.  ARM officials did say that they’re still hearing that ARM Chromebooks are in the works, but these sound like they could be several quarters, if not years away.

Aside from the lack of ARM, it’s also puzzling why Google would not release a revamped build of the more well-known and respected Android operating system for notebooks.  While it’s possible Chrome OS may someday merge into the Android tree, for now Chrome OS remains weakened partly because it just isn’t a household name.

For better or worse, though, Samsung and Google appear to be sticking to the same stubborn approach with Chromebooks.  Let’s just hope they fix that authentication flaw.

In related news to Samsung’s Chromebook Series 5 unveil, Samsung unveiled refreshed Windows-based Series 5 and Series 9 notebooks and significantly higher price points.

Source: Engadget

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