Chromebooks and Intel’s Core M platform are a perfect fit so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing rumors of a Google Pixel 2 surfacing along with a mention of Core M.
The rumors are extremely tenuous but worth a discussion because of three important aspects. Intel Core-M, USB 3.1 and Pixel 2 could define a new range of Chromebooks that are, like the original Pixel, medium to high-end. While Baytrail-M is doing a good job of enabling low-end Chromebooks there are people that truly need higher-end multitasking performance. Combine that power with a fanless build – the Acer C720 is so annoying when one has used fanless PCs – and you’ve got a unique combination.
The Core M processor is already helping create a unique segment of consumer-focused 2-in-1 devices and prices here are starting at just $699 so there’s no reason at all that a stylish fanless Core-M based Chromebook can’t be $499 with a full-HD screen. Core-M, based on the 14 nm process, is not only cheaper to produce (when yields are good) but it allows for less components to be used. Slightly smaller batteries should also be possible and if the design is done well it would be possible to slim the product right down. Slim devices have a problem in housing ports but if USB 3.1 type-C and Micro-HDMI is used, the problem is solved.
I have a theory about major changes in laptop design that, unfortunately, means it will be quite a while before you see low-cost Core-M. High prices will come first.
Whenever a manufacturer is pushed to make changes in design and manufacturing it costs them money. In the long-term there are savings to be made but in order to cover the costs of the new development and new components a wave of premium devices is needed. Take the Ultrabook project as an example. Intel needed the industry to change in order to reach a point where laptops were more attractive but cheaper to build. SSDs, new casing materials, modern connectors and thinner keyboards all cost money so if you can do it under the banner of a ‘high end’ product you can charge more and cover the costs. The Ultrabook project has led to better mainstream laptops and prices are 30-40% down from the highs of 2012-2013 so we know that the process can work over a period of 3 years.
To introduce a new range of high-quality Core-M based Chromebooks Google could do the same. A Pixel 2 at $899 along with a number of portable Core-M products could work together with new Chrome OS features nicely. Consider this range of premium features that could be incorporated into ultrachromebooks.
- Voice-activated wake
- 4K display output
- Fanless builds
- 2-in-1 designs
- Wireless charging
- Wireless 4K display
- Audio processing
- Video processing
- Lightweight, thin builds
- Longer battery life
- 3D sensors
- Faster encryption
If any of this is true and if the launch is planned for Google I/O in May we’ll see plenty more leaks and rumors. What would you like to see in a high-quality Chromebook at, say, $599?