Is Google competing against itself with the Chromebook?


Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome at Google Inc.,in May. The new Chromebookgoes on sale next month. (David Paul Morris/BLOOMBERG)

But is Google shooting itself in the foot?

Chromebooks may please the road warrior as a replacement for a tablet and keyboard attachment. The device targets two big chunks of tablet consumers — students looking for cheaper devices and businesses that want to cut back on their budgets. Still, it’s puzzling that the company is releasing this laptop when it’s so invested in its Android tablets.

The devices — Google has said they’re not quite laptops or computers — have no software and rely on the Web for nearly everything. The Chromebooks run on WiFi or 3G networks and have webcams. They’re priced between $349 and $499, depending on the manufacturer and mode of Internet access.

The devices run Google’s Chrome OS, a Web-centric operating system with only a handful of offline and file-management options. Applications in the OS come via Chrome’s Web app store or Google’s existing stable of Web apps such as Docs, Gmail and the new Music Beta.

The company has touted the Chromebook’s powerful Web-based functionality and portability— selling points that sound familiar to anyone who’s been listening to tablet talk in the past year.

For now, Chrome OS and Android are on separate tracks.Engadget reported. that Sundar Pichai, Chrome senior vice president, said Wednesday that his team is focused on laptops and has no plans “on any other form factors.”

But it will be interesting to see how the Chromebook is received by consumers who may make Android and Chrome OS serious competitors down the line.

Do you think Google’s Chromebook is a good idea? Do you have room for both Chrome and a tablet in your life?

Related stories:

Google I/O: Chromebooks starting at $20/month

Reports: Google to offer students Chrome laptops for $20 per month

Google I/O: Android 3.1, Ice Cream Sandwich, Music Betaµ

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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