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Chromebook OEMs: It’s Time To Drop The Confusing Model Names

Chromebooks may use a simple OS, but their model numbers are anything but…

Chromebook models

Dear Chrome OS Team, OEMs, Google marketing folk, and whomever else this may concern…

In 1998, soon after Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he announced that he and Jonny Ive were collaborating to ‘breath new life’ into the flagging company.

Over the next 9 years Apple would unify its branding with the infamous “i” line of products starting with the iMac, followed by the iPod, iPhone, and the rest of now-famous products.

Apple was profitable again thanks to unifying their brand and their products under its iLife umbrella. In the following years, other companies followed the trend of trimming the fat – reducing complication in the lineup of products, simplifying the buying process and, of course, establishing brand identities.

motorola devices in a line

A company that I thought did this really well during this time was Motorola. It was simple:

Moto X is their high-performance Flagship driven by the power of the “build your own phone” tool – Moto Maker.

Moto G in the mid-tier range which became Motorola’s best seller. Lastly, the Moto E – The best phone you could buy for under 100 USD at the time.

You started seeing this everywhere. Acer Aspire One, Samsung Galaxy S, Google Nexus, even Firefox changed their version structure to match Chrome’s to stay consistent and easier to understand for the users.

‘Do these manufacturers want their customers talking about the products that they’re carrying or not?’

The reason this works is simply due to it being easier to compare a Macbook Air 2015 to a Macbook Pro 2010 than an Acer Aspire R3-131T-C1UF to an Acer Aspire NX.MS8AA.001 (Yes, those are real, I checked).

Do these manufacturers want their customers talking about the products that they’re carrying or not?

If a friend told you how much they loved their R3-131T-C1UF, how inclined would you be to remember that model number and go out and buy exactly that machine? I’d say the chances are slim.

Macbook Air on the other hand? Easy.

Chromebook Chat

The focus of Chromebooks and Chrome OS is all about simplistic cloud computing and in 2013 that idea really caught on. Chromebooks, in most cases, did not use confusing model numbers and were quite organized in the chaotic market they entered.

For example, HP offered both a Chromebook 11 and a Chromebook 14 at the time. They kept these models to this day and have released new generations of them (labeled “G2, G3, G4”). It’s simple, easy to remember and, because of yearly model updates, still available. Toshiba had the “Chromebook”, “Chromebook 2 HD” and “Chromebook 2 FHD”. Acer with their “C7”, “C710” and “C720”.

Today in 2016, the market looks different. Apple has begun fragmenting their branding in new directions with some products using the famous “i” in front of a product name and others using the apple logo in the i’s place (Apple Watch instead of iWatch). Apple’s sales are down.

Motorola’s lineup isn’t as simplistic and has shed the popular Moto X branding, split their successful Moto G model into a lineup of different types of phones. They appear to no longer have a unified design guide and identity which has left them very unorganized. Lenovo announced it will phase out “Motorola” and keep just the “Moto” in product names.

Chromebooks are no exception.

From the “HP Chromebook 14”, to the “Acer Chromebook 14” keeping track of names has become a nightmare. The Asus Chromebook 13” and Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311-T7NN. HP and Samsung appear to be the only manufacturers that have kept their lineup easy to understand with the consumer in mind. I personally have recently purchased a HP Chromebook 11 G4 because I didn’t have to research very much due to it being easy to find reviews on.

As the industry continues to fragment, I urge the Google Chrome OS team and the Chrome manufacturers to resolve this mess. I believe in giving manufacturers the freedom to build the devices they want and market them how they see fit.  Although, in my opinion, Google should step in and create some structure to stop overlapping model names and to create structure to help consumers determine things like which models are current and which are outdated.

It could be as simple as creating a naming scheme.

How about “Manufacturer Chromebook – Model/Series – Year/Generation?

Maybe a more radical shift to “Chromebook – Model/Series – Year/Generation – by Manufacturer”?

The industry can no longer look at Apple as the mold for product marketing, and I beg Google and their affiliated manufacturers to take a step back and to take control of this impending mess.

Let’s keep the market simplified and not fall down the rabbit hole of confusing model numbers.

  • agreed! it’d be much simpler for consumers looking to buy.

  • Jon

    iAgree ;)

    Dell 13 here… simple, although there are far too many options within this name to make much sense.

    • Nicholas Conrad

      But Dell also has the ‘Dell Chromebook 11’ and the ‘Dell Chromebook 11 3120’ sometimes known as the slightly better moniker ‘Dell Chromebook 11 (2015)’; but most often referred to by Dell in their marketing materials as simply ‘Dell Chromebook 11’.

      • Jon

        Don’t forget touchscreen options on all the above ;)

  • Bascule

    AMEN

  • starryhope

    Yes! I couldn’t agree more! Sometimes Acer has 3 different model numbers for the same Chromebook! All of the companies are really bad the model numbers, even HP with their G1-G4, it’s very inconsistent across their marketing materials and websites. It’s maddening when I’m trying to look up information for my Chromebook comparison app!

  • Yes!

    I’m not sure what author “wpengine” is though. Is that you, Joey?

  • alvaro guzman

    Totally. And not just for us (most of who reads this blog knows a little of computers) but for the other vast majority of customers which is the main focus of chromebooks.

  • Daniel Thursfield

    Has Toshiba changed their naming scheme? As you say only HP and Samsung keep their lineup easy to understand.

    Personally I think that Toshiba could remove the none Full-HD version of their Chromebook 2, and just have one model. The Full-HD one. When I was helping a friend getting one as well, I had to make sure he got the good one and not the HD one, as it was the one I had that he wanted.

    • steveb944

      Why is the HD one not the good one?

    • Kian

      Hey, I have the Toshiba Chromebook 2. Theres a HD sticker on mine Is yours slow as molasses?

      I wish there was a way to speed mine up. I’ve got the Celeron processor.

    • Skunky

      i have an HP chromebook but i have no idea what model it is or the full name.. -_-

  • Mike A

    The simplicity of Chromebook is about to be ruined with the addition of android apps. No longer will everything work on every one and hardware costs will rise. Reminds me of Microsoft. Very sad.

    • KevDoy

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Android apps wont run on outdated models, but I’m sure *most* future models will run it. I hope this means we’ll see some Chrome tablets in the future, too because let’s face it. Android tablets refuse to adapt and create tablet-friendly apps

  • I agree. It goes beyond Chrome, though. I love my Acer S7-392!

  • steveb944

    Agreed, I’m soon going to be in the market as my Acer 710 doesn’t support apps nor is it touchscreen. I’m dreading the research.

  • Dinsan

    VERY True.
    I have lost track of all those Chromebooks currently in the market. Confusing model names, and then comes 2GB and 4GB Variants.

    Google Pixel 2015. That’s a good name, branded, easy to remember. I wish everyone else came up with something like that.

    And also, stop making 100 crappy Chromebook models. Make 3 good Chromebooks. One with touch screen, one with big screen, and the usual 10.1 or 13″ screen model.

    • Mike

      Wholeheartedly agree with this. I actually had a spreadsheet created with name, model number, processor, ram and price for new one ( i was going to get it used and wanted to quickly be able to see if I was getting a good deal). I would remove them from the spreadsheet once I was convinced that I didn’t want that particular model and would only look at what was still on the sheet, no matter how good the deal might have been. Acer’s lineup alone was a large chunk of my spreadsheet.
      The only thing I might add is that 4GB probably needs to now be standard going forward and that a really cool feature would be to add an empty memory slot that the owner could then add up to 4GB (or whatever the board and processor could handle) more ram if they wanted to. That alone could reduce the number of models they would need to create.

      • Niles Black

        The first Chromebook to get upgradeable RAM will get my vote, basically regardless of other features.

        • Mike

          I’m starting to think that feature is going the way of the dodo bird. Most seem to want their laptops to be thin and light. That always seems to be one of the comparative features in reviews. What they don’t tell you is that quite often, unreasonably thin and light also means that everything is soldered to the board and you won’t be able to upgrade.

    • Please talk about this on Chrome Story too!

  • Gúbio Bonner

    My suggestion :)

    ‘brand’, CBook or CBK or CB, ‘year + counter’

    Dell CBook 161
    Dell CBK 161
    Dell CB 161

  • Landon Finch

    Ah yes, the serious problems we face.

  • Joshua Talley

    Chromebook Pixel 2015 ?

  • juanjeremy2012

    It’ll never change there just doing what Intel does when they don’t have anything better to sell toprevent the old stuff from not selling they confuse it with the new stuff that’s why you get things like that will tell you the clock speed what they won’t tell you that I Celoron is core or Adam based the Chromebooks haven’t changed much so they don’t want you to know that and not buy the old one

  • Michael Zimmermann

    One problem with this may be that the OEM’s build tons of variants of a device.
    USA/EUR, screen resolution, RAM/HDD size, color,….
    this is one reason why they have these weird numbers at the end.

    so even with the suggested scheme it would still be sth. like “Manufacturer – Chromebook – Model/Series – WEIRD VARIANT NUMBER – Year/Generation”?

    • Jay

      This. OEMs even build variants for certain retailers and these variants have to have names that the OEM can quickly identify for support.

    • KevDoy

      Sure, that’s true but let’s look at the iPhone as an example. The iPhone has international models as well, but that doesn’t change the NAME of the device to the general public. Someone living in Germany doesn’t have to know they’re using a variant that’s different from someone in Canada. Keep the name the the same and simple for minor changes and variants, and change the model number. (Apple does this nicely with the Axxxx,x format). That way the information is there if you need it, but isn’t in your face.

      PS: Variants? “Acer Chromebook 4K1 – Target Special Edition” with the special edition piece as a subtitle? Not terrible and more explanatory than a model number.

  • Piggyuniform

    My Long Opinion

    Actual Names:

    HP Chromebook 2015
    Dell Chromebook 2013
    Lenovo Chromebook 2016

    Model Names:

    HP-CBOOK-2015
    DELL-CBOOK-2013
    LENOVO-CBOOK-2016

  • neverumind

    Who knew the HP Chromebook 14 had four generations? And that Android will only be supported on 4G? And they’re all called the HP Chromebook 14, period. Best Buy has one on sale with the alleged model number 14-ak013dx, but HP says the most recent model is 14-ak010dx. So, I get asked if it will be able to run Android, I spend an hour trying to figure, and I still don’t know. Personally, I’ve got the Toshiba Chromebook 2; there’s the first version, and the 2015 version. Couldn’t HP at least specify the version by year?

    • Niles Black

      Seriously. Why is it so hard to use sequential numbers? Version 1 = 1. Version 2 = 2. Put it anywhere in the name you want, just keep it consistent instead of changing it every 3 versions…
      It really doesn’t seem like it should be beyond the reach of every modern manufacturer in damn near *every* field.

      I feel like I’m taking crazy pills…

  • Jasper Edwards

    Asus has had names for their Chromebooks that aren’t confusing: like the Asus C200 (which I have) and C201, as well as the Asus Chromebook Flip.

  • Michael Huff

    I think it would be especially interesting for Google to get into the actual manufacturing of its products. Maybe even acquire its own manufacturing company. That would be amazing and the industry scramble would be hilarious.

    • Niles Black

      #itsHappening

      Not in a big way or anything, but still. Google made phone to go with the Google made tablet and Google made Chromebook.

  • Biky Alex

    iWatch is under copyright from an (I believe) English watch company that makes iWatches.

    As for the model number mess, yes please. Simple is better and people approve it.

  • systemBuilder

    I think it should just be Company-Chromebook-Screensize-Processor. The processor could be abcde :

    a = atom
    b = celeron (i1-xxxx)
    c = i3
    d = i5
    e = i7

    In our house we have Acer Chromebook 11c, and 2 Toshiba Chromebook 13c’s.

    • systemBuilder

      oh yeah Tegra = t, rockchip = rTo ram should be a suffix. all flash drives should be m2 (no edram). In most cases whether its 16GB or 32GB matters not since it’s very easy to change. if it has a fancy graphics accelerator you could append an x.

      Toshiba Chromebook 13c-4
      Google Pixel 12e-8

    • Juan Manuel

      Actually, it’s quite simple to know what’s in there, at least with portable ChromeOS devices. If it is ALL BLACK AND BOXY. It uses m.2 for storage, 4GB of RAM and Core i3/i5. If it is part black and part grey or part black and part one color. It have 32GB emmc, 2GB of RAM and Celeron. If it is ALL COLORED, NO BLACK AND ROUNDED. It uses 16GB emmc, 2GB of RAM and either dual-core atom or dual-core arm.

  • Niles Black

    While we’re at it – if all other companies in all other fields could ALSO stop “reinventing” their naming scheme every year or two, that would be great. Microsoft, Fast and Furious, ALL car manufacturers since forever – get it together.

  • BernardP

    Arcane names and model numbers allow retailers to keep selling two-year-old models to the uninformed as if they were the latest tech. The retail channel is still full of Acer Chomeboooks that have been discontinued for more than one year

  • . .

    MFGR-CB-11.6-4GB-m.2

  • systemBuilder

    I think some troll in China trademarked “iWatch”. So they could not use the name worldwide without paying a huge troll fee. Down with trolls!

    • BB

      em… it was a trademark for an application developed 8 years prior, and before apple released iphones. Apple also infringed on Swatches trademark in the UK, so not trolls – just other companies protecting their IP.

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