Google is upping its bet on Chromebooks. On Thursday, the technology giant unveiled a touchscreen version of its Net-oriented Chromebook laptop.
The 32 GB Chromebook Pixel, retailing for $1,299, offers only Wi-Fi connectivity, but Google said a $1,449 version with LTE high-speed data capability will be available in April.
Google has not specified which company will be manufacturing the laptop, other than to say the maker is based in Taiwan. Best Buy and Google will both offer the model online. Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Chrome, told news media that the Pixel is intended not only as a product for sale, but as a reference device to demonstrate to Google's hardware partners how a touchscreen, Chrome OS-based laptop might look and function.
Higher Screen Resolution than Retina
Pichai said the company wanted to "design something which was very high end and premium for users," who are "very demanding of their laptops."
The new model has an Intel Core i5 processor and a 223-pixel-per-inch screen. Pichai said the screen was the highest resolution ever on a laptop, noting that the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display is 220 ppi. He also said that, from his own personal experience, it was the "fastest laptop I've used." The Pixel weighs in at 3.35 pounds, a pound more than the MacBook Air.
Pixel buyers will receive a terabyte of storage on the cloud-based Google Drive at no cost for three years, a value that would otherwise run about $600 each year.
Chromebooks are already making headway into the consciousness of businesses and other organizations. Acer, for example, has said that as many as 10 percent of its laptops sold in the U.S. have been Chromebooks, since its C7 Chromebook came out last November. Google has said that more than 2,000 schools are using Chromebooks.
No Longer a Sidekick?
Lenovo has released a ruggedized version for schools, and is reportedly working on a model designed specifically for corporations. The financial publication The Street has reported that it has heard from enterprises that are prepared to test Chromebooks with their workforces.
The institutional appeal of the Net-based Chrome OS is largely ease-of-use, not only for the IT departments that do not have to update thousands of computers or continually swat away security issues, but also from users who can use any computer unit, since their apps and files live online.
Google is moving to increase that appeal. Within three months, it is expected to integrate Quickoffice, which it bought last year, into the Chrome browser and OS. This will enable users to open Word and Excel documents natively in Google Apps, instead of first having to convert them into Google Apps format.
The company appears to be moving away from its original positioning of Chromebooks as a complement to PCs, offering ease-of-use instead of power computing and providing, for instance, the ability to remotely access or administer an Apple or Windows computer. Instead, the company is now orienting the product line as computing for those users who choose to "live in the cloud."