Google continues to roll out the hardware at its IO developer event with the new and improved Chromebooks. These Samsung-built notebooks offer better hardware, hugely improved Chrome OS features and will be available in stores for the first time.
Shinier Chromebooks Hitting Retail
The first generation of Chromebooks were a neat experiment, let down by tacky hardware and an immature OS, that was perhaps asking too much of its users to put their faith in the cloud. But, you didn't just expect Google to give up did you? Not with millions of notebook sales going up for grabs in a world a little uncertain over the future of a confused Windows 8/RT world?
With partner Samsung, it has come back with some improved, sleeker hardware, offering an Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD drive with a 12.1" screen. These new models will be available in WiFi or 3G models and be on-sale at Best Buy in the U.S. and Dixons in the U.K from around $449.
On the software side, things now look much more like a desktop experience, with multi-tasking that is much improved. Since Google has realised not everyone is ready for life in the clouds, file handling and management has also been improved, so the overall impression is of a very Internet-friendly laptop OS that can be used slightly more happily offline.
Web apps can now be run in a windowless full screen mode to make things look less web-like. Even so, this is a notebook for the connected generation, and is probably not something you'd spring as a surprise gift on a non-digital-native relative.
While Google and Samsung might be able to shift more volume by moving sales away from online-only, it might be an uphill struggle against the huge wave of uttrabooks about to hit. To help out, those same stores will also be selling the not-quite-so-new Series 3 Chromebox, which rather like the Mac Mini, offers just a small-footprint desktop box that you need a monitor, keyboard and mouse for.
This approach to winning over consumers may well have benefits, but with the huge inbound rush for Nexus 7 tablets, you get the feeling that, rather like Apple TV, this is a hobby project waiting for its breakout moment.
As it faces off against Apple in the phone and tablet market, Google will also be fighting Microsoft with its Surface project as well as the army of traditional PC builders. With its slow start, users might not be taking Google too seriously in this hardware game. But with slow progress, a solid Partner in Samsung and the inevitable merging of cloud and desktop, Google could find itself in a very strong position as the PC market evolves.
Reviews are already starting to appear online for the new hardware and seem largely impressed with the improvements.