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Google Portables Technology

Would You Use a Free Netbook From Google? 435

Posted by timothy
from the google-i-opener dept.
Glyn Moody writes "The response to Google's Chromium OS has been rather lukewarm. But suppose it's just part of something much bigger: a netbook computer from Google that would cost absolutely nothing. Because all the apps and data are stored in the cloud, storage requirements would be minimal; screens are getting cheaper, and the emphasis on lean code means that a low-cost processor could be used. Those relatively small hardware costs could then be covered by advertising in the apps — after all, they are just Web pages. Interestingly, Google has not only rolled out advertising to more of its services recently, it has also started running AdSense ads in the desktop application Google Earth. Would you accept a free Google netbook — or is the price you would pay in terms of the company knowing even more about what you do on an hour-by-hour basis just too high?"
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Would You Use a Free Netbook From Google?

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  • Not possible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:33AM (#30214182) Journal

    As nice as it is to think that advertisements will cover everything, a single user isn't worth a $150+ netbook. Actually single user is worth a lot less for Google and other companies.

    Lets say Google gets around $2 CPM on normal searches. That means a single search is worth something like $0.002 for Google. It's going to take lots of searches and ad clicks from every user to even cover the costs of the netbook. And the same users would be doing those searches and ad clicks anyway, so it serves no purpose.

    Another thing is that search result advertisements and even ads on gmail are worth more because they can be really targeted. But what do you advertise on a spreadsheet app? Users aren't looking for any info or such - they're working on their spreadsheet.

    It's just out of the question that a single user would be worth $150 for Google.

  • Duhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:39AM (#30214290)
    I'd take several dozen, probably hundreds... hardware can't be given away. I think.... I'd wallpaper my house with monitors. I'm sure I could make a nice server/web ap to run all the buggers even if I couldn't take the hardware apart.

    Basically, the idea is impossible and stupid.

  • by foobsr (693224) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:40AM (#30214318) Homepage Journal
    ... having a patent on forced advertising [slashdot.org].

    Myself, I would not want such crap.

    CC.
  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zapotek (1032314) <tasos.laskos@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:40AM (#30214328) Homepage
    I'm guessing AdBlock and/or NoScript are out of the question, huh?
  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Glyn Moody (946055) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:42AM (#30214342) Homepage
    Yes, but what about a $20 netbook? That's the issue: when hardware costs fall to the point that the numbers work, what happens then?
  • Re:Not possible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:48AM (#30214432) Journal

    As nice as it is to think that advertisements will cover everything, a single user isn't worth a $150+ netbook.

    Who said the netbook cost $150? I would guess that the bulk purchases and low requirements could allow them to cut that down to sub $40 within four or five years. And even if the netbooks had decent hardware, look at the number of servers Google runs to provide free and paid services ... now what if you had idle processes on netbooks using up spare Atom (or whatever is out there) CPU time? Think about it, it could be the user footing part of your server energy bill.

    Another thing is that search result advertisements and even ads on gmail are worth more because they can be really targeted. But what do you advertise on a spreadsheet app? Users aren't looking for any info or such - they're working on their spreadsheet.

    Well, your logic works both ways. Why would I want to be bothered with ads when I'm busy working on my e-mail? And the data in a spreadsheet says a lot, if their doing their finances, you offer them financial products. Numbers and abbreviations give away a lot. If they are using scientific notation, you give them scientific product ads. It's also a single piece of Google's offerings. Docs and gmail are much more useful to me.

    It's just out of the question that a single user would be worth $150 for Google.

    You didn't list a lot of innovative ideas for their strategy to mitigate hardware cost and you also ignore the rapidly falling costs of hardware that the OLPC tried to take advantage of. I'm confident that if they embark on this endeavor, it will be well thought out and phased. I think you underestimate your worth in the eyes of Google and what it means to have you as a resource--both in purchasing power and generating content as a contributor.

  • Remember the 90's (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ceiynt (993620) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:49AM (#30214452)
    When companies would hand out free computers to anyone who asked, but they were so ad laden they were unusable? Or stopped whatever it was you were doing to play some sort of video for 30 seconds? Nothing is free.
  • No thanks. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Old97 (1341297) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:51AM (#30214490)
    I've already removed Google software from my Mac & PC. No, I don't want to tether to the Google cloud or any cloud and give up my privacy or freedom. At what point will companies like Google be compelled to enforce government mandates and restrictions? (Think China today. The U.S. will start with DMCA and Europe will restrict whatever they think is "offensive" to others.)
  • Re:No I won't (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:52AM (#30214508)

    Who says it wont work without a network, cloud applications can be cashed you know, they will continue working without a network connection, as long as you have used them once.

    Also Google has already demonstrated that cloud applications can store data locally, so you can "store files on my computer and use it on the plane, and you will be able to do it off-line.".
    Latex can work as a cloud application, as can compilers and other "scientific visualization tools", in fact any kind of application can! Because applications can be much more massive than current applications, their capabilities will be greater than current similar applications too.

    "I believe in free-as-in-speech software and I don't see how GoogleOS really fits into it." maybe you cant, but I can!

  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oldspewey (1303305) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:52AM (#30214512)
    Then you start to see netbooks in those big centre aisle bins at WalMart under a sign that says "Price Drop! $24.87", and consumers react accordingly when they see service providers offering a similar netbook for free.
  • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:57AM (#30214590) Homepage Journal

    Who said the netbook cost $150? I would guess that the bulk purchases and low requirements could allow them to cut that down to sub $40 within four or five years. And even if the netbooks had decent hardware, look at the number of servers Google runs to provide free and paid services ... now what if you had idle processes on netbooks using up spare Atom (or whatever is out there) CPU time? Think about it, it could be the user footing part of your server energy bill.

    +1 insightful

    That might actually be what this is all about... getting users to pay for the electricity to run a grid. Especially if the netbook doesn't end up being free but just low enough to cover (most of) the cost of making it.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sorton9999 (958384) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:00PM (#30214620)
    Let's say the hardware DOES cost $150. I think over the lifetime of the hardware they can more than recoup the cost. I think it's in the realm of possibility to get $10 add revenue per month per user. That includes search revenue and adds splashed all over everything. They get their money back after 15 months. Let's say the average lifetime of the hardware is 2 years, they make money after a while. Of course, they make money sooner as the hardware gets cheaper.
  • Count me in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingSkippus (799657) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:05PM (#30214692) Homepage Journal

    I won't use a machine which is useless without network.

    I just about can't use a machine without using a network. My favorite game is an MMORPG, which is useless without a network. Even other games, I usually have a browser window open for reference. My e-mail is accessed via a web client. (Even with a local client, all you could do is compose or read, not send or receive.) I do web development, which is on a remote web host. When I'm developing things locally in Visual Studio, I'm constantly using online references and documentation. I suppose I could in theory write a letter or something, but to be honest, I don't write letters to people any more. I even require the Internet to do something as simple as watch television these days. (Broadcast tv? Forget it, I use Hulu.)

    If you don't use the Internet as much as I do, more power to you. But I really think that going forward, offline computer use is going to be the exception, not the rule. I think saying what you said will eventually sound like, "I won't use a telephone that is useless without a wireless connectivity." Like the cell network, the Internet is so pervasive today that it's weird to run across an application that doesn't use it in some capacity.

    Oh, and by the way, Chromium is released under the BSD license [google.com], which is free-as-in-speech. I don't know what the license terms will be if such a hypothetical netbook were released, but at least the OS running on it would be open source. From a freedom-as-in-Stallman viewpoint, it may not be perfect, but it is orders of magnitude better than what is currently running on most netbooks out there. Evil is not the opposite of perfect.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:12PM (#30214768) Journal

    I installed Sid on a USB stick just last week.

  • by tmosley (996283) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:13PM (#30214774)
    I don't think they would be able to give them away for free, though. As someone else mentioned, people would take advantage of that, and wallpaper their rooms with monitors and such. What I would do is charge the person who wanted one COST or something less than cost, and let your profits come from the advertising as mentioned. If the cost to make one of these things is ten or twenty dollars, as speculated in the article, it would probably work quite well. I'd pay ten or twenty bucks for a Google netbook. Hell, if it provided free internet access, I'd pay a few hundred, a la Kindle. I think most people in the developed world would do the same. That is, assuming it remained open and unhobbled.
  • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:13PM (#30214778)

    Advertising on the netbook itself could not cover it, perhaps, but remember what Google are trying to do here is break on the desktop; if they make a loss getting their netbooks into peoples homes (and their lives) then they are getting more desktop users by default (because if you are keeping your documents on google docs, then you will still use it when you boot a windows machine). They can make the numbers work if they are banking on increasing their userbase elsewhere.

    If Google can get a large enough userbase on their cloud applications to break the MS Office monopoly, then suddenly the reason 95% of the worlds desktop computers run Windows evaporates.

    I myself don't like cloud computing for office work - I tend to use openoffice. This will still work out well for users like me though; Without an MS monopoly people will become more used to working between different office packages.

  • by Tarlus (1000874) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:16PM (#30214820)
    Give us a free netbook at the cost of seeing ads? You're forgetting one thing: Chrome OS is Linux at its heart, and we're a bunch of Linux geeks. We'd have those ads hacked out of it faster than you could say "/etc/hosts.deny".
  • Re:Not possible (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:16PM (#30214822)

    Had a lot of success putting Linux on a DVR or an XBox lately? Chromium is already signed, so there's no reason they can't bake it in further. Don't assume success in hacking something that can be demonstrably locked down.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:22PM (#30214974)

    Chromium isn't about a target user, it's about a target use. I'm also the developer, gamer, video editor type; that doesn't mean a netbook wouldn't come in handy for other things. My wife and I fight over the laptop all the time but I refuse to spend the money on a second one, a free netbook (even if all it could do was browse the web) would be very welcome.

    That being said, it'll never happen. As someone up above pointed out, a single user isn't worth hundreds of dollars to Google, and it would only be a matter of time before someone figures out how to load custom software and hardware onto the thing. The article should be tagged with 'baseless speculation', that's all it is.

  • Re:Pay (Score:2, Insightful)

    by karcirate (1685354) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:25PM (#30215016)
    If you are willing to pay, why not just buy your own netbook?
  • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Garble Snarky (715674) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:30PM (#30215110)
    If it's THAT cheap, I'll just buy my own. Even if the unsubsidized hardware costs twice that, I'd still rather spend $40 and have the freedom to do what I want with MY hardware.
  • Re:No I won't (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:30PM (#30215118)

    haha bigger in what way? Bigger in the way that "we are marketing company who is utilizing free-as-in-speech software in order to drive ads down your throat to collect all the personal information we can about you in order that we can maximize our profit" bigger?

    It sounds like parent is heavily researching a specific topic to contribute to all of mankind's knowledge so that we can all benefit from it. while he is certainly not in the majority, don't throw out that .005% as "negligible", it is probably more important, if not the most important, reasons to use a computer.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:40PM (#30215252)

    As nice as it is to think that advertisements will cover everything, a single user isn't worth a $150+ netbook. Actually single user is worth a lot less for Google and other companies.

    Who says the netbook will cost $150?

    Hardware keeps getting cheaper... And if everything lives in the cloud then you really need virtually no local storage. Just a screen, keyboard, and some kind of Internet connection.

    What if the netbook only costs $100? $50?

    Lets say Google gets around $2 CPM on normal searches. That means a single search is worth something like $0.002 for Google. It's going to take lots of searches and ad clicks from every user to even cover the costs of the netbook. And the same users would be doing those searches and ad clicks anyway, so it serves no purpose.

    What about advertising that's physically on the netbook itself? Like logos and graphics and whatnot?

    Companies pay good money to advertise on billboards and in movies and on the sides of busses. You could take the low-tech approach and just slap some logos on the thing... You know Google would have their logo on it somewhere. Someone asks you at work or wherever - where'd you get the netbook? - oh, it's free, check out netbook.google.com Gets Google another user looking at the ads on their free netbook.

    And you could slap some FedEx or WalMart or whatever other signage on it. I'm sure companies would happily pay a few dollars to slap a logo on a netbook that you'll be using in public on a more-or-less daily basis.

    Or you could take a more high-tech approach and put an epaper display on the back of the screen... Orient it so that other people can read it while you're using the netbook... Google could tie that feed right into their AdSense program. Of course that'd be a bigger ad... Something with some graphics and whatnot... And it'd be visible to more than just the person using the netbook... So Google could charge extra for that ad space.

    Another thing is that search result advertisements and even ads on gmail are worth more because they can be really targeted. But what do you advertise on a spreadsheet app? Users aren't looking for any info or such - they're working on their spreadsheet.

    Why, you advertise a competing spreadsheet app, of course! Microsoft can advertise their new and improved LiveSpreadsheet... Or their own free netbook program... Someone can roll up a new cloud-based spreadsheet app and advertise it... Or Google can advertise their professional spreadsheet app... More built-in functions, no advertising, priority cloud processing... Maybe you can advertise QuickBooks Cloud Edition or something like that, especially if you serve up ads based on content like Gmail does now.

    It's just out of the question that a single user would be worth $150 for Google.

    Again, I don't know that Google needs $150 from each user. Maybe you're only worth $75 to Google... But Joe over in accounting is worth $300... So Google still makes enough money to support both of you. And that's assuming that the netbooks actually cost $150 each.

    But I think you're being short-sighted. You're only looking at AdSense impressions - not the new possibilities that these netbooks present. Not just new possibilities for advertising either...

    The free netbook could easily become a platform to deliver software as a service. Intuit could pay Google a fee to advertise this year's edition of TurboTax... And then pay another fee to host the cloud-based version of TurboTax... And then you could pay Intuit to use this year's version of TurboTax.

    Yes, I know, software as a service is evil... You'll never trust your data to the cloud...

    But if Joe Sixpack can get a free netbook, and this year's TurboTax Cloud Edition for only $20... Instead of buying a PC and full-priced TurboTax... I think they'll manage to move a lot of free netbooks and a lot of TurboTax Cloud Editions.

  • Re:No I won't (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:52PM (#30215424) Journal

    This is what X forwarding is for. You don't need to process a GB of remote data on your local machine. Have the remote machine process the data and only display the graph over the network. Same with LaTeX, run xpdf remotely and it only has to transfer what you're actually looking at over the network.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:57PM (#30215492) Journal
    Exactly. A small modification of the numbers, may result in it being economically feasible. Difficult to tell without knowing what the exact numbers are. (sorry no mod points, today)
  • Re:No I won't (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:02PM (#30215574)

    I won't use a machine which is useless without network. I don't like to rely on an internet connection because some times it breaks. I want to be able to store files on my computer and use it on the plane. And I want to be able to do it off-line. I want all my tools locally, I need LaTeX to work, I need a compiler, I need scientific visualization tools.

    I believe in free-as-in-speech software and I don't see how GoogleOS really fits into it.

    I do believe you've completely missed the point.

    If the device is little more than a portable web browser, what would you do with it offline?

    Netbooks are not intended to run LaTeX or compilers or scientific visualization... They're intended to surf the web, log on to Facebook, and check your email.

    Fine, you need LaTeX and compilers and scientific visualization to work... But you're on vacation, on a road trip somewhere. You've stopped at a rest stop somewhere that offers free WiFi and you're wondering if that book you ordered has shipped yet. Do you really need offline storage, gigs of RAM, and a quad-core CPU to check your email? Are you going to compile up a new email client there in the parking lot? Do you routinely craft your email messages in LaTeX?

  • Re:No thanks. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Old97 (1341297) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:06PM (#30215630)

    What does Palin have to do with anything? I chose when, where and how I post on the Internet. I own my computer and I own my software that runs on it. I exercise control over what programs I run or don't run and the data I store on my computer. I control access to my data. Just because you use the internet does not necessarily mean you've given up all your privacy or control of your hardware - unless you don't have a clue.

    China already has dictated to Yahoo, Google and Microsoft - what sites their people see and what data about their people they must surrender to the government. If China can do that, so can the EU, the U.S., India or any other government in a major market.

    When you have direct physical access to a computer, there is no security that can stop you. When your computer is in a cloud, the owner of the cloud has direct physical access to your computer. You have to rely on the cloud provider to protect your interests and yet in this case, you aren't even the customer. Advertisers are Google's customers, not you. Google requires the cooperation from governments in order to deliver services to you. Google is not there for you. It's services to you are merely a way of getting your attention and information so they can more effectively (as defined by advertisers) serve ads to you and information to advertisers.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource (238333) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:09PM (#30215682)

    There's never going to be a $20 netbook even if your labor costs were zero.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by crazycheetah (1416001) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:15PM (#30215752)

    ok, I was originally going to respond about I thought I remembered a "GDrive" being speculated. And then I googled it and found this [blogspot.com], where someone caught Google mentioning efforts towards GDrive in a presentation. So, say they make the GDrive (there's more to the blog [read it], but let's say it's just rented out space on the cloud) and charge for it.

    And Chrome OS I heard some speculation about before it came up as real.

    What's to stop them from charging for the GDrives monthly, putting Chrome OS on cheap enough hardware, and just giving out those cheap computers for free, charging for GDrives to make up for it?

  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@D ... com minus painte> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:29PM (#30215926) Journal

    And if it gets down to that price, the same manufacturer (not google) is going to offer similar netbooks with other operating systems for a few bucks more, and without the advertising. they already have the economies of scale at that point, so why not milk it for a few extra bucks? Sell it with a real linux distro that doesn't have adware for $10 more. Sell it with Windows for $20 more. Sell it with OSX for ... ummm ... maybe not OSX ...

    Also, clicks from people running "welfarebooks" aren't going to be worth anything to a pay-per-click advertiser. Terrible demographics, especially since if you're too poor to even buy a netbook, some of you are paying your ISP bill by engaging in one of those "make money at home clicking on links" pay-to-click frauds, so advertisers will aggressively filter out users of any "free" netbook.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:37PM (#30216012)

    There's never going to be a $20 netbook even if your labor costs were zero.

    Just like there will never be $20 cell phones?

    Netbook = Display, keyboard/HID, 802.11, Battery, Microcontroller, plastic frame/shell, AC-DC converter.

    We have already proven that all of those items except for the display can be included in a $20 product. Do you believe that the Display will always keep the cost above $20? With the advent of mobile browsing, many services now revolve around repackaging websites for viewing on smaller screens and requiring less processor overhead. I could see it happening in 5-10 years easily.

    What I'm really waiting for is this:

    Color e-Ink displays at a reasonable cost. THAT is going to usher in a huge change to our mobile landscape. It might not be the $20 model you state is impossible, but it's my prediction.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @02:21PM (#30216578) Homepage

    Creeped out yet?

    Not particularly, given this would be an opt-in process. It's no different than people choosing to use club cards at the grocery store... except, in this case, they get a free netbook out of the deal.

    Would I do it? Meh, probably not. But for most people, I'd say they'd consider information about their personal browsing habits easily worth a free computer.

    And this is all assuming your paranoid fantasy is even true.

  • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by trenton (53581) <trentonl&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @02:55PM (#30217024) Homepage
    Just like there will never be a $20 calculator, $20 digital watch, $20 hand-held laser, or $20 digital camera.
  • Re:Not possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BobMcD (601576) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @03:05PM (#30217132)

    Nothing

    is unable to be hacked.

  • by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @08:13PM (#30220976)
    And what gives you the impression that the motherboard would let you pick a boot device?

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