A computer that's all about the browser. That's Google's newest vision for enterprises as it unveiled this week two new Chromebooks that will soon be on the market.
The machines were shown at the Google I/O developers conference, currently taking place in San Francisco. Samsung and Acer are each releasing a model next month based on Google's cloud-oriented Chrome operating system.
Boot Time, Updates, Security
Google pointed out that Chromebooks can boot "in eight seconds and resume instantly," are always connected via Wi-Fi and 3G, and provide the same experience regardless of which Chromebook you use. This is because all apps, documents and settings are stored in the cloud.
The company said other advantages include automatic updates, and "the first consumer operating system designed from the ground up to defend against the ongoing threat of malware and viruses."
At the conference, Senior Vice President of Chrome Sundar Pichai called the operating system "a new model of computing that I don't think was possible previously, even a few years ago." That model means forgetting about storing files or apps on your computer, since everything is in the cloud.
Google sees a key market for Chromebooks in businesses that emphasize managed computing. Beginning June 15, when the models will be sold in the U.S. and several European countries, businesses can rent Chromebooks for $28 per user per month. This includes the computer, administration over the web, support, warranty and hardware replacement when the subscription is up.
'Emptying the Guts'
A comparable subscription model is available to schools and governments for $20 per user per month. Google Apps would be extra. Purchase prices, from Amazon.com or Best Buy, start at $349 for Acer's model and $429 for Samsung's.
Industry observers have mixed reactions to the idea of cloud-only computing. Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with industry research firm Forrester, said that, while the browser-only approach is innovative, "the hardware is not." She added that, based on the reference model from Google that she has seen, "it's like emptying the guts out of your computer."
Epps said she doesn't "see a market for this product," adding that it is more of a "thought experiment than a product." She noted that Forrester's research indicates a very low use of cloud-based services by individuals, there are limitations like not being able to use a Chromebook on an airplane, and the price point is "overkill."
For about the same price, Epps noted, you could get "a pretty good netbook, a lower-end laptop, or a basic desktop computer." She understands why Google wants to present the concept of a cloud-only computer, since that's where the value of most of the company's products and services reside. She added that she could see a cloud-only device realized in hardware that is as innovative as the concept, such as "a wearable armband" device.
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, has a different take on Chromebooks. "There is a market in certain areas of managed environments for web-centric applications," he said. Rubin added that the appeal will be to those IT departments who "value security and don't want to risk data on a device getting lost or stolen."
Posted: 2011-05-12 @ 2:57pm PT
uh... let me see... there's no market for cloud-based PC's like the Chromebook but we'll soon all be wearing Dick Tracey like devices on our wrists.... right - ok
Posted: 2011-05-12 @ 12:34pm PT
This is just an example why Forrester, Gartner and other research only companies don't know what they are talking about. As far as offline work--have they heard about appcache? It will be built into ChromeOS