Slate’s Farhad Manjoo has an interesting take on the future of cloud computing. It comes with a review of the Chromebook Pixel that begins like so:
So I’m late to this party. It’s been two weeks since Google unveiled the Chromebook Pixel—a stylish yet mystifying addition to its line of machines that run the Chrome operating system—and pretty much every tech reviewer in the world has already offered his assessment. They all agree, too: With its stylish design and amazing high-resolution touch display, the Pixel is a wondrous machine … and only an idiot would consider buying it.
The Pixel starts at $1,299, but it has a limitation that other high-end laptops don’t: It can run only a single native program, the Chrome browser. Take it away, David Pogue: “If you’re going to spend $1,300, why on earth would you buy a laptop that does nothing but surf the Web?” How about you, The Verge? “Everyone should want a Chromebook Pixel. … But almost no one should buy one.” OK, let’s check in at Gizmodo: “The Chromebook Pixel is amazing. Don’t buy it.”
I wish I could muster up some Slate-worthy contrarianism, but I’m right there with those guys. In the couple weeks that I’ve had the Pixel, I’ve marveled at almost everything about it. Its display is indeed delightful, turning the Web’s ordinarily drab text into the crisp stuff you remember from glossy magazines. Its track pad and touch screen are fantastic; indeed, the Pixel’s is the first track pad not made by Apple that I didn’t want to jab with a sharp stick. Yes, the machine is a little too heavy—at 3.3 pounds it’s about 6 ounces more than the 13-inch MacBook Air, which sells for almost $200 less and does a whole lot more. Yet its extra weight is in keeping with an overall solidity. Made out of dark, precision-machined aluminum, the Pixel looks and feels like a computer designed by Harley Davidson: It’s all sharp, tough angles, and its moving parts are buttery smooth. This thing was made with a lot of care. I hope Apple’s design chief Jony Ive has ordered several of these. As a really rich guy who loves beautiful computers, he’s one of the few people in the world who’d truly appreciate the Pixel.
For the rest of us, the Pixel is foolish, a nice-looking but fatally hobbled bauble…
…So why did Google make it? That’s the mystery I’ve been wrestling with these last few days. And despite the Pixel’s being a nonstarter right now, I’m beginning to think it’s brilliant as an idea, albeit one whose time has not yet arrived. Why? Let me sketch out a few thoughts.
Farhad talks about Google’s potential business model (lowering the laptop’s price and basically wrapping people in all things Google via Chrome). More interesting are his thoughts and predictions on cloud computing and the migration he sees a majority of people making to Web apps that will handle all of what they do.
Five years? It seems too soon. But five years in Internet life is a very long, long time.
Farhad Manjoo, Slate. The Laptop of the Future.