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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

HP’s Nitish Singal on Chromebooks: Role of a device strong on shared content would be huge

In an exclusive interview with Indianexpress.com, Nitish Singal, the Category Head of Consumer Personal Systems at HP India, tells us about the uptake of Chromebooks in India.

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi |
Updated: June 23, 2021 12:10:10 pm
Chromebooks vs Windows laptops, budget Chromebooks in India, Chromebooks features, Chrome OS, Chromebooks, HP Chromebooks, Chromebooks prices in India,HP relaunched Chromebooks in India in 2019, after figuring out that the education segment is the core beneficiary of such devices. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

“The adoption of Chromebooks in India is only going to increase as we are going to start moving towards more cloud-based applications, rather than information and data residing on the device itself,” Nitish Singal, the Category Head of Consumer Personal Systems at HP India, tells Indianexpress.com how the global pandemic can benefit Chromebooks immensely.

“If the Chromebook meets your needs, it’s probably the best value proposition that you can get on a PC, whether it’s a sub Rs 25,000 price segment or a little above Rs 25,000,” he said.

Singal believes Chromebooks fit naturally in the new scheme of things where e-education and remote learning have become a part of the pandemic world. “Consumers of that category are looking at a device, which besides bringing great value, also does all the work they need to do for them to continue their education,” he said. “The pandemic, in many ways has actually accelerated that, especially on the education front,” he added.

Chromebooks have been available since 2011, but they never became very popular despite attempts by both Google and its OEM partners in the past to launch affordable notebooks running the Chrome OS operating system in India.

HP relaunched Chromebooks in India in 2019, after figuring out that the education segment is the core beneficiary of such devices. Singal believes the whole idea of relaunching Chromebooks in India was to give consumers more options in the PC segment. “Why should I be told to buy only one kind of or one category of PCs and why don’t I have a choice of buying something else?” he said.

A common perception about Chromebooks is that they are cheaper to buy than laptops running Microsoft’s Windows operating system or Apple’s MacBooks. This is generally true, but a lot of people don’t know what they can do with a Chromebook. Singal highlighted that while the interest in the Chromebook category is much higher than in previous years, he still feels there is a lack of awareness about Google-powered notebooks among the masses in India. “There is a segment of consumers who are aware of what a Chromebook is, and why the Chromebook is the ideal device for them and why it is not right,” he said. “But then there is a larger chunk of consumers who possibly don’t know what a Chromebook is, and how it is different.”

Read more: What is a Chromebook? 

Singal puts Chromebooks in a different segment of PCs. “A Chromebook is a great device depending upon your usage. If you are someone who’s in the Google ecosystem, it’s a great device for you.” He added: “If you’re looking for a device to continue your education, or you are in mobile gaming or you are looking at intimate consumption-based usage, a Chromebook is a good device.”

A Chromebook not only runs web apps, but it is equipped to run Android apps, too from the Google Play store. Because ChromeOS is essentially a web browser at its core, it delivers a different experience from the Windows and macOS notebooks we are used to.

Chromebooks, HP Chromebooks, Chromebooks prices in India, Chromebooks vs Windows laptops, budget Chromebooks in India, Chromebooks features, Chrome OS The first wave of Chromebook models was announced 10 years ago at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

“When we launched Chromebooks in 2019, we came across a lot of consumers who were happy with their purchase. But we also came across consumers who bought a Chromebook at a point in time but later realised that that was not the right PC for them, because they really wanted to create content, or they wanted much more extensive work,” Singal explained how a Windows laptop is different from a Chromebook.

Chromebooks have certain advantages over a Windows laptop like fast booting, longer battery life – and more importantly, they work best with Google’s core products including Google Classroom. They, however, are not natively compatible with Windows legacy software. On top of that, Chromebooks don’t get full access to Microsoft Office, even though Microsoft now offers both web-based and Android versions of its popular productivity software. PC gaming is another area where Chromebooks pale in comparison to advanced Windows laptops.

As the demand for Chromebooks increases, manufacturers are experimenting with premium ChromeOS-powered notebooks with more powerful internals, better build and screen quality. HP, too, sells Chromebooks in the Rs 50,000 price bracket in India. Although HP has seen the demand for premium Chromebooks coming from enterprise users, Singal believes there is a “value tag” attached to these devices. “I think Chromebooks per se will be very successful in the sub-Rs 40,000 segment.”

HP recently launched a new Chromebook for Rs 21,999 with a MediaTek chipset. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

If more Indians lap up Chromebooks for remote working, it will not only benefit traditional PC companies like HP but Google as well, the search engine giant behind the key apps and services we use every day. Top chip makers like Intel, AMD, MediaTek and Qualcomm will also immensely benefit from the acceptance of Chromebooks in an untapped market like India, where more users are coming online, thanks to improved internet connectivity. “A larger awareness of this device [Chromebook] to be driven by the industry would definitely help the category,” says Singal.

HP recently launched a new Chromebook for Rs 21,999 with a MediaTek chipset. “We are constantly evaluating and looking at options to see how we optimise the product,” Singal said when asked about launching Chromebooks powered by AMD and Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets in India.

Education has always been a core part of Google and its ambitions with Chromebooks. One of the ways to reach out to consumers is through educational institutions. Although Singal did not share how educational institutions are responding to Chromebooks during the pandemic, he said the company works closely with Google in pitching ChromeOS-based devices to educators. ChromeOS passed macOS last year to become the second most dominant desktop operating system globally due to Chromebook’s hold on the educational market.

“The role of a device that is very strong on shared content would be huge,” Singal said about the future of Chromebooks and how they can play a bigger role in the computer market. “It’s not about what’s the processing power, or what’s the storage power of the PC terminal but it’s about how that terminal will interact with data that sits on the cloud… I think Chromebooks in that sense can play a big role in bringing content from the internet to any device, anywhere in the country.”

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