Google has announced two "Chromebooks" - or laptops that run not on Microsoft Windows, but Google's new Chrome OS, centred on the company's Chrome web browser.
The Chromebooks, made by Acer and Samsung, boast an instant (well, 8-second) boot time, but their Google application software will only work when they are connected to the internet - best-suiting them to countries with all-you-can-eat internet plans.
Christchurch cloud computing consultant and commentator Ben Kepes was in San Francisco this morning, where Google's event took place. He told NBR:
"I was at another event next door to the Moscone center when the ChromeBook was announced and I sensed that we really were witnessing something revolutionary. I posted almost four years ago talking of a day when we didn't need to worry about operating systems, printer drivers and the like and could simply focus on doing what we wanted to do," Mr Kepes said.
"The ChromeBook is very much a step in that direction. I'm looking forward to taking mine for a spin to witness, first hand, this brave new world"
Set for June 15 release in the US, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, the Chromebook will come in two flavours: a $349 (Acer) or $430 (Samsung) wi-fi model and a $US500 version that adds 3G.
Samsung's model has a 12.6-inch screen; Acer's an 11.6-inch (so far, futher tech specs have not been forthcoming).
In a marketing twist, Google says it will offer a Chromebook with a commercial subscription to Google Apps (worth $US50 a year). for no money up-front. but rather a $US28 a month fee to business users, and $US20 to students. For those who sign up for three years, the monthly fee will include 100MB of data.
Retailers will include Amazon.
Taking on Windows
The success of the ChromeBooks agains Microsoft Windows-based laptops and networks, Apple MacBooks and other contenders very much hangs in the balance.
While Google's search engine remains wildly dominant, and Android now has a majority share of the smartphone market by most measures, the its Chrome web browser has always struggled to gain traction against Microsoft's IE and Mozilla Firefox - although at its ChromeBook launch this morning in the US, the company did claim Chrome users had doubled in the past year to 160 million (a claim born out, in rough terms, by NBR Online's Nielsen-measured traffic. In the past week, 14% of visitors to this site used Chrome, more than double this time last year.
Check out Google's official video above, or its blog post on the Chromebooks here.
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