Can Chromebook be more than a “noble experiment”?

David Pogue’s review of the new Google Chromebook hardware by Samsung calls it a “noble experiment”. The question is, can Google’s Chrome OS ever be more than that?

For one thing, if hardware vendors and distribution partners find consumer interest lacking, Google will have to sweeten the incentives for them to keep churning out hardware and pushing it through retail. Pogue’s review does a very good job summarizing the current issues with the offering, which will likely tank sales; the bigger question is whether Google’s philosophy and vision with Chrome can materialize in the broader ecosystem – that is, a browser as the OS paradigm of computing. This seems quaintly a very desktop centric view of the world; with all kinds of mobile devices gaining broad adoption, why should we continue to expect the browser at front and center of how consumers access the Internet?

There is no destined outcome in terms of the “native” versus. “browser” “war”; this is dependent on how the players in each camp fight for ecosystem support and consumer adoption. And that’s where Google’s own hedge against Chrome – Android – is the second major factor against Chromebook’s potential. The managers running Android and Chrome will probably characterize their respective businesses as in a “friendly competition”; however, when they are competing in anything from internal engineering resources, corporate budgets, to external hardware partners and developer support, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that outsiders will see a lot of conflicted messages, and therefore question the strategy.

Count me a skeptic.

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