back to article Does Google make hardware just so nobody buys it?

Common sense says you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal – but that isn't going to stop Google trying. A Veblen good is a luxury item where demand increases the more expensive* it is. A dumb terminal such as a tablet is now a commodity good sold in supermarkets. Sales follow a conventional demand curve, …

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  1. Noonoot

    When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    You can make what you want when your pocket is deep.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      "You can make what you want when your pocket is deep."

      Only up to a point. Google have a growing reputation for dropping stuff and leaving users (and indeed customers) stranded, investment analysts are looking for returns, and the wider public enjoy a good pratfall.

      Microsoft had deep, deep pockets, and still couldn't cut it in phone. Appears that Google haven't learned the lesson on that.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

        Microsoft had deep, deep pockets alright, but I don't think they could organize a piss-up in a brewery any more. Their whole phone thing was a Keystone Kops routine all the way back to when it was running Windows CE.

        The problem with Google is they're out of touch with reality, and they get bored easily.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

          Microsoft had deep, deep pockets alright, but I don't think they could organize a piss-up in a brewery any more. Their whole phone thing was a Keystone Kops routine all the way back to when it was running Windows CE.

          The only thing fundamentally wrong with Windows Mobile (7.5, 8, etc) was that it was too late. Like BlackBerry's 10, which was also too late, it was actually a pretty decent OS. There were some nice features. MS also did a pretty good job of the hardware spec which brought sanity to OS updates, multi-vendor support, etc (all things Google didn't, and still doesn't, have a grip on).

          The problem with Google is they're out of touch with reality, and they get bored easily.

          I'm in complete agreement with that. Their promotions structure, completely incoherent product / service strategy, disregard for prudent spending, corporate constitution that prevents most shareholders voting, and their continual clashes with anti-trust regulators in Europe; there's a lot of bad stuff in Google that is masked by the large profits. Given that their profits are built on very large volumes of quite low margin stuff, that profit can be wiped out by not very large shifts in law, policy, etc. One day they might look back at their current profligacy with regret.

          1. se99paj

            Re: When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

            Microsoft's mistake was going for the consumer market, they should have focused on the enterprise market. At the time Blackberry was a mess and Apple/Google were focusing on consumers - Deciding to go head to head with Android/iOS was a mistake. They already had relationships with enterprise customers.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

            Microsoft's mistake was releasing a brand new mobile OS - Windows Phone 7 - and then almost immediately (within about 12 months of launch) announcing it was a dead end and there would be no upgrade path to the next version 8 (which also wouldn't be backward compatible with the old version). And then that next version was late, and by the time it appeared the mobile market for Microsoft was totally and irrevocably dead.

            So basically, it was a botched Windows Phone launch and non-existent upgrade roadmap that doomed the platform, because they were far too late to the party so small things like rewarding customer loyalty or speccing sustainable rather than barely adequate hardware were considered unnecessary.

            They could have been late and still had a chance, if only they hadn't abandoned their initial customer base. That was such a dick move.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      Standard anonymous former employee comment: when your promotions structure is predicated only on individual employees being able to prove that they solved a problem of sufficient complexity, not on whether that problem has already been solved by twenty other teams in twenty other products, or whether solving it has any market appeal, this sort of launch is inevitable. As is the product cancellation in 12 months or so — no promotions to be found in supporting existing products.

    3. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: When you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      $1600?! I really can't see Slurp selling many of these at that price. You can get a decent proper computer like a Surface Pro for that sort of dosh.

  2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

    Isn't that exactly what an iPhone is? Dumb computer terminal plus various apps including a voice app called "phone"?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)
      Headmaster

      Re: you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

      A typical dumb computer terminal is a "green screen". Since the device has a very powerful chip, which is capable of performing most of the work locally, I would say No, Arthur - you are being silly.

      https://www.apple.com/iphone-xs/a12-bionic/

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

        Well Andrew, then, by your own reasoning, the Pixel also isn't a dumb terminal, is it?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Pixel also isn't a dumb terminal, is it?"

          The issue is not the hardware. It's the software. A "dumb terminal" is something that's designed for remote processing and storage, and only display tasks are handled locally.

          Apple iOS is designed to run and store data locally. ChomeOS is not, and most of its local features have been added later when it was clear the original design wasn't much appreciated. Still you wonder why Google can't use Android on both, like Apple does with iOS.

          1. Waseem Alkurdi

            Re: "Pixel also isn't a dumb terminal, is it?"

            @Anonymous Coward

            The issue is not the hardware. It's the software. A "dumb terminal" is something that's designed for remote processing and storage, and only display tasks are handled locally.

            Apple iOS is designed to run and store data locally. ChomeOS is not, and most of its local features have been added later when it was clear the original design wasn't much appreciated. Still you wonder why Google can't use Android on both, like Apple does with iOS.

            I agree with the first paragraph but somewhat disagree with the second.

            iOS does store data locally, but not in a filesystem that's visible to the user as such in a typical fiile manager.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: "Pixel also isn't a dumb terminal, is it?"

              Running into this issue with a friend right now. She has an idevice (not sure why, she's otherwise clever) and she cannot find out how to download a file, then open it. It constantly wants to stream things?

              1. sabroni Silver badge

                Re: She has an idevice (not sure why, she's otherwise clever)

                You don't have to be stupid to want a convenient device that works well and gets security updates.

                I have an Android phone and, as usual, after a year of use the experience has degraded noticeably yet it's not had anything new installed on it in over 6 months. It's not an experience I choose willingly but choice is very limited in the smart phone market.

                1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                  Re: She has an idevice (not sure why, she's otherwise clever)

                  But idevices also slow down over time, oddly enough, when new models come out

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "Pixel also isn't a dumb terminal, is it?"

                Re: Downloading on iOS

                You can download files with Firefox on iOS, it might be worth trying that instead of Safari?

                (and also installing VLC to play media files)

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

          By "green screen" he means something like a Network Computer: basically, all the grunt work isn't done on the device but on a remote server (aka "the Cloud"). A ChromeOS device doesn't do a lot of local work; thus why it relies on an Internet connection.

          IOW, you don't expect a device that depends on an Internet connection for even basic operation to be a status symbol.

      2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

        "No, Arthur - you are being silly."

        In fairness, Andrew, he's a cat; it comes with the (very-well marked) territory.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

          In fairness, Andrew, he's a cat

          That's rich coming from a building tool......

        2. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

          This confusion is easily cleared.

          When @Arthur said "dumb terminal", he was (probably) thinking about the lack of filesystem access, Steve Jobs' own personal vision.

          When @Andrew Orlowski said "powerful chip", he was (probably) thinking about thin clients and how they used underpowered chips because the workload doesn't really need anything more powerful and for power saving.

      3. dajames Silver badge

        Re: you can't make a Veblen good out of a dumb computer terminal

        A typical dumb computer terminal is a "green screen".

        I remember those days.

        These days a typical "dumb computer terminal" is a PC running some kind of thin client under Windows 10. The device is capable of so much more ... but that's not how it gets used.

  3. Spazturtle Silver badge

    Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android. Look at the Android x86 project, android already works on small laptops with multi window support.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Because Android doesn't funnel you into using the cloud as much as ChromeOS does.

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

      Because Chrome OS is designed to work as a desktop and Android isn't. They may be slowly converging but at the time of the CR-48 Android was nowhere near ready.

      Chrome OS works better with a touchscreen than Windows and works much better with a keyboard and pad or mouse than Android.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

        There are few tablet-optimised Android apps. Also, there were inherent issues with Android that dated back to its rushed deployment - not least updates. Chrome OS was developed after a few lessons had been learnt.

        And then there's Google's Fuschia OS on the distant horizon.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

        Chrome OS works better with a touchscreen than Windows and works much better with a keyboard and pad or mouse than Android.

        And Chrome OS just works, reliably and securely (by mainstream OS standards). I know Google are tracking everything I do, but Microsoft try to, AND they expect me to pay cash for their bloatware, AND it is still a bit flakey, AND the updates keep borking my chosen settings or installing shite I don't want.

        Chrome OS is exactly what I want: Mac OS for poor people who don't need to do heavy lift computing.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

          I was initially torn between running Chrome OS (as CloudReady or Chromium OS) or Android-x86 on a laptop/tablet convertible.

          But there's the problem of the fact that Chrome OS is not even ready for un-slurpage (or is it de-slurpification?)

          And the fact that Chrome OS is designed with the internet in mind. What if I do most of my work offline?

          And the fact that Android (especially as Android-x86) is way closer to Linux that Chrome OS. You can run Linux in a chroot under Android-x86, and even start a X server, but with Chrome OS, you need to use crouton, which is not native enough.

          1. James Henstridge

            Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

            "And the fact that Android (especially as Android-x86) is way closer to Linux that Chrome OS. You can run Linux in a chroot under Android-x86, and even start a X server, but with Chrome OS, you need to use crouton, which is not native enough."

            To run Linux in a chroot on Android you need to root the device, subverting the device's security. Crouton is just a script to let you run Linux in a chroot on ChromeOS devices where the security has been subverted by entering dev mode. That sounds basically the same to me.

            The article briefly mentioned how they're improving this for ChromeOS though, by letting you run a standard Linux distro in a container on unrooted devices. This is using the same APIs that make Docker, Kubernetes, LXC, etc possible, and lets them give you root access within the container without compromising ChromeOS's security. That sounds a lot better than what you can do on Android.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

          "And Chrome OS just works, reliably and securely (by mainstream OS standards)"

          Let's not move the goalposts around "securely". Chrome OS, like Windows (or any other OS), can't be considered "secure" if it's spying on you.

          1. Chz

            Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

            Yes, but you do have to hand it to them - outside of the engineered in slurpage, ChromeOS is really quite excellent. It's a huge boon for the majority who couldn't give two figs about who's spying on them. I wouldn't (yet) recommend it as a primary device, but as a secondary one I think it's quite superior to all the other options for a portable device.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

              Yes, I have a little laptop like a Macbook Air, with a HD screen but with plastic casing so it's superlight. Runs chrome OS and linux, has a nice keyboard, battery lasts 10 hours and cost £200.

        3. sabroni Silver badge

          @Ledswinger: "Chrome OS is exactly what I want"

          "I know Google are tracking everything I do"

          Why do you want to be tracked?

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why does ChromeOS still exist? It should have just been replaced with android.

          How do you "know Google are tracking everything I do"?

          It's pretty clear they aren't tracking YOU, read the privacy policy.

    3. AK565

      "And Chrome OS just works, reliably and securely (by mainstream OS standards)."

      I think this is it in a nutshell. People know that google's spying on them but they believe Windows does the same AND borks their data & machine. With Chrome your data & machine remain relatively unborked.

      Then you factor in the fact that people spend more and more of their time on other people's schedules. They have a limited amount of time write their email/video chat with g'pa/reap the benefits of porn, etc. They don't have time to futz with anything, even if they have the skills and desire to do so. Shit has to work the first time, every time and personal preferences aren't even in the equation.

  4. mscha

    Want a mediocre keyboard cover with it? That's an extra $200.

  5. Flywheel Silver badge

    Could I put (GNU) Linux on i though?

    If I could get rid of the Google-Dross and put a copy of Gallium OS on it I'd be chuffed to nuts.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: Could I put (GNU) Linux on i though?

      It's a Chromebook, sir. So yeah, you could.

      And with Windows / "AltOS Mode" on the way, it could be the case that you could install any x86_64 operating system on there.

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Could I put (GNU) Linux on i though?

      WRONG!

      The official text is:

      "But can I wipe it and put a PROPER Linux on there?"

      And it's supposed to be the first post. 3 out of 10. Must try harder.

  6. gbru2606

    Old Acer C720

    I have an old Acer C720 which I picked up for £179 about 5 years ago. It's still working really well and I've run Linux on it from time to time after upgrading the m.2 ssd to 128GB - which was very easy to do.

    If it dies, I can't really see myself buying another as they've all got soldered in EMMC's these days, unless you fork out an absurd sum for a high-end Chromebook - which I really don't see the point of unless money is no object.

    For all its open source origins, it's all getting a bit locked down on the hardware side, and I wonder if the security chips on the new pixels will kill off rooting devices completely?

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Unhappy

      Re: Old Acer C720

      Sadly, I expect you're right about this. Apple is taking steps to prevent third party repair, and I suspect where Apple leads, others will follow. And given the way Microsoft is, they'll use this as a chance to try and finally kill Linux desktop installs forever.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old Acer C720

      I'm running Kali on my old Dell, it's great - access to any network, anywhere, any time, any place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old Acer C720

        Duly noted.

  7. ST Silver badge
    Devil

    it's like Vertu only cheaper

    I seriously believe that people buy Google hardware just so they can show their friends they bought and own Google hardware. It has nothing to do with functionality or features.

    The defining characteristics of this Pixel Slate are (a) ridiculously expensive and (b) under-spec'ed. For some people that's a thing.

    Vertu complex or envy or something.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: it's like Vertu only cheaper

      "I seriously believe that people buy Google hardware just so they can show their friends they bought and own Google hardware."

      But why? Owning Google hardware doesn't boost your social standing in any group that I know of.

      1. ST Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: it's like Vertu only cheaper

        > Owning Google hardware doesn't boost your social standing in any group that I know of.

        There exists a - small - group of individuals who are Google hardware fanboys. They buy Pixel phones, tablets, Pixelbooks, etc. And they believe these things are cool. At a minimum, cooler, or better than all the other brands.

        Are they really better? Not by a long stretch IMO.

        Never mind the fact that today is October 11, 2018, and the Wow! factor of any of these pieces of hardware, regardless of their brand, is close to zero. It's an Android smartphone or tablet. There are many others just like them, and there have been many others just like them for quite a while.

        > But why?

        Rationally, I have no idea. Irrationally, I'd guess antropomorphism.

        1. Maty

          Re: it's like Vertu only cheaper

          'Irrationally, I'd guess antropomorphism'

          Buying something because it has the shape of the antropos font is certainly irrational.

        2. se99paj

          Re: it's like Vertu only cheaper

          Welcome to the consumer world we live in, you can replace your words with any other product that exists on the planet:

          There exists a - small - group of individuals who are fanboys. They buy "Something" And they believe these things are cool. At a minimum, cooler, or better than all the other "Things".

          Just find and replace with whatever you like, Cars, Music, Vegetables, etc

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: it's like Vertu only cheaper

            "Just find and replace with whatever you like, Cars, Music, Vegetables, etc"

            Vegetables??

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: it's like Vertu only cheaper

              Re: "Vegetables??"

              Clearly you do not partake of avocados, you peasant? ;-)

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