Google startled the tech world slightly on Thursday when it pulled back the curtain on the new high performance, touchscreen Chromebook Pixel laptop. It's not so much that Google released a laptop — Google's been peddling its classic, cloud-based and impossibly cheap Chromebook since 2011. It's that Google slapped an Apple-sized price of $1,299 on the thing and didn't even bother giving it a fresh new design. It looks just like a MacBook Pro!
No big. Companies have been ripping off the MacBook Pro design pretty much as long as the MacBook Pro has been around. And why wouldn't they? The MacBook Pro is really well designed! The just-sharp-enough edges, the black border around the screen, the oversized touch pad, the clean body, the utter simplicity — it's all there. So should Apple be worried that Google is stealing its thunder, its propensity for pretty things? Probably not. But Microsoft should, because the new Chromebook Pixel shows just how useless Windows really is.
The Pixel uses Google's very pared down Chrome OS which is basically just a web browser. This means that you have to use web apps for all your computing needs, a task that would've been impossible ten years ago and might've been somewhat annoying five years ago. But today it's remarkable. Add the high end hardware — a tablet-like touchscreen with resolution that rivals Apple's Retina, a super fast processor, a terabyte worth of storage on Google Drive — and it's hard to say no.
"But it does this in a package that has the advantage of being totally fused to the cloud: All your files, all your programs, living on Google’s servers, where they never need backing up or updating, and always available on any device you might own, whether it’s a phone, tablet or laptop," explains Christopher Mims at Quartz. "In short, it aims to be the hub of your digital life."
Well, both Microsoft and Apple want to sell you a hub for your digital life, too. Apple seems to be doing just fine doing what it's doing, but Microsoft is clearly struggling to keep up. The Windows 8 operating system didn't get amazing reviews. The Windows Phone hasn't really taken off like it should. The new Windows Surface tablets have gotten good reviews but haven't come close to the adoption rate that Android and Apple tablets have. Microsoft really doesn't need Google swooping in with a premium machine and innovative operating system that will continue to woo people away from Windows.
And to add insult to injury, as Mims points out, this is a pet project for Google. In other words, it doesn't even matter if people buy the thing. They already make plenty of money. Cut the Windows out of Microsoft, though, and Steve Ballmer will (finally) be looking for a new job.