Google’s slow-burning Chromebooks have taken a pasting in an aggressive new Microsoft advertising campaign that writes them off as “pretty much bricks” and “not a real laptop.”
It’s not the first time Redmond has taken pot-shots as Google’s products but the latest Scroogled ad takes disdain to a new level, employing US Rick Harrison from TV show Pawn Stars to ram home the general uselessness of a computer so dependent on web apps.
After being offered a Chromebook by an aspiring actress desperate for some money to get her to Hollywood, Harrison starts his jocular pitch.
“A traditional PC utilises built-in applications like Office and iTunes that work even when you’re offline,” announces Harrison before delivering the coup de gras; “You see this thingy? [the Chrome icon on the computer lid] That means it’s not a real laptop.”
It gets worse. “Google tracks what you do so they can sell ads,” adds Harrison, conveniently ignoring that Microsoft would do much the same thing if it could persuade anyone to use its own search engine, Bing.
This is how consumers end up “scroogled.” Harrison refuses to let her pawn the Chromebook and sends the woman on her way as one of his colleagues suggests that something so worthless might at last get her as far as Reno.
Stirring stuff for the Microserfs but behind the bravado might the firm be secretly rattled by Chromebooks? The hate directed at Google sounds suspiciously reminiscent of the derision pointed in Microsoft’s direction 20 years ago by IBM executives furious that anyone could be foolish enough to choose Windows over the obviously superior OS/2.
There has certainly been a recent and presumably coincidental upsurge in anti-Chromebook articles by grey-haired columnists. Techworld commented on this curious phenomenon in a recent article after sales figures appeared to show that the Chromebook’s sub-million sales were barely a pimple beside those of the PC.
But Microsoft are not dummies and will know that Chromebook sales have probably been temporarily held back by a lack of global distribution – something that will change - and the fact that manufacturers have so far pitched the laptops as cheapo replacements for netbooks.
Product teasers from Asian PC makers suggests that in 2014 this will change and Chromebooks will get more powerful quad-core processors, larger screens and more native web apps. Given that the lack of an OS license fee makes them inherently cheaper, Chromebooks could start to eat into Microsoft’s share of the $300-$600 consumer laptop market, leaving Windows as an increasingly business-oriented OS.
It’s not as if sales of Windows 8 PCs have been going well with plenty of evidence pointing to the platform’s slow but steady abandonment by a consumer sector now more interested in tablets and smartphones.
Right on cue, Acer has announced a touchscreen Chromebook, the $299 (£200) 720P, another sign that the feature advantage of entry-level Windows laptops is eroding fast.
“At Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, it’s all about separating the real deal from the imitation - and the Google Chromebook sticks out like a sore thumb,” notes Scroogled’s ad blurb. Famous last words?