Two years ago, when Google first advertised Chromebooks — laptops that store everything online, without a hard drive or desktop software — the tagline at the end of the ad was, “Ready when you are.”
Two years later, Google has apparently decided that people are ready. In the new ads for the latest Chromebooks, which run Google’s Chrome operating system, the tagline is, “For everyone.”
Google has a new Chromebook. Although it looks like a laptop, Google’s Chromebook is competing with many other devices, including two announced this week, Apple’s iPad Mini and Microsoft‘s Surface, not to mention Google’s own Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon.com‘s Kindle Fire. The Chromebooks were hastily announced Thursday, before this week’s big product events by Apple and Microsoft.
The ads, which have begun airing nationally on television during the baseball playoffs, also reveal a shift in strategy for Chromebooks, after Google failed to sell the original ones in large numbers. At first, Google trumpeted their usefulness for businesses, but corporations are often the slowest to adopt new technology and business buyers couldn’t wrap their heads around a computer without desktop software.
So Google’s new tactic — revealed in a series of sweet clips of home and family life in the TV ad — is to sell the $249 Chromebooks as a family’s second, at-home computer, the one they turn to when they want to search for a recipe, play a game or watch a movie.
Google’s ads show Chromebooks at the kitchen table (“for homework”), on the deck (“for working at home”), in the kitchen (“for goo”), in bed (“for lazy Sundays”) and on the couch (“for movie Fridays”).
“What excites us most is how we see Chromebooks being used in day-to-day life,” said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome at Google. “Of the people who bought it, the most common use case is people just use this as an additional computer at home.”
The new silvery Samsung-made laptop is lighter (2.43 pounds), thinner (0.8 inches) and, at $250, less expensive than the original Chromebook, which was black and clunky. That is partly because they use a chip that is typically found in smartphones and tablets, not laptops.
The idea behind Chromebooks, named after Google’s Chrome browser, is that people can now live on the Web, storing everything in the cloud, and no longer need desktop software and hard drives or all the inconveniences that come with them, like I.T. support, software and security updates and computer back-ups.
People use only Web services on Chromebooks, like Google’s Gmail and Picasa and Microsoft’s Office 365. Google Web apps like Gmail, YouTube and Hangouts are built in. In a world overrun with Chromebooks, as imagined by Google, people could walk up to a computer anywhere in the world, log in and access all their stuff.
To start people off, Google is offering new Chromebook owners 100 gigabytes of free file storage on Google Drive for two years. That amount of space typically costs $5 a month. (So the $250 Chromebook feels like it is really only $130.) Google also links a user’s activity on a Chromebook with the same person’s Android phone, for instance, so if you search for a pizza place on the laptop Google will automatically show you directions on your phone.
“Above all, it brings all of Google services, built straight into the device,” Mr. Pichai said.