Personal Computers

Google Polishes Up Some Shiny New Chrome Hardware

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.


  • So why are these "Chromebooks" going to cost that much? Its not a OS from MS and its basically The Chrome browser running in a Linux shell for hardware. The hardware will be a Atom duel core and probably Intel graphics. What person will spend that much for so little?

    • I’d be delighted to buy a computer that frees me from the tyranny of Microsoft and the expense of Apple, but it would have to have offline capabilities, such as running Open Office, the thinking man’s Microsoft Office, and other proprietary software. I’d be interested to know which processor it’ll be using and if it has a hard disk, solid-state or otherwise. It’d also have to include a web cam. If it cannot do some or any of these things, it might well be a device before its time, as not everyone has continuous broadband access to access the cloud.

      • Bob, I think both the Samsung and the Acer with only have a two core Atom with probably Intel graphics. I AM thinking in will have SSD for a drive considering the price,size and touted 7 second boot times. It has some sort of Linux shell,but I will assume that you will have to use Google Doc’s for a Office suit or whatever Google has in a App store. Remember, this is a Google Eco System project. So I expect Google to control it. Probably much worse the Apple’s closed Eco System.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there will be some difficulty selling these laptops as far as for businesses. No Microsoft Office software availability? Bad news if you ask me. Plus, the Google Chrome browser has given me issues with webpages before. How do you think people would like one browser that can’t load pages properly? I’ve also had problems uploading with Chrome. That’s almost half of what cloud notebooks are based on; uploading to the Internet. If users will have trouble uploading, then they can’t really do too much with their laptops, can they?

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