Over the 2013 holiday season, I was able to take some much needed time off. But, like most, I found it hard to completely unplug. While I forced myself not to produce articles for Windows IT Pro during the time off, I couldn't help still staying in touch with the tech industry. I'm a sad case, but I really do enjoy keeping tabs on the tech industry no matter how seemingly inbred and illogical it is sometimes.
One of the things that caught my attention a week or so ago were reports that the Chromebook had made significant gains in market share over the Christmas season. That's fine. Consumers, especially for Christmas, like to give presents that look more expensive than they really are. It's a status thing. At less than $200, in most cases, a Chromebook definitely fits that description. A Chromebook is a free browser, with free plugins, running on moderately priced hardware. So, once the gift receiver starts using the Chromebook and realizes how limited it is, the devices should break records for holiday return items.
But, what really tore into me was that some reporting went too far and suggested that the Chromebook was making strong inroads into the business space.
First off, this was the holiday season. What company uses Christmas to buy new notebooks (I use that term loosely) for the business? Secondly, what company would choose a functionally limited piece of hardware for business use?
If the reports are true, companies are attempting to run their entire business in a web browser on a device that must be Internet-connected at all times. Yes, according to many vendors this is the end-game, but we are not even close to that yet.
Around the 1700's, the term Snake Oil was coined. Snake Oil originated from railroad gangs outfitted with Chinese laborers. The Chinese, known historically for natural medicines, had given special medical herbs to Europeans to ease join pain. The herbs worked, but the concoction was taken and sold by Western charlatans as a cure-all for everything. So, while Snake Oil was great at curing joint pain, it was eventually promoted to be a panacea for headaches, stomach pains, bloating, gas discomfort, arthritis, even broken bones and other things. Traveling "doctors" brought Snake Oil into town to dupe residents into buying bottles and bottles of the horrible-tasting, ineffective product. They'd go as far as putting on scripted shows with full consumer (portrayed by actors) testimonials about how the product saved their life. Once they soaked the town residents dry of their hard-earned money, they'd make a night-covered dash to the next unsuspecting town.
Like Snake Oil, Chromebooks are great for a couple things like surfing the web (if you have a Wi-Fi connection) and reading Facebook. But, running a business? How can a business be duped so easily?
A Twitter conversation about this revealed one individual who suggested Chromebooks could be valuable depending on what a person's definition of "productive" is. But, I say, why settle? Why allow a vendor to directly tell you what is productive and what isn't? I get the feeling that an uneducated public is exactly the target for a Chromebook. If consumers were better educated on what is and what is not technologically valuable, they'd make better and different decisions and stop spending their money on Snake Oil.
What do you think? Can a business be successful transitioning to a Chromebook? And further, what other examples of modern-day tech Snake Oil can you think of?