Are Touch Chromebooks the Future for Schools?

We currently have 1,374 Chromebooks at McKinnon Secondary College and none of them are touch enabled. Chromebooks are designed for speed and raw productivity. They’ve built notoriety by being fast, streamlined machines with full sized keyboards and a no-nonsense approach to security and updates. While touch Chromebooks are not new, we’re now seeing Google’s first serious foray into touch with the soon to be available Chromebook Flip. This device is a clear shot at mass market, touch-enabled Chromebooks. The aggressive price point (US $249) makes them suitable for schools or parents looking at a technology purchase.

Steve Jobs famously explaining why touch laptops are a bad idea.

It’s important to note the original Chromebook Pixel and the Acer C720P were both touch enabled devices but they were seemingly aimed at getting developers to think about touch rather than a real attempt at mass market viability. Not to mention the ergonomics of traditional laptops shaped devices for touch.

Is the web ready for touch?

Sure, browsing the web is perfectly palatable on a touchscreen, but when we start looking at productivity apps like Google Docs or serious photo editing apps like Pixlr they’re far from touch ready. So why the move to touch? What does it offer us over a full sized keyboard and mouse?

In terms of productivity it’s hard to make any argument that touch would be an improvement but touch opens other options. It opens up a new market for the Chromebook. The keyboardless super thin and light tablet market, and puts Chromebooks on an inevitable collision course with the Android tablet market. While some Android apps already run on Chromebooks we’ve not seen a tonne of apps flock to the platform since…

This brings us to the big issue — Apps. Google have a chicken and the egg problem. Without more touch-apps, the idea of a tablet is not compelling to schools and without a big user base it’s not compelling to developers. But, if like this Chromebook Flip, touch enabled devices are cheap enough to be a no-brainer, that could change. It’s a tough problem for Google as 99% of devices that run Google Chrome are PC’s, Mac’s or non-touch Chromebooks. Google have a choice, fund innovation of some killer touch-based apps on Chrome or hope that web browsing on a light tablet is enough.

Regardless of our current situation, touch Chrome devices are coming. The Chromebook Flip represents a real alternative for anyone looking for a Chromebook and is having a that extra feature of a touchscreen enough to compel you to buy? Let me your thoughts on Twitter @BlakeSeufert.

Are you looking at Chromebooks for your school?

Find out everything you need to know about Chromebooks in this Free Webinar presented by Google and hosted by me (Blake Seufert).

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