Friday, February 20, 2009

When will Google 2.0 sell a branded netbook?

The great thing about the netbook is price (batteries not included). Of course, like any computing device of any quality, netbooks also need network access -- but I think network access will also be commoditized.

The bad things are quality, cost of ownership, and value delivered.

The Target Trutech that triggered my netbook interests was/is incredibly crummy. The hardware is crummy, the software is ugly, the usability is lousy, and in fairly short order a new wave of virus attacks will destroy the first generation linux-based netbooks.

On the platform side Google Chrome for Linux will address one set of issues. That still leaves hardware quality and virus security as obstacles to Google's Chromestellation strategy. An extra $5 spent on a keyboard will vastly improve user experience, but at the brutal low end of the market there's no brand awareness to justify a $5 price boost.

Google, of course, can address those issues. Unlike Apple they don't have a hardware franchise to protect, and, of course, unlike Microsoft they don't have a software franchise to support.

Google will sell a Google-branded netbook. They'll do the ultra-thin Linux distro, and they'll do the antiviral and security updates. Their device, sold under the Google brand, will be able to justify the $15 higher price point that will take the $135 2011 Google netbook something everyone will own.

Which bring us, inevitably, to antitrust.

Google is now so dominant in search that a revived American antitrust division is already making noises. If they come to own the entire western, and possibly world, netbook industry they'll make the Microsoft of old look modest.

Google will sell a branded netbook, but they'll have to split the company to do it. Google 1.0 will have search, and Google 2.0 will have the netbook.

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