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Google Polishes Up Some Shiny New Chrome Hardware

Google Polishes Up Some Shiny New Chrome Hardware

Google spilled the details on its Chrome-based notebook computers at its I/O conference Wednesday, placing a June 15 release date on the cloud-friendly computers. "The Chromebook is a twist on the thin-client model, except everything goes to Google," Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld.

By Richard Adhikari
05/12/11 5:00 AM PT

Google revealed on Wednesday a Chrome OS-based notebook, a device it's been talking about for several months.

Called "Chromebooks," the laptops will initially be available from Samsung and Acer June 15 through Amazon and Best Buy.

The devices were unveiled at Google I/O, the Internet search giant's annual conference, held this week in San Francisco.

The Nitty-Gritty on Chromebooks

The Chromebooks will last all day on a single charge and will have WiFi and optional 3G capabilities.

As one might guess by the name, they will come pre-loaded with the Google Chrome browser.

Users can plug keyboards, mice, USB drives, SD cards and cameras into their Chromebooks, Google spokesperson Erin Fors told TechNewsWorld.

Chromebooks are upgraded and maintained automatically, and new features will be delivered roughly every six weeks, Fors added.

Google has set up plans for leasing Chromebooks by the educational and business sectors. Chromebooks for Education plans start at US$20 per device per month, and Chromebooks for Business start at $28 per device per month, Fors said.

The prices will include a cloud management console for remote administration and management, enterprise-level support, device warranties and replacements and regular hardware refreshes.

Acer will reportedly offer a Chromebook with a full-sized keyboard from $350 up, and Samsung will offer a WiFi-only version for about $430. Its WiFi plus 3G version will reportedly go for $500.

Google has partnered with Citrix and VMware so users can run enterprise apps on Chromebooks.

Further, Google plans to release versions of Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs that can work offline by summer.

No Stretch of the Imagination

Demos of the Chromebook's features on stage showed how users can select and view images, play video clips and music and upload photos and documents through the browser.

"They don't seem any different from regular netbooks to me except that they may not have hard drives and may not let users work offline until later this year," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

On the other hand, a dedicated device such as the Chromebook boots faster, has longer battery life and costs less for a given level of performance because it doesn't require a full operating system, Enderle pointed out.

Will Chromebooks Have to Search for Love?

Whether the Chromebook will gain acceptance is open to question. After all, the pricing is at about the same level as regular netbooks, which don't tie users to one vendor's browser.

"The Chromebook is a twist on the thin-client model, except everything goes to Google," Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld.

"It would be a good idea if there's unlimited bandwidth and everything's in the cloud, but we don't have unlimited bandwidth and not everything's cloud-based; we have a hybrid environment," McGregor remarked.

A dedicated device like the Chromebook is typically more secure than general-purpose ones, Enderle stated.

However, the Chromebook "may have unique security issues that have yet to be found, like those that typically surround Google's offerings and are tied to privacy concerns," Enderle warned.

Privacy, long a bugbear for Google, has come to the forefront this week, with senators grilling Google and Microsoft about mobile data privacy.


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