In what would best be described as a puzzling turn of events, Google announced the Chromebook Pixel, a high-end notebook computer running Google's ChromeOS. The Pixel had been rumored for a while, but most didn't actually believe it to be a real product. Chromebooks have traditionally been pictured as inexpensive machines for those who need little more than web browsing capability, after all, for all intents and purposes , ChromeOS IS simply a browser window. There are a few additions here and there to make it look and feel a bit more like a traditional PC, but the limitations are fairly obvious. Limitations are to be expected when your budget for a computer is below $250.
The entire idea behind ChromeOS and Chromebooks in general was the "computer for everyone." The Chromebook Pixel appears to be the computer for no one at all. It’s hardware is certainly enough to generate a bit of interest. Chomebook Pixel pulls up to the scene sporting an absolutely mind-blowing 2560 x 1700 resolution touchscreen display, along with an aluminum body, Intel Core i5 dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM. There is no doubt that Google went premium for this machine. The problem is, Chromebooks aren’t typically premium products.
Retailing for a whopping $1249, it's far too expensive for the typical Chromebook buyer, while also running an operating system that makes it unusable for most of the consumers that WOULD spend that much on a notebook computer. ChromeOS does not run Photoshop. It does not run InDesign. It cannot edit high resolution video. It doesn't have the hard drive space to hold hundreds of digital camera photos in RAW format (it sports a 32GB SSD), so it likely cannot be a photographers main computer. From what has been seen thus far there aren't any touch-centric enhancements made to the core ChromeOS either.
It’s difficult not to look at this device and say “who is going to buy this exactly?”
Seeing a company try different things and push the envelope is always welcome, so for that Google should be applauded. They have no qualms about introducing a new product even when it seems destined for failure. While it remains to be seen whether the Pixel fits into that category, its hard to find a space where one can give it an advantage over any other product in it’s market segment. Yes, the screen is more dense than a 13 inch Macbook Pro, and it does include touch input, but without any enhancements to the operating system, the touch adds nothing. Yes, it does have more premium materials than most Windows 8 Ultrabooks, but the operating system is only half as functional. For users who aren’t tied into the Google ecosystem, the Chromebook makes even less sense. The entire situation is puzzling on all levels.
The only logical answer is Google has something very large up it’s sleeve. Typically software changes inform future hardware releases. For example, it was obvious that Window 8 was built for touch input, long before we ever got a glimpse of Surface. In the case of the Chromebook Pixel, perhaps the hardware foretells a sweeping change to ChromeOS. If that turns out to be the case, then the Pixel can be looked at through a different lens. Until then, Google just released the world's first $1200 web browser.