Google has set tongues wagging with the upcoming launch of the Chromebook devices, driven by Chrome OS and pushing the user to live in the cloud. The concept is interesting and Google has smartly aimed it squarely at the enterprise and the education system. It will be sold to consumers, too, and that’s the market segment that may give Google the most fits with the Chromebook. There’s a huge barrier to entry for millions of consumers considering the Chromebook: it doesn’t work with Apple products.
That barrier is massive to overcome for a new product, which already faces a big job to convince consumers that a totally new type of product is what they need. What Google is going to run into headfirst is something no amount of positioning or marketing can deal with. The millions of existing iPhone, iPad and iPod owners cannot use the Chromebook with those devices. That is one task the Chromebook can’t perform, and it is unlikely it ever will. Google will be looking at convincing Apple product owners that they need to switch, or forget the Chromebook. That is a huge unreachable market for a brand new product.
If Google and its Chromebook partners try to cover up that inability in the marketing message, it will backfire. There will be a lot of Chromebooks bought by existing Apple product owners, and they will quickly be returned for refunds. Companies will have to come up with a marketing angle for consumers that deals with that prior to purchase, and that is a very daunting task. I predict the number one reason given for Chromebook returns will be that “it doesn’t work with my iPhone/iPad/iPod.”