I recently fell on a pretty interesting article from the Street.com: The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: May 13 - TheStreet. It is about major blunders made by big public companies or people employed by them.
I was mostly intrigued by the article relating to Google (GOOG) and their newly issued Chromebook, described by Google on the Chromebook website in the following terms:
A Chromebook is a mobile device designed specifically for people who live on the web. With a comfortable full-sized keyboard, large display and clickable trackpad, all-day battery life, light weight, and built-in ability to connect to Wi-Fi and mobile broadband networks, Chromebooks are ideal for anytime, anywhere access to the web. They provide a faster, safer, more secure online experience for people who live on the web, without all the time-consuming, often confusing, high level of maintenance required by typical computers.
It will come in two models, one manufactured by Samsung and the other by Acer and will be available on June 15th. The author of the article on TheStreet.com discusses the fact that the Chromebook comes at a time when mini-notebooks are simply outdated and that linking the product to a 3 years contract on a data plan was a silly move to take.
This point of view seems to be adopted a long time before the product has even had a chance to get going in the marketplace. The target costumers of the Chromebook are people who spend most of their time on the web and do not us their computer for much other use. Google seems to be targeting a niche market and it is reasonable to think that the people in the marketing department saw at least a medium term opportunity for Google.
These notebooks will be well adapted for people who are already accustomed to the Google product line but they still need to offer some features that many people are still looking for when acquiring a computer. First, Java is not supported by the Chromebook. If it is supposed to appeal to regular Internet users, this is a functionality that will have to be addressed.
The Chromebook doesn't yet support networks that require security certificates and this is an issue considering that most enterprise wireless networks are secured. As noted on TheStreet.com, it's not currently possible to transfer owner privileges of your Chrome notebook to another user account unless it is set back to back to it's set back to it's initial state, loosing all previously recorded data.
There are only some of the few drawbacks of the Chromebook but I am pretty sure it will provide Google with a business segment that will constantly expose it's users to the advertising distributed by the company, thus increasing revenues.
Full Disclosure: The author does not have a position in GOOG.