Can Google's New Chromebook Steal Sales From Apple?

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) just announced the Chromebook Pixel, its latest laptop with a new touchscreen. It's marching further into Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) territory with the new notebook, but the company has a long way to go before converting loyal Apple users, and even further before the new notebook will benefit Google investors.

A touch of innovation
To lure Apple consumers (and others) from their current laptops, Google needs to give potential buyers something new and innovative. Apple users are a loyal bunch and they don't switch devices easily. Luckily for Google, the new notebook introduces some new features and options that you won't find on any Apple laptop.

The Pixel's most notable feature is its touchscreen. Google thinks the future of notebooks will incorporate touchscreen technology and it's jumping on the idea now. Early tests of the touchscreen have been positive, although real-world testing will prove how useful a touchscreen laptop will be.

Google is also trying to hit Apple where it hurts by releasing a screen it says has the "highest pixel density" on the market. Apple loves to talk about its Retina display, but the new Chromebook has a larger screen resolution and more pixels per inch than the comparable 13-inch Retina Macbook. Here's a full breakdown of their specs:

Feature Chromebook  13-Inch Macbook With Retina Display 13-Inch Macbook Air
Touchscreen Yes No No
Screen 2,560 x 1,700, at 239 PPI 2,560 x 1,600 at 227 PPI  1,440 x 900 high-resolution LED
Processor Intel Core i5 dual-core, 1.8GHz Intel Core i5,
2.5GHz / 2.6GHZ dual-core
Intel Core i5,
1.8GHz dual-core  
Storage 32 GB / 64 GB  solid state

3 years terabyte Google Drive storage
128 GB / 256 GB 128 GB / 256 GB
solid state
Memory 4 GB 8GB 4GB
Battery 5 hours  7 hours  7 hours

Internet

Wi-Fi, LTE
 

Wi-Fi, ethernet

Wi-Fi

Price

$1,299 / $1,449

$1,499 / $1,699

$1,199 / $1,399

Sources: Google and Apple.

More than a pretty face
Google isn't just marketing the Pixel as a great touchscreen with a beautiful display, though. It says the device is made for "power users" who live in the cloud-- and it's making sure Pixel owners get the chance to do exactly that. The Pixel comes with a terabyte of Google Drive storage space for three years. The problem Google will face is getting those power users to adopt the idea of storing all their files online instead of on the notebook.

To help with living in the cloud, the Chromebook Pixel comes with a free 100 MB/month Verizon Wireless LTE connection for two years. Consumers probably don't have a hard time finding free Wi-Fi when they need it, but having free Internet (even if it's a small amount of data) compared to no LTE option in Apple's laptops could be an advantage for Google.

The verdict
Although Google has launched a great product, there is one serious flaw with it -- the OS. Chrome OS may be a good part-time OS for surfing the web and using a limited amount of programs, but it doesn't have access to the same amount (or same quality) of apps and programs as Apple's OS. Chromebooks were initially created as web-only devices that didn't handle large processing or graphics tasks, and although the Pixel is more robust than previous Chromebooks, it still can't compete with Apple's OS.

That's not good news for Google investors hoping the company will take more of the notebook market share. It's also a bit curious that Google would pursue the high-end laptop market when it puts so much time and money into the Android OS and its mobile devices, the obvious future. Research firm NPD predicts that tablet shipments will finally overtake notebook shipments later this year, three years earlier than their initial prediction last year.

If Google opens up its own stores, as I've mentioned before that they should, it could help boost sales of the Pixel. But as it stands right now, Google is going to have a very difficult time convincing Mac users to switch over to its OS. With Apple already dominating the retail space, even if Google opened up stores this year, they wouldn't have the reach Apple Stores already have -- or the brand loyalty. With Google behind in the retail game, sporting an inferior OS, and pushing further into an already competitive market, it's unlikely the company will steal a significant number of sales away from Apple.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2013, at 2:33 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    This is kind of misleading article.

    First off, Chrome OS is not a fully functioning OS, it's a browser based OS with pretty much only the most basic of applications. Don't expect users to do any more sophisticated computing on these things and there isn't much in the way of local storage. It has outdated USB 2.0 ports, no Thunderbolt ports and this thing doesn't get very good battery life. Only 5 hours max?

    It's WAY overpriced for what you get.

    If Google sells any, they might sell 100,000 units world wide, if they're lucky, otherwise this thing is NOT a full blown laptop, it's more of a basic needs computer for those that want to waste money on something barely useful.

    Google just doesn't get it. Google should just stick to app development and work on their GUI design to maybe make their applications worth actually paying money for like REAL app developers do.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2013, at 2:42 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    Those that don't understand the Thunderbolt port, there is a wide variety of adapter cables to turn it into Firewire, Gigabit Ethernet, so the MacBookAir does kind of come with Gigabit Ethernet if you need it, it just requires an inexpensive adapter cable that costs $29 or less.

    For those that want more power, both MacBooks can be upgraded to faster and more power processors, storage. Either way, I don't know what Google is thinking with these Chromebooks other than confusing people into thinking they are a major player in the computer industry.

    I think Google is just guilty of Apple Envy.

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