Battling for a place on the market – Chromebook market niche and competition

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It’s an interesting period for the Chromebook product line. Since June 2011, when Chromebook Series 5 was launched, Google has waged wars on many fronts to try to increase their market share. However, relatively unremarkable design, indeed supplemented by a long battery life (due mainly to a lack of power hungry applications) and the idea of an always online OS infrastructure has kept people from actually going for the purchase.

Pricing was also quite problematic, Chromebook Series 5 retailed for around $350, quite a lot considering its limitations and the fact that most other similar netbooks were available for at least $100 less.

But, on October 18 2012, Google introduced a new Chromebook, a Samsung model running on ARM. Expectations for the Google Chromebook ecosystem suddenly changed quite dramatically.  The price drop was also accompanied by a new system of acquisition for the Chromebook Series 5 – renting the device for $30 for a month, opening new grounds for exploration.

One effect of selling Chromebook machines for $250 is that they have now entered a new market niche, rather battling within the tablet territory. Indeed, the Chromebook has nothing on the Apple slates, but most other Android ARM driven tablets have now become competitors.

With the advent of the Microsoft Surface tablet, retailing its RT version for $329 (not including a physical keyboard cover though), people that really want a cheapish product, good for basic productivity tasks and for most other entertainment and internet based activities, suddenly the Chromebook is no longer a “could be”, “would be” device – it really is the thing to own. And it is so because Microsoft’s tablet/PC hybrid is just too expensive and also sports the same kind of limiting OS. But Google’s marketplace is populated with a lot of apps already, whereas Microsoft is just beginning to feels its way around, inviting designers to step in and produce applications.

In the mean time Google insists that it will tackle many of the inconveniences and problems that it’s (still) experimental OS has brought to the table and, these creases out of the way, Chromebook can become a major player, as, undoubtedly, Google wanted from the beginning of their Chromebook series 5 deployments.

So, let’s take a look at a few devices with which the new Chromebook will most likely wage war. We will cover a few tablets most likely to be great alternatives for the cheap Chromebook light but also a few other netbooks that might prove to be great contenders, mainly due to a similar price point, but also because of running common OSes, Windows or versions of Linux.

Tablets

Surface RTThe first slate (sort of) to make it to the market from developer Microsoft – Surface RT, could potentially be the most aggressive contender for the cheap $250 Chromebook. It has more similar features to Goggle’s products than one would think.

–      It runs Windows8 RT – an OS which allows no applications to run other than those made available by Microsoft;

–      It can be used with a physical keyboard, making it more akin a netbook;

–      It uses an ARM processor, just like Chromebook light;

–      It might eventually end up costing somewhere around $250, if it manages to sell large volumes.

At the moment, it is a game of expectation, but also one of aggressiveness in advertising. In a sense, even if Microsoft has poured a lot more money into the marketing of the device, and it also looks more interesting to users due to its novelty, it wouldn’t be so much of a surprise to see them wage war against each other. However, the price point of acquisition at the moment – $399 puts the 2 products in very different corners of the market, but things could change.

Kindle Fire HDIndeed a far cry for any user that requires a device with a physical keyboard, the Kindle Fire is still a great device for those that want to read books and consume media. With a price point of $199 it can be a contender for a very specific niche of Chromebook users: those that are not interested in productivity applications but still want content on the go.

Acer Iconia seriesThe same provisions apply – for $229, a product such as the Acer Iconia Tab A110 can prove an excellent device for frugal consumption of content and for on internet on the go. It thus targets a niche of Chromebook users disinterested in heavy office applications or other productivity suites.

Netbooks

Asus Eee PCIt could be said that the netbook kicked in full force when these Atom driven small frame devices entered the market. Asus still produces them, offers them with versions of Windows or Linux installed, and, right out of the box they make for great light desktop replacements. With prices oscillating from $129 to $299, they will surely tap into Chromebook territory.

Acer Aspire Oneanother line of netbooks that stands tall, allowing for great on the go connectivity and sporting a compact design, which people on a budget appreciate. Users that are unsure about Chromebook OS limitations might opt for the Acer Aspire One line.

 

Overall, with this new Chromebook product entering the market, the odds that Google will begin to really permeate the market increase exponentially. There are still a lot of people that can’t really get all that is needed from the slates, and also, a lot of people that can’t spend in excess of $500 for the less powerful, entry level ultrabooks available on the market.

Basically, the new Chromebook light has a massive opportunity to tap into its new found market where, even if people might be drawn to combo products such as the Surface tablets. Surface pricing is however a major inconvenience for the market niche.

Therefore, Chromebook has gone from being just another thing, to being theproduct, and if Google manages to present its OS in a friendlier light, they can really make it big with their hardware line.

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