"The new Chromebook and Chromebox are now capable enough to meet the needs of individuals and employees that need access to browser-based services and applications for use cases such as schools, retail, call center, and temporary field sites in range of mobile data or Wifi," Gillett said via email.
The Chrome OS machines will not displace existing computers quickly, but they will gain increasing consideration from individuals and businesses as they make their next buying decisions, he said.
"With Apple and Microsoft both delivering new operating system versions this year, buyers face more choice in PC OS experiences than ever. The simplicity and low costs of Chrome OS devices will be appealing to enough buyers with narrow needs that Google will continue to develop and invest in Chrome OS," Gillett said.
An open question is whether hardware manufacturers will be happy with producing relatively low-priced products that probably deliver thin margins, he said, speculating that Google is likely to be providing some kind of financial guarantees to ensure the OEMs are happy with revenues and profits on these devices.
Samsung's Chromebook Series 5 550 laptop has a 12.1-inch display (1280x800) and weighs 3.3 pounds, and its battery lasts for six hours of continuous usage, or six-and-a-half days in standby mode. It has an Intel Celeron 867 dual-core processor running at a clock speed of 1.3GHz, 4G bytes of RAM and a built-in, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n antenna and a Gigabit Ethernet port. A 3G modem is optional.
The machine, which will also have two USB 2.0 ports, a 4-in-1 memory card slot and a DisplayPort++ Output compatible with HDMI, DVI and VGA, will cost $449 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $549 for the 3G models.
Meanwhile, the desktop, called Samsung Chromebox Series 3, has an Intel Celeron B840 dual-core processor running at a clock speed of 1.9GHz, 4G bytes of RAM, a built-in, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n antenna and a Gigabit Ethernet port. It also features six USB 2.0 ports, a DVI single link output, a 2x DisplayPort++ Output compatible with HDMI, DVI and VGA, and compatibility with Bluetooth 3.0 technology. It costs $329 and doesn't include a monitor, keyboard or mouse.
Compared with the first-generation Chromebooks, the Samsung laptop is two-and-a-half times faster, while the desktop is three-and-a-half times faster, according to Google. They boot up in seven seconds and five seconds, respectively. First-generation Chromebooks use Intel Atom chips.
Beyond the consumer market, Google and its partners also pitch Chrome machines to businesses and educational institutions. So far, more than 500 schools have bought Chromebooks, while business customers include retailer Dillard's and Mollen Clinics.
In their first iteration, these machines have been sold to schools and businesses using per user/per month pricing, but now they will be sold under the more conventional per-machine, one-time payment model, plus a one-time fee for the online IT management console, around-the-clock phone technical support and hardware warranty that are provided to these customers.
Thus, business and education customers will pay the suggested retail price for each machine, plus a one-time fee of $150 (businesses) or $30 (schools) per machine for the management console, support and warranty. The IT management controls have been enhanced with new features like auto-update controls and new reporting capabilities.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.