The Role of Tablets in the Enterprise
Tablets may one day soon take their place alongside PCs and smartphones as standard-issue IT equipment.
On one level, the Chromebook makes sense. There is a Chrome operating system - which focuses on the related Web browser and minimizes onboard operations - so it figures that there should be a device that is optimized to that approach.
On the other level, the feeling of "enough already" begins to kick in. Desktops begot laptops and notebooks. Laptops and notebooks begot ultra-mobile personal computers (UMPCs). Next came netbooks and, finally, tablets. (Of course, some of this begetting was happening in parallel.) From the voice side, the evolutionary ladder has led from the cell phone to the feature and then to the smartphone.
The point is that there simply may be enough form factors out there. Whether a specialized device geared to a particular operating system will succeed will be answered by the marketplace, of course. The visceral feeling is that a device aimed at a very specific niche - one based on finding millions of folks willing to buy into a concept that seems a bit limiting - will have a hard slog. The devices won't be cheap, and will be squeezed from below by phones, above by laptops and, I guess, from the side by iPads and other tablets. I understand that this is Google, which is full to overflowing with brilliant people. But this just doesn't seem like a concept that is destined to get a whole lot of traction.
Engadget has a lot of useful information, including a side-by-side comparison of the four models that will be released next month (there will be a Wi-Fi and a 3G model from both Samsung and Acer) for use on the Verizon Wireless network in the U.S. The farther down the piece is read, the more dubious the project becomes. By the end, it seems that the education market - which is priced a bit lower - may be prime for the device. ZDNet's James Kendrick suggests that Google can pretty much forget about the consumer market, which will be unhappy once it finds that the device can't interoperate with the iPad or iPhone.
These are some heavy limitations before the product even launches, which is a sign of trouble. The inference is that the Chromebook may be too limited, constrained and inflexible to be a meaningful business play. The education market is great, but it shouldn't be central to Chrome's fate.