Samsung will launch this week two new Chrome OS-based computers, a laptop and desktop that have been designed to be significantly faster and more versatile than previous models. The new Samsung models will be available online today in the U.S. and May 30 in the U.K., and they will be for sale also at select Best Buy stores in the U.S. in June.
Along with the new Samsung computers, Google is announcing enhancements to Chrome OS and Google Apps, including tight integration with Google Drive and -- something previously promised -- the ability to edit Google Docs documents offline.
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Chrome OS-based machines began shipping commercially about a year ago from Samsung and Acer. Although the machines haven't exactly taken the PC market by storm, Google is satisfied with the progress so far.
"We're very happy with where we are. We strongly believe in the vision we articulated last year," said Caesar Sengupta, product management director, Chrome OS.
Referred to generically as "Chromebooks," these computers and the Chrome OS were designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet and for online applications. Few people have bought Chromebooks, which were criticized for lack of offline capabilities and limited applications.
According to Sengupta, Google and its partners haven't pushed Chromebooks aggressively, so they have been bought primarily by early adopters, whose feedback has been closely listened to.
"We're at a point where, from the user-experience point of view, we're starting to be happy with it and we're now ready to take the next step in this journey," he said.
That next step includes broadening the roster of hardware partners, as well as making the machines more widely available. The new Samsung models will be available online today in the U.S. and May 30 in the U.K., and they will be for sale also at select Best Buy stores in the U.S. in June.
At the software level, the new machines will feature what Google calls an "apps-centric user interface" that will feature, for example, a simplified app launcher, the ability to have multiple windows open for multitasking and support for screen sizes ranging from 11 inches to 30 inches.
Coming later will be a tight integration with the Google Drive cloud storage service, as well as the ability to edit Google Docs documents when the machine is offline. When available, this Google Docs offline editing feature will be available to all Google Docs users, not just people who buy these new Samsung machines.
Other new features include a more sophisticated media player, as well as a native photo editor and uploader, and enhanced video streaming options for YouTube, Netflix and other such sites.
Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said the combination of the Chrome OS update, the improved devices from Samsung and the integration with Google Drive amounts to "a credible basic computing offering."