Google announced Wednesday what it’s calling an entirely new kind of computer at its I/O Developers Conference: the Chromebook.
Essentially a Web portal in netbook form, the Chromebook will be produced by Samsung and Acer. According to Google, it’s not really a laptop — it’s the Web “in a computer-like object” — and will have no programs and no desktop, require no installations and rely completely on the Web for all of its functions. The only apps for the device will be through Chrome's Web store.
Google also said that the Chromebook will hold a charge for a full day.
The Samsung Chromebook is 12.1-inches and $429 for the WiFi version and $499 for the 3G model. The 11.6-inch Acer version starts at $349. Both have webcams and two USB ports; the Acer also has an HDMI port.
The company also confirmed rumors of a program for students and businesses to lease Chromebooks for a low monthly rate. Chromebooks for Education costs $20 per month; businesses pay $28 per month.
Although $429 is not that much cheaper than a WiFi iPad or comparable tablet, Chromebooks, unlike 3G tablets, don’t require an additional data plan.
In its video, Google asks if consumers are ready for this device, a valid question as the Chromebook requires users to be willing to trust all their information to off-site servers. That’s a gamble, particularly after the cloud-computing outages from Amazon and others in the news lately. Are enough customers ready to switch to cloud computing to make this project work?
That remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Google is hoping that “less is more ” with its new slogan for the device, ”Nothing but the Web.” The Chromebook could be a big hit with younger buyers, who already live through the Web, and Google is targeting college students who will be moving into the workforce soon.
The all-Web laptops go on sale June 15 in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.
Google also announced that it will let developers keep 95 percent of revenue generated from its Chrome Web store, which is far more generous than Apple’s 70/30 split.