By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated October 18, 2012.
With the formal launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 just around the corner on Oct. 26, Google is moving forward with its Net-based Chrome operating system. On Thursday, the technology giant unveiled a new, low-priced Samsung Chromebook.
In announcing the new Chromebook on the company's Official Blog, Senior Vice President of Chrome and Apps Sundar Pichai wrote Thursday that this type of computer is "the perfect additional computer" for a home. "For folks living entirely in the cloud," he said, the Chromebook can become a primary computer.
The $249, ARM-based, clamshell-style device weighs a svelte 2.43 pounds, has a battery life of 6.5 hours, boots up in less than 10 seconds, and comes with 100 GB of free storage for two years on the cloud-based Google Drive.
Other specs include 16 GB of onboard flash storage, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, an 11.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1366x768, a USB 3.0 port, a hardware-accelerated user interface and a full-size keyboard. It includes the Chrome browser and thousands of free apps from the Chrome Web Store.
The low price could be attractive to some buyers, but a key question is what that actually buys. For another $100 or so, for instance, one could get a full Windows laptop.
Some analysts have begun referring to this new release as a netbook, which would characterize the model as a light computing device oriented toward cloud-based apps and data.
Because of the decreased appeal of netbooks, some computer makers have been withdrawing from that category, and moving instead to tablets and Ultrabooks.
In February, for instance, Lenovo announced it would no longer sell netbooks on its Web site, and last year Dell said it would stop making its Inspiron Mini netbook.
The research firm Gartner has estimated only minor sales for this new Samsung Chromebook, mostly in the consumer market, and predicts that Google will eventually merge its Android operating system with Chrome.
The first Chromebooks hit the market in May of last year, from Samsung and Acer. They featured a cloud-oriented operating system, and Google pitched their ability to immediately boot up, make automatic updates to software, and have apps and data always available from any computer, along with automatic backups and software updating, many layers of security, and a long battery life.
In May of this year, Google announced the first Chrome-based desktop computer, called the Chromebox. As new models have been released, industry observers have noted improvements, such as enhanced performance and more features.
For IT administrators, Chromebooks are appealing because they have no configuration requirements for setup and users can readily exchange physical machines between users. For professional users who can work completely online, low-priced Chromebooks might be appealing. One example might be several Chromebooks in a real estate office, where agents could check out any machine each morning.