LG last week filed for trademarks on three names that contain the word “Chrome,” sparking widespread speculation that the company is planning to launch an array of devices that run Google’s Linux-based Chrome OS.
“ChromeOne,” “ChromeDesk” and “ChromeStation” were the names LG snapped up, and for all three LG listed the device class as “laptop computers; computers, convertible computers; tablet computers.”
First spotted in Australia by the TM Watch blog, the trademarks were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week as well.
LG already partners with Google on the Nexus brand of smartphones, including the soon-to-launch Google Nexus 5. Several of LG’s biggest competitors — including Samsung as well as Acer, HP and Lenovo — have already come out with Chromebook laptop devices.
LG did not respond to our request for further details.
Year of the Tablet
“Based on the trademark registrations LG applied for, it certainly does lead to the idea that they are looking to introduce some kind of Chromebook into the market,” said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS Electronics & Media. “It could be a continuation of their partnership with Google and what they’ve done with the Nexus 4 and new Nexus 5.”
Given that LG has already had a successful relationship with Google for the Nexus line of products, it isn’t too hard to imagine that the company would look to create its own Chromebook device.
“The Chrome OS devices are a logical upstream extension of the smartphone and tablet universe, especially when you consider the long-term convergence of Android and Chrome OS,” Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, told the E-Commerce Times. “The overall device capabilities are moving towards the Chrome OS sweet spot, so why not get experience with it and be ahead of the curve.”
Providing a compelling backdrop for the LG news, meanwhile, is recent data from Gartner, also released Monday, predicting declines in PC shipments this year even as smartphones and especially tablets continue to grow.
‘Demand Is Growing’
“LG’s Chrome filings signal obvious support for the Google OS, but it could also indicate growing interest by vendors in promoting Chromebooks as low-cost yet robust alternatives to both PCs and tablets,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “The crowded Chromebook playing field — with offerings from Acer, Samsung, HP and others — suggests that demand is growing.”
Indeed, “we are seeing more and more of the PC OEMs coming to market with a Chromebook,” Stice observed.
Such devices “have gained some traction in the last year as they’ve found a niche within the educational markets,” he added.
Given LG’s history of developing successful consumer devices, it is “a natural for the market and considers Chromebooks a natural evolutionary step forward,” King told the E-Commerce Times.
‘How Big Is This Bandwagon?’
That’s not to say, however, that Chrome OS-based devices have no obstacles to overcome.
“The challenge with the Chromebook is that they are not really a media tablet, yet not really a full PC either,” Stice told the E-Commerce Times. “They perform functions similar to that of a media tablet, but being only Web-based and with minimal onboard storage, they can’t compete against the performance of a standard ultrathin notebook, even though they look like one.”
Chromebooks provide an attractive solution in niche markets like education or even SMBs “that are primarily Web-based and looking for a simple Web-based system to perform simple tasks at a nice price point,” he added.
Looking ahead, though, “the challenge with Chromebooks is to grow outside of these niche markets,” Stice concluded. “While vendors are jumping on the bandwagon as these new niche/growth markets materialize, the question becomes, how big is this bandwagon? LG obviously sees opportunity.”