Google Launches the Bugatti of Laptops

I’m typing this review on the coolest piece of hardware in the market today, the Google Pixel. If you can afford to spend $1,299 or $1,449 on a laptop, this should be your next productivity device.

Google’s other current laptops are among the least expensive in the market: $199, $249 and $449, respectively. But just like Volkswagen makes $19,000 cars, it also owns Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti, enabling you to spend well over $200,000 on a car.

This Google Pixel, as it is called, is the Bugatti of laptops. Let me tell you what it does that no Apple MacBook or Microsoft Windows 8 laptop does at ANY price, often well above $1,449.

It’s So Pretty

Let’s start with the screen. The pixel density is relatively similar to a MacBook with Retina display. However, the screen differs in two ways: First, the aspect ratio.

It was at the iPad introduction in January 2010 that Steve Jobs proclaimed that your computing device isn’t a TV, and therefore shouldn’t have the TV’s 16:9 aspect ratio. Apple then proceeded to make their laptops with 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratios to this day. Whoops.

Apple’s laptop department may not have paid any attention to what Steve Jobs said about aspect ratio, but Google’s laptop skunkworks department did. The Google Pixel has a display as wide as a typical 12.1 inch laptop, but it’s taller, forming a 3:2 aspect ratio just like the iPad, therefore yielding a screen size of 12.9 inches. You have to see this in person how superior this makes your typing/web experience. I’m in heaven typing this very page!

Unlike ANY MacBook — retina display or otherwise — the Google Pixel is touchscreen. You may not want to use this for most tasks, but it does come in handy in all sorts of situations: Zooming in and out on a map, moving something around, etc.

Many Windows 8 laptops and tablets are also touchscreen, but unlike them, the Google Pixel is not an epic disaster in the interface department. Windows 8 has an interface experience that has been almost universally panned, and the mediocre sales results (no lift from Windows 7) reflects this disaster.

Google Pixel basically says “Look, this is a laptop first, and as such there is zero compromise in the traditional laptop ergonomics. The touch interface is a nice extra capability that can evolve over time. Have fun with it.” This is totally the right approach at this stage of the market.

No Apple laptop offers embedded cellular data connectivity (LTE), and aside from a rare couple of tablet exceptions, neither do the Windows 8 laptops. Google Pixel has you covered with Verizon LTE.

In essence, Google Pixel marries the best of Apple — the Retina display — with the best of the Windows 8 touchscreen capability, but it subtracts the horrible Windows interface, and bests them both with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a superior operating system, Chrome OS. Smackdown!

Big, Puffy Clouds

Google also drops the storage neutron bomb right onto Microsoft’s and Apple’s dining table. The Google Pixel includes 1 terabyte of cloud storage, for 3 years. Yes, you read that right — 1 terabyte. You can access and share that giant 1 terabyte across all your PCs, laptops and smartphones.

How much does Apple and Microsoft charge for storage on their equivalent services, iCloud and SkyDrive? Apple says $100 for 50 gig and Microsoft says $50 for 100 gig Microsoft says $50 for 100 gig. In other words, 1 terabyte would cost $2,000 per year for Apple, and $500 per year for Microsoft.

For 3 years, that’s $6,000 for Apple and $1,500 for Microsoft. In other words, the cloud storage alone costs more on Apple and Microsoft than Google charges for the entire Pixel laptop plus the storage! Google basically gives you this Bugatti-grade laptop FOR LESS THAN ZERO with purchase of 3 years of 1 terabyte storage.

In other words, the Google Pixel may have a price tag of $1,449, but its real cost is less than zero when compared to the competition’s cloud storage pricing.

Still, what is the REAL reason Google bothered designing this record-breaking laptop, even though Google is effectively giving it away for free with the purchase of some cloud storage?

There are two reasons for this: 1. Google needed to bring to market an initial “hero” device that would inspire developers and other laptop makers — Samsung, Acer, HP (HPQ), Lenovo and others — to ditch Microsoft and increase their bets on Google as the new touch PC standard. This initial touchscreen reference PC — the Google Pixel — may not sell in the many millions, but it is what it will spawn that will be more important. 2. Make no mistake about it, this means that a Google tablet based on Chrome OS is coming, probably in well under 18 months from now. Such a tablet could be made very inexpensively, while providing superior characteristics — security, ease of use — to enterprises and kids/elderly people alike.

These are all steps on Google’s path to put Microsoft and Apple out of business. Consider the following market share numbers: Google’s market share in search has been around 67% for years now. Google’s market share in smartphones has now hit an amazing 70%, Strategy Analytics: Android claimed 70% of world smartphone share in Q4 2012.

Back in 2000, Google’s market share in search was around 1%. Back in 2007, Google’s market share in smartphones was also around 1%. In only a few short years, Google captured more than two thirds of these enormous markets.

The Google Pixel is one piece of the puzzle for Google to do the same in the PC market. It will not happen in a year or two, just like Google took at least approximately five years to achieve 67% and 70% market share in search and smartphones.

But get to that kind of market share in PCs, at least Google has now shown that it has leapfrogged the competition with a superior product. It will not be the PC for everyone, right now. There are some special programs that a minority of the modern population can’t use on Chrome OS.

However, for those of us who do not have peculiar special needs with our PCs, such as running PhotoShop or some esoteric mind-destroying game, the Google Pixel laptop is to a Windows 8 laptop or a MacBook what Buckingham Palace is to a Burger King. And predictably, the people who disagree will be mostly those who have not yet used it.

From Web Store to Corner Store

This brings us to a remaining piece in Google’s puzzle. Among Apple’s many virtues is that they have a superior retail store strategy. As I published here on Aug. 15, 2011 Google’s Strategy: Look Like Apple, Google would start planning for stores — just like Apple and Microsoft — once it had closed the Motorola acquisition. A year and a half later, I have not changed my mind on that.

Google is building a retail product portfolio to display in its own stores: smartphones, tablets, PCs, TV players and connected eyeglasses. It’s already got 70% market share in smartphones, and the market share in key services such as search is also dominant at 67%.

It was nice to have known you, Microsoft and Apple. We had a good run. I feel like we were a band on tour, partying and destroying hotel rooms. But now, all good things must come to an end. Google has made a superior product, the ultimate laptop PC. Microsoft and Apple, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

 

[Cross-posted at The Street]