Considering iPad vs. Chrome Netbooks

The "post-mortems" on the iPad launch and related disucssion of the potential success or failure of the device makes me think in turn about the Google Chrome OS and the forthcoming Google netbooks that will come to market "by the holiday shopping season" this year. By that point iPad will have been out for about nine months. In addition other tablet competitors and eReaders will be flodding the market; winners and losers will start to emerge.

Netbooks have been enormously popular with consumers, because of their lower pricing. I previously argued about the Google netbook that pricing was critical to success here too:

Google knows that to succeed a Google/Chrome netbook will need to come in at less than $400 at the highest end and potentially around $200 to really take off. The economics of that lower price point may be very difficult to achieve. Accordingly Google & partners may need to distribute via subsidized mobile carrier relationships to bring the price down to the point where it will really get consumers’ attention. I would speculate that Verizon, given the Google-Android relationship, is almost certainly going to do this.

A Chinese company called Hivision has produced an Android (not Chrome) netbook that might sell for less than $200 in the US. It's unclear what the demand would be for this machine, but that pricing (without a carrier subsidy) certainly gets attention. 

The Chrome OS netbook won't have any software on the machine; it's all about the Internet. So is the iPad, but it will have plenty of software on the device, including iPhone apps. The range of tablets, slates and eReaders will offer the Internet and varying levels of software support. Some of them will be suitable as a laptop or netbook replacement and some will not.

Netbooks have effectively made it difficult for PC makers to charge much more than about $650 for their larger machines. (Apple is the lone exception here.) But the fate of netbooks is uncertain in the wake of the new slate/tablet category. It will take at least a year for all this to play out, but netbooks could suffer if the iPad and its kin succeed. 

As a kind of microcosm of this, the iPad and Chrome netbooks may wind up competing directly as portable Internet devices. Chrome will have more features and capabilities, but overall the iPad will be a more versatile and appealing device (depending on the software) as a "second computer."  

Now back to price: the cheapest iPad is $499, the most expensive is $829. Apple is going to see most of its sales fall in the realm of $499 to $629. For Chrome OS netbooks to succeed they'll need to top out at $500. If they come in at less than $300 Google will probably see these devices sell. But, when considering a "second computer" (and this is a point to emphasize), if the prices are generally comparable -- in this case that means a $400 to $500 price point for both the Chrome netbook and the iPad -- I'd probably go with the iPad. 

I wonder how many others would too?