Not only is Apple disrupting the MacBook and Mac market with its move to ARM-based processors, it’s also going to have an impact on the wider marketplace. Microsoft will be forced to accelerate its Windows 10 on ARM project to allow its partners to stay in touch with Apple. And Google will have to consider the danger to its Chromebook project .
I’ve previously talked about the impact of Apple’s move to ARM-based processors on the Windows 10 ecosystem. In summary it’s going to force Microsoft’s Windows 10 on ARM into the spotlight; rival laptop manufacturers will no doubt offer at least one ARM-powered line-up in the portfolio rather than let Apple take all the glory; and there will be an increased focus on fixing legacy app compatibility (something that Windows 10 and MacOS will have to deal with quickly and smoothly).
But there’s another competitor that should be worrying about the danger posed by Apple’s move – Google and its Chromebook project and ChromeOS.
Chromebooks are lightweight laptops (and tablets, but I’m focusing on the laptop space here) that are built around Google’s Chrome browser. The vast majority of apps run from the cloud. Data can be stored locally but the focus is on data in the cloud.
Looking through Google’s homepage for the OS and the ecosystem; you see battery life, fast booting times, ‘smart’ quality of life features such as instant tethering to mobile devices, the voice powered Google assistant, and the security of the product.
With Apple expected to lead off with a MacBook Pro on ARM later this year, you can see that this new MacOS laptop is taking on the Chromebook project head on.
A number of Google’s key points are in software. Apple is confident in its approach to security, its own voice assistant in Siri is available on Macs, and the quality of life features are replicated – for example the Instant Hotspot feature. The core OS software features are covered.
The advantages offered by ARM tie in closely with the advantages of a Chromebook. You have the increased battery life for similar performance on an Intel chip. You have improved connectivity on cellular or wireless network, and increased battery life. And you can offer more computing power at a lower price.
Where Google will be seen to have an advantage will be in the online suite of apps including Google Docs and Google Sheets, as well as the PIM functionality of Gmail, Contacts, and Calendar. Apple takes a slightly different approach to handing files for the iWork suite, but the end result is the same… Apple has its own fully functional apps that work just as well with local- or cloud-based files.
I’m confident that any launch event is going to put a lot of focus on points that directly target the Chromebook; namely the long battery life, security, and Apple’s bundled applications including the aforementioned iWork suite.
Google’s previous yardstick was the tsunami of Windows 10 powered laptops. The pricing of the Macs, even the MacBook Air’s $999, put them out of reach of any significant comparison. With a discussed $200 pricing advantage on ARM powered Mac laptops, Apple is within disruptive range of the Chromebook revolution.
How will Google respond?