May 12, 2011

Google Chrombooks Due Out June 15

Google has unveiled two computers, made by Samsung and Acer, that will run on its operating system, Chrome OS, scheduled to launch in seven countries including the US and the UK.

The computers will go on sale in June, as the world's leading search engine challenges Microsoft and Apple in the computer and OS markets.

The June 15 release date announced on Wednesday means the laptops will hit the market almost two years after Google began working on its operating system based on the Chrome Web browser.

All features of the Chromebook laptop, including the operating system, security features and programs are Web-based. According to Google, the Chromebook only takes 8 seconds to boot up and use.

Moving startup and daily functions onto the Internet removes the burden of time-consuming tasks associated with traditional PCs, such as installing software and updates, backing up files and running anti-virus checks, said Google executives.

"The complexity of managing your computer is torturing users," Google cofounder Sergey Brin told The Associated Press (AP). "It's a flawed model fundamentally. Chromebooks are a new model that doesn't put the burden of managing your computer on yourself."

"A little less than two years ago we set out to make computers much better. Today, we're announcing the first Chromebooks from our partners, Samsung and Acer. These are not typical notebooks," Linus Upson, Vice President of Engineering and Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President of Chrome, wrote on the Google blog.

The new laptops are based on the CR-48 laptop Google has been testing out with limited users. The new computers will cost from $349 to $499 in the US, depending on the model and features.

The Chrome OS laptops are based on the Chrome Web browser that is now used by some 160 million users worldwide. While the aim of the new systems are to allow for Internet-based applications to run them, Google said for those tasks that cannot be run online, it has worked a deal with Citrix and VMWare to allow access to other software.

Brin said Chrome OS emphasizes its speed, simplicity and security, with software updates being rolled out immediately and automatically. Photos and music can be uploaded directly to the internet and then accessed across a range of devices. Brin described it as a "new model of computing."

In an effort to get people to use Chromebooks, Google is offering three-year subscription plans to businesses and schools similar to how the mobile phone industry subsidizes devices up front and make the money back over the life of the service contracts. For $28 per month per user for businesses and $20 per month per user for schools, Google provides tech support and a warranty for the entire term of the contract. Google will replace the Chromebooks at the end of the three years.

As with Android, Chrome software will be free, but it is expected to spur people to use the Internet more often and search from more things, to help Google boost its Internet ads business.

Google kicked off its annual developers forum on Tuesday with an image of its Android robot eating an apple, an obvious shot at one of its biggest rivals, Apple Inc.

Acer's model of the Chromebook will cost $349 and will feature an 11.6-inch screen display and up to six hours of battery life. It will have optional 3G connectivity where so users can be online all the time. Google has announced that enhanced offline access would be available later this summer for certain Google applications, including Google Docs, Calendar and Gmail.

Samsung's Chromebook, known as a Series 5, will sell for $429 and $499. It will feature a 12.1-inch screen and up to 8.5 hours of battery life. It will also include an Intel N570 1.66Ghz Dual Core processor and 16GB of storage.

Both models will have keyboards, but no hard drives for storage.

"It gets pretty obvious, when you use a Chrome notebook you understand how it is different," Pichai said. "These devices are designed to be really simple to use."

"With the creation of the Series 5 we are again pushing the boundaries of innovation by introducing an entirely new product category to the notebook market," said Samsung director of mobile PC marketing Scott Ledterman.

"This partnership has allowed us to combine Samsung's design and engineering expertise with Google's simple, secure software to provide consumers with a revolutionary notebook to fit today's web-centric lifestyle," Ledterman said.


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