google_logo.jpgIf you’re a college student with $20, you can get some tacos and a beer or two, or as Google hopes, rent a laptop. We’ll let you decide what the best deal is. 

Is Google Taking Notes from Seattle?

Google (news, site) is set to announce a new student version of the Chrome laptop for $20 a month that includes hardware and online services. The company already provides Google apps to enterprise customers, a productivity suite with features similar to Microsoft Office, for $50 per year. The announcement could mean that the inexpensive hardware device will be offered to businesses soon -- something that could be attractive for small businesses without large technology budgets.

The company may be taking a page from Microsoft’s (news, site) playbook. The Seattle giant has long offered low-cost options to students, some say with the goal of locking in student preferences early so they can demand the products in the workplace once they are older. Given the current momentum of consumerization with corporate technology, it may not be a bad bet.

Is This a Good Deal?

The monthly pricing makes this look like a deal, but the value really depends on how frequently Google allows hardware to be exchanged. Students aren’t the most gentle consumers of hardware devices. It is unclear whether Google will offer the devices for purchase or if students can exchange the device should they be damaged. Students may already be familiar with Google's offerings due to Google Apps for Education, which is similar to Microsoft Live's @edu service.

One challenge with the new devices is connectivity. All the applications on the Chrome device are cloud-based, so users must be connected. Google representatives say that is close to being resolved.