With Chrome OS, Samsung Makes a Bet on Future of Computing–Again

Published on May 12, 2011
by Ina Fried

Samsung’s introduction of the Series 5 Chromebook on Wednesday represents a pretty bold bet that the computing world is ready to break with three decades of tradition.

But this isn’t the first time Samsung has bet big on a radically different computing idea. Flash back five years ago when Samsung partnered with Microsoft on Project Origami, a bold bet that the industry could deliver a slimmed-down touch computer that cost less than a PC, was easier to use and had all-day battery life.

The effort eventually led to the introduction of Samsung’s Q1–however, the ultramobile PC ended up costing more than a laptop, had poor battery life and, because it had full-blown Windows at its core, was actually quite difficult to use without a keyboard and mouse.

Indeed, it was the same Jason Redmond that was at Wednesday night’s Series 5 launch event that helped lead Samsung’s marketing efforts for the Q1.

But while Samsung stuck with the idea for several revisions, even adding a slide-out keyboard and making other changes, Microsoft largely abandoned Origami and returned to making more traditional tablets.

And, after years of nibbling at the edges of the global PC market, Samsung is now one of the fastest growing global brands, selling lots and lots of traditional notebooks built around Microsoft’s traditional Windows operating system.

Of course, another company made a run at that idea of a $500 tablet with all-day battery life and instant-on capabilities. And Apple has managed to sell more than a few iPads.

Samsung’s Redmond acknowledges that the timing was probably off with the Q1 but insists that the world is ready for a product like the Chromebook.

This time around, Redmond says he’s aware that this might not be an overnight hit and he insisted both Google and Samsung are in this “for the long haul” regardless of what the initial demand is for the first crop of Chromebooks.

“It will grow over time,” he said. “We’re not looking for an immediate explosion in demand for these devices.”

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