Chromebooks: Pay Now, Pay Forever

Interesting headline over at Bloomberg today: Google Chromebook Under $300 Defies PC Market With Growth. Observant readers will have noticed the change in Bloomberg’s business model over the years – while they once dealt in quality reporting they now aim for little beyond “selling copy to other publishers based on catchy headlines based on tenuous bits of spurious data”. Today’s entry is a fine example of this. Incomplete information, statistics that are conveniently incomplete, and a conclusion that is so heavily qualified that it makes the whole piece meaningless.

The overriding conceit here is that this is news because there is no growth at all in the PC market, making it Stunning News these magical devices buck the trend. This cleverly ignores the fact that there is actually remarkable growth in the PC market right now, with virtually all of the growth being driven by tablets. You could add a disclaimer saying that there is no growth in the non-tablet PC market, but that would still be wrong because sales of OS X computers have grown quarter over quarter for the last 8 years. You would have to get deep into the fine print and say that there is no growth in the non-tablet/windows-based PC market. which would be patently true at this point but would also have zero relevance for Chromebooks: They are nothing more than a (fairly limited) tablet with a keyboard, and they certainly don’t use windows.

Let’s add a bit of accuracy to that headline and adjust it to Google Chromebook Under $300 Defies Unrelated Subset Of PC Market With Growth.

But wait: What about that $300 part? Yes, that is the up-front cost. But Google reports that they expect to see $30 dollars in advertising revenue per year from the data collected as part of the usage of each device. That money doesn’t come from thin air – Google is commoditizing a resource you are giving them, a resource that not only has specific value but is also one that you have to work to provide. Saying
that a Chromebook retails for under 300 bucks is the same as saying that a new car retails for the cost of just the downpayment, as long as you work off the monthly installments by driving the staff of your car dealer around each day for as long as you own the car.

So the headline needs more tweaking. Let’s go with Google Chromebook Under $300 Plus $360 Per Year In Provided Value Vis-a-Vis The User’s Personal Data Defies Unrelated Subset Of PC Market With Growth.

Now that’s an accurate headline. But the choice here was between accuracy and a cheap attempt at click-fishing.

The decision was easy.

That, kids, is Bloomberg 101.

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