The Chromebook bandwagon gained another rider Monday with Hewlett-Packard's announcement of its first model in that form factor. The news comes following a report last week by Acer that Chromebooks were accounting for 5 percent to 10 percent of their laptops sold in the U.S. since their models were released in November.
The HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook, which has been rumored for weeks, features a 14-inch 1366x768 screen. The company said its diagonal measurement is about two inches wider than any other Chromebook on the market.
The Chrome OS from Google relies entirely on cloud-based apps and files, and the HP model includes Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, access to the Chrome Web Store and, for multi-person video chatting, Google+ Hangouts.
The new, 4-pound model has a 1.1-GHz Intel Celeron processor, Intel high-definition graphics, 4 GB memory, a TrueVision HD Webcam, and a 16-GB solid-state drive which assists with fast start-ups. Ports include HDMI, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, USB 2.0, Ethernet, a combination headphone/microphone jack and a media card reader. The Chromebook also comes with 100 GB of free storage on Google Drive for two years. Battery life is a relatively short 4.25 hours, and the starting price is $330.
Kevin Frost, vice president and general manager for Consumer PCs at HP, said in a statement that the Chrome OS "is showing great appeal to a growing customer base."
Large organizations could find Chromebooks appealing because, as a cloud-based computer, IT departments can centrally manage in the cloud updating and backups, and can more readily maintain security . Additionally, any individual device could be used by any employee, who simply logs in on any machine to get individual files and a personalized desktop.
Chromebooks are also being sold by Samsung, Lenovo and Acer. The entry of HP, the largest computer maker in the world, adds more credibility to this cloud-based approach.
Top Amazon Seller
An emerging question is whether Chromebooks will have appeal beyond narrow niches, and, if so, if their sales could hurt Windows 8 computers. HP Executive Vice President Todd Bradley told news media last month that his company found sales of Windows 8 machines to be disappointing. Acer President Jim Wong has also described Windows 8 as "still not successful."
In recent weeks, a variety of data points have indicated that Chromebooks may be catching on. In addition to Acer's report that as many as 10 percent of its laptops sales in the U.S. are now Chromebooks, Samsung's 11.6-inch screen Chromebook is presently the top selling laptop on Amazon.com.
Last month, Lenovo launched its ThinkPad X131e, a rugged Chromebook designed for the rough conditions of the K-12 market, and it is reportedly working on a model for corporations. The financial journal The Street has reported that it is hearing from enterprises that are ready to have as many as 20 percent of their employees try Chromebooks.
'Some Getting Used To'
Charles King, an analyst for industry research firm Pund-IT, said that, anecdotally, he's seeing Chromebooks appear in local school districts and that some libraries are switching over to the cloud-based devices.
Some observers have suggested that Chromebooks will have no more appeal long term in the personal computer market than, say, Linux has. King said that, while Chromebooks did not appear to "be a serious threat to Windows 8 quite yet," he expects they will have "a bigger market opportunity than Linux."
And, he said, the quick-starting Chromebook has at least one key advantage over Windows 8 machines -- "a familiar interface." Windows 8's interface, the subject of much commentary, "takes some getting used to," he said.