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Google unveils 'Chromebook' laptops - starting at €14 per month

The lightweight machines are built to use the web only – and mark Google’s latest assault on Microsoft’s OS domination.

Sundar Pichai, Google's vice-president for product management, launches the Chromebook at Google's I/O conference in San Francisco.
Sundar Pichai, Google's vice-president for product management, launches the Chromebook at Google's I/O conference in San Francisco.
Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

GOOGLE HAS UNVEILED its latest weapon in its bid to gain a foothold in the hardware business, and to undermine Microsoft’s dominance of the operating system sector: laptops running on its own operating system.

The laptops – dubbed ‘Chromebooks’, because their operating system is based on Google’s Chrome browser – will be manufactured by Acer and Samsung, with the first models doing to sale on June 15.

The scaled-down laptops will be build solely to browse the web, with no desktop and no software installed on them – a lightweight model which Google says will update itself in real time.

The pared-down model also means that the machines can reportedly start up in mere seconds, because the operating system does not need to prepare itself to run any other applications.

This shouldn’t present a problem for users looking to perform tasks like word processing or photo editing, Google says, because all of those services can now be accessed through web-based offerings.

Add-on programs are also set to be available through Chrome’s Web Store, giving developers another platform on which to try and sell their wares.

Whether the machines will take off in Ireland where broadband penetration is still relatively low remains to be seen, however; the machines are essentially built to access the internet through WiFi connections, which are difficult to come by in areas where a stable broadband offering is not available.

The machines will later be available with 3G options, however, with phone network Three likely to be the first Irish network to provide 3G-enabled Chromebooks given that its UK parent network has secured similar rights for the UK.

Google intends to roll out improved offline services for its Gmail and Google Docs in the coming months, allowing limited use in areas where internet connections aren’t available.

“The complexity of managing your computer is torturing users,” the Economic Times quotes Google co-founder Sergey Brin as telling 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 machines will sell at $349 (€244) when they go on sale through consumer websites like Amazon next month – but Google is also set to unveil subscription plans providing the laptops and software to business users for €19 per month, and educational users for €14 per month.

While the move is an obvious shot at Microsoft’s domination of the operating systems market through its Windows series, the latter option could also indicate that the company wants to tackle the growing success of Apple’s iPad in the educational market.

The machines, which both have screens of around 12 inches, come with 16 GB of hard disk space and an official battery life of 8.5 hours.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s vice-president for product management, told attendees at Google’s I/O developer conference that the machines would run “all day”.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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