Google’s Chromebook arrives


Google has announced the commercial availability of its Chromebooks

Google’s move into the desktop operating system environment was completed Wednesday with the launch of its much anticipated Chromebook device, which is to be manufactured by Acer and Samsung. In a throwback to the days of the dumb terminal, the device is essentially a portal to cloud-based applications and services, all accessed through the Chrome browser.

The notebook has no installed software, a feature that Google is punting as a bonus in what it says is an increasingly complex online world. Speaking at a press briefing this week, co-founder Sergey Brin said that the current computing model was a flawed one, adding that “Whether it be Microsoft or other operating system vendors, the complexity of managing your computer is really torturing computer users out there.” Brin said that the Chrome notebooks remove the “burden of managing a computer” from end users; apps, games, updates and security will all be managed automatically and remotely.

According to Google, notebooks will last for a full day of use on a single charge. Optional 3G is also available for users. One feature that is likely to set some observers on edge is the lack of anti-virus software, which Google says is not necessary because “Chromebooks have many layers of security built in.” These layers include a combination of system hardening, process isolation, continued web security improvements in Chromium, secure auto update, encryption and intuitive account management.

Google has said that while the notebooks will be capable of working offline, the model is ultimately one that is focused on connectivity. The company has said that its initial target use cases will be “computing on the couch, use as a lightweight secondary work computer,” and sharing in public places. The notebooks will be available to buy online in the US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain from June 15. Samsung models will start at $429 ($500 with 3G) while the Acers will come in at a lower $429.

A Chromebooks for Business and Education service has also been announced. This will offer enterprise-level support and warranties as well as regular hardware refreshes and a cloud management console to remotely administer and manage users devices and applications. Monthly subscriptions for the service will start at $28 per user for business and $20 per user for schools.

The Chromebook announcement came on the same day as news that more than 400,000 Android-based devices are activated every day, amounting to about 12 million units each month. The platform is expected to have reached 200 million users by the end of 2011.

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