★ On Chromebooks and large-scale Experiments

David Pogue’s take on the Samsung/Google Chromebook methodically challenges each assumption that the Chromebook is designed to test, and the bottom line isn’t very positive:

For now, though, you should praise Google for its noble experiment. You should thrill to the possibilities of the online future. You should exult that somebody’s trying to shake up the operating system wars.

But unless you’re an early-adopter masochist with money to burn, you probably shouldn’t buy a Chromebook.

(I guess I must be of that kind, because I can’t wait to get mine from Google I/O :-), and can definitely see my use for a clean, browser-only computer.)

John Gruber comments:

Really? Why? Would everyone have praised Apple for its “noble experiment” if the $500 iPad had been too big and heavy, felt like it was worth only $180, and was “a 3.3-pound paperweight” when offline? Fuck that. This is the big leagues. There is no credit for trying.

I beg to differ with this last sentence. Google runs large-scale experiments all the time. Many fail, and some succeed. If a company stops experimenting (and therefore failing), it’s really saying to the world that it’s ready to be overtaken by someone else. So yes, Google (and anyone) deserves credit for trying.

Coming back to Pogue’s post, although I agree that Google is putting the Chromebook concept at risk by not having online support for its core apps (Gmail/Google Docs) available at launch, I think time flies for the mainstream, and while a few months seem like forever in the tech blogosphere, mainstream users will not even notice.

One only has to look at Android, whose early models such as the T-Mobile G1 and early software versions such as Eclair were not ready for prime time, but fast iterations on both hardware and software allowed it to quickly catch-up with iOS, even to a point where iOS is starting to copy some of Android’s features. Chromebooks and Chrome OS will become better over time and the only question will be which of the set of compromises that each computing model (Apple/Google/Microsoft) are most acceptable for users.

I would argue that Google’s willingness to experiment at scale (and speed at doing so) are a formidable advantage to reach the masses, and not at all a mistake as Gruber suggests. And while Apple rarely reveals its own experiments because they mostly take place inside its walls, I would bet that it performs as many iterations as Google if not more, and that having failed at some products (the Newton, the Cube, the MobileMe iCloud precursor…) is a fundamental component of its success today.

For now, I will wait until I get mine to make up my mind on the long term viability of Chromebooks and more generally Cloud Computers. Or perhaps I’ll just fall for the latest version of what seems to be the best of both worlds

(first stumbled upon via Marco Arment, always an inspiring read)

About Jean Friesewinkel

Jean is a Belgian engineer and Node.js developer. After 4 years in strategy consulting, Jean is now developing WiseRadar, a personalized news service designed to help startups grow their business. On Strategyist, he writes about web strategies and startups that change the world. He also loves sailing, cooking & photography.

18. June 2011 by Jean Friesewinkel
Categories: Innovation, Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 comment

One Comment

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