Tablets Blocking the Popularity of Chromebooks

Microsoft Corp has released a new video under its Scroogled! campaign which questions the usefulness of Chromebooks. The video shows a lady pawning a Chromebook to a staff member on the popular reality television show Pawn Stars. Expectedly, the Chromebook is rejected and the video goes on to explain why it has no resale value.

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Source: Screenshot from scroogled.com

Helping the Enemy

Competitor bashing and product comparisons are nothing new in the world of advertising. The campaign from Microsoft tries to highlight how the Chromebook is not a “real” computer and is heavily reliant on internet connectivity. The risk with using the cast from the popular reality television show (Pawn Stars) is that Microsoft is introducing the concept of an always connected computer to the mainstream consumer whereas currently techsumers represent the consumer group buying into the concept of the Chromebook.

Always Connected

A Chromebook is not fully functional without internet connectivity, as Microsoft has rightly pointed out. The reality is that consumers in both developed and emerging markets are heavily dependent on the internet, and for consumers in developed markets, especially Japan and South Korea, smartphones are their main devices for staying online. Thus, the concept of an always connected device like a Chromebook is no longer unthinkable, and consumers, particularly those in developed markets, will have no qualms accepting the concept of a Chromebook.

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Source: Euromonitor International

An Enemy from Within

Interestingly, the key factor holding back the mass adoption of the Chromebook is the popularity of tablets running on the Android OS (also from Google Inc). The lack of Windows OS and hard-disk drive (HDD) translates into lower cost for both manufacturers and consumers. Tablets are popular because of their relatively lower cost compared to laptops and netbooks. The absence of a physical keyboard reduces the cost, weight and size of a tablet, making it the ideal portable device with a larger screen (compared to a smartphone).

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

From a consumer’s perspective, the tablet provides a significantly stronger value proposition than a Chromebook for mobility. The traditional laptops/netbooks running on Windows offer the full flexibility of offline capabilities and internet connectivity. Consumers who want the cheapest competing device will get a tablet whereas those who are willing to pay more will prefer a traditional laptop. With no clear unique value proposition, the Chromebook faces an uphill battle to gain traction among mainstream consumers. Microsoft could have saved the money spent on its Chromebook advertisement or diverted the funds to help its newly acquired smartphone/tablet division (Nokia Corp).