At the Google I/O conference this week, Google has been busy making some pretty big announcements. On Wednesday, the search giant unveiled its most ambitious announcement so far: the Chromebook, a new Google-based laptop.
It’s actually an Acer or Samsung laptop running on a new Google OS. The new computer is purely cloud-based, with an operating system that is essentially a Chrome web browser that points users towards Web-based Google Apps (word processing, spreadsheets, calendars, and other productivity software).
Google Docs has been a direct competitor of Microsoft’s Office and now Google is taking Windows head-on. The advantages of not using software like Microsoft’s, Google claims, is the ability to bypass software installation, updates, backups and antivirus scans. Google says Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no need for anti-virus software.
“The complexity of managing your computer is torturing users,” Google cofounder Sergey Brin told reporters. “It’s a flawed model fundamentally. Chromebooks are a new model that doesn’t put the burden of managing your computer on yourself.”
The Chromebook has the ability to connect anywehere your smartphone does with 3G connections through Verizon wireless than charge based on usage time. This trend is ongoing, as HP recently unveiled its HP DataPass mobile broadband service that works in conjunction with its new 3G-enabled Elitebook business laptops.
Samsung and Acer will offer the laptops on June 15. The Samsung Chromebook will cost $429 for the Wi-Fi only version and $499 for the 3G version. Acer’s Wi-Fi only Chromebook will cost $349. Monthly subscriptions will start at $28/user for businesses and $20/user for schools, with a three-year contract that includes management, support, warranty, replacements if something breaks, and hardware auto-updates.
Contract? That’s a long time when you’re using a comparatively low-spec machines. Another questionable feature is you can only use one browser – Chrome – which is pretty effective, but lacks the great Firefox add-ons. Plus, at $499, you can buy a pretty good Netbook or iPad 2.