May 11, 2011

Samsung, Acer to Debut Chrome OS Notebooks In June

After one million people, myself included, begged to get access to Google's CR-48 Chrome OS notebook pilot program and thousands of devices were shipped, Google is taking what it's learned from the months of feedback and bringing a full-on assault to the established OS players (Apple and Microsoft) with delivery at scale of Chrome OS powered notebooks, starting with Samsung and Acer, scheduled to debut in the United States and six other countries on June 15th. Keeping with the company's Web-centric, speed addicted browser focus, Google promised at Google I/O today what they see as the first computers which speed up and improve the longer you use them, rather than the well-known reverse.

The devices, starting at just under $350 for the 11 inch Acer model and rising to nearly $500 for the 3G-capable Samsung offering, are to be sold on and initially, while also being sold directly to businesses, educational systems and government for $28 a month for the former and $20 a month for the latter.

Google's promise, delivered convincingly by Chrome's Senior Vice President, Sundar Pichai, is that by making the notebooks as "nothing but the Web", this will dramatically reduce complexity, management, and keep apps up to date. Combined with integrated 3G connectivity, initially with Verizon in the US, and battery life between 6.5 hours on the Acer and 8 hours on the Samsung, the devices, like the CR-48 I've been using at the conference and elsewhere, look to deliver inexpensive anytime connectivity and the elimination of constantly searching for power plugs.

Google arrived at these announcements after rethinking the Web browser and the operating system itself, doing away with legacies of the past, Pichai explained.

"To deal with the Web on a browser, you have to deal with the legacy decisions of the last 30 years. Once you're inside, you have to make sure you manage your apps. Every single app has to be up to date," he said. "The experience is really complicated. We wanted to rethink the entire experience down to nothing but the Web. That's what Chrome OS is - an end to end experience."

Pichai's comments were echoed by Google cofounder Sergey Brin in a follow-on press briefing, where when asked if this was a direct attack on Windows, that there was nothing inherently wrong with Microsoft's offering but that "The complexity of managing your computers is torturing users, and it's a flawed model." This flawed model still is running XP at more than 50 percent of businesses today, it was reported, so this means there's not only a lot of opportunity for growth, but also significant challenge to make inroads at places that have often been reticent to change and conservative.

Consumers, besides the initial few of us who got our hands on the CR-48, will get their hands on Chromebooks (as they're now called) in just over a month. For the Web addicted, it could be a very compelling offering, one that both Apple and Microsoft have to watch closely and take very seriously.