Opinion: Even After A Decade Of Chrome OS, It's Hard To See How It Competes With Windows And MacOS
2021 marks an important year for the development of Google's ChromeOS. It started way back when in 2011 and has now undergone ten year's worth of software updates, adding with each one new features and bug fixes. Even after all this time, I really fail to see how ChromeOS is really designed to compete with industry veterans such as Windows and MacOS at the higher price points. Maybe I've been missing something.
For as long as I can remember, I've been a long-term user of MacOS and Windows in a dual-wieldy kind of sense, using a Windows PC for gaming and bigger tasks and also a couple of different iterations of MacBooks for day-to-day working. Whilst I have considerably less experience with ChromeOS (there's a Chromebook at home that gets used when everything else hasn't been charged), I still feel that I can make a judgment on its use case. On the surface, I understand the point. Being based essentially on Linux means that ChromeOS is designed as a bare-bones system in order to keep things plain and simple. This means it's a great option for those less au-fait with tech than others. However, when you can pick up Windows laptops or slightly older MacBooks for the price of a brand new, higher-end ChromeBook or more importantly, a Pixelbook, I do question some people's buying habits.
If we're talking about simplicity, MacOS has this down to a tee. One of the main reasons people go for MacOS over Windows for instance is thank to the cries of "It just works!" in a similar vein to why most people tend to use iPhones as opposed to the various different flavours of Android. Furthermore, the fact that Macbooks come preinstalled with all of the software that most average Joes will need is great - Keynote for presentations, Pages for word processing and Numbers for spreadsheets amongst other favourites like iMovie and Maps. With ChromeOS, you have to rely on Google's web Play Store which may not have as much ease of access, although there are of course, Google Docs and some other integrated pieces from Google themselves. The argument here is also furthered by the existence of one closed eco-system. Whereas with Windows where you can chop and change basically everything as with Android, having a computer that goes along with your iPhone and your AirPods and all of that keeps things simple. However, even with my expounding about MacOS and its simplicity, the market speaks for itself. Back in February, ChromeOS overtook MacOS when it came to overall share, with the Google side taking around ten percent, and if this is an indication of the way that computing is going, I'm definitely intrigued.
I do have to stress that for those out on the street who want something brand new and will do basic tasks such as creating documents and tables, writing emails and browsing the web, then ChromeBooks and ChromeOS are basically king in that regard. The likes of HP's Chromebook 14 for £239 from Amazon represents an absolute steal for a new piece of hardware and beats off some of the best budget Windows machines by a fair margin, not to mention beating off any Macs released within the last five years or more. However, it's when things get a little bit more expensive when Chromebooks do get a little bit out of their depth. It seems impossible to think that one of the more expensive and tricked-out Pixelbook machines could compare favourably to Apple's latest lineup of MacBooks or the copious amounts of Windows-based gaming grade laptops or ultrabooks. That being said, Google are certainly giving it their best shot and it could just work out.
When it comes to those more expensive options, Google do have a long way to go, considering their platform is fundamentally a jazzed-up Linux distro. However, with their movement towards options in computing's mid and high range, there looks to be an attempt from the Palo-Alto firm to enter this particular sector. It's on the functionality side of things where ChromeOS needs to up its game, as fundamentally, the functions on a £600 Pixelbook are the same as on a £200 Chromebook. Apple would be a great case study for Google to follow on from, considering they've got their own in-house developed video editing and music production software that clearly positions MacBooks as laptops designed for the creative professional. By contrast, not even the highest tier Pixelbooks have any form of compatibility with industry standards such as Premiere Pro. What Google really need to do is open things up a bit more and allow more apps to be compatible with the ChromeOS platform, as users are currently crippled by what the Google Play Store throws up.
If Google can get that right, then it is possible that within a handful of years that they could be fighting with Microsoft and Apple at the price points where it matter. On the budget side of things, you've got to hand it to Google. There's nothing really better than a Chromebook with its ease of access and the fact it comes with everything anyone looking to do a bit of casual computing would ever need. However, after ten years, you do have to question Google's true purpose, especially when their pricing strategy and product lines are speaking an entirely different language.
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