Google 'Chromebooks' due in June from Acer, Samsung

Google says it currently has no plans for a Chrome OS tablet

Samsung and Acer will begin selling notebook PCs running Google's Chrome OS in June, as Google presses ahead with its project to position this new operating system designed specifically for Web applications as a viable option for consumers and businesses.

Although so far the Chrome OS had been described as built for netbooks, Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president for Chrome, stayed away from that term, referring to the machines as "notebooks" and "Chromebooks."

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Samsung's notebook has a 12.1-inch display and in the U.S. will cost $429 for a model that only offers a Wi-Fi option for connectivity and $499 for one that also offers 3G connectivity from Verizon. The Acer machine will also offer Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity options from Verizon and will start at $349.

The Samsung "Chromebook" will offer eight-and-a-half hours of continuous usage and feature an Intel Atom dual-core processor, two USB ports, a 4-in-1 memory card slot and a full-size keyboard and trackpad.

Acer's machine will have an 11.6-inch, LED-backlit LCD display and battery life of six hours in continuous usage, as well as an Intel Atom dual-core processor, a high-definition webcam, two USB ports, a 4-1 in memory card slot, an HDMI port and a full-size keyboard and trackpad.

U.S. users will be able to place orders for the notebooks starting on June 15 from both Amazon and Best Buy. The computers will also be available in the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy, Pichai said during a keynote speech at Google's I/O conference on Wednesday.

Outside of the U.S., the machines will be sold by "leading retailers" in the different countries, and the 3G connectivity offered by local service providers.

Asked about the possibility of Chrome OS tablets, Pichai stressed the company currently is focused just on notebooks. "We have no other plans at this time [for] any other form factors," he said during a press conference after the keynote speech.

Google will also make available "Chromebooks" on a subscription basis for businesses, schools, and government agencies, starting at $28 per business user and $20 per school and public sector user. "It's software and hardware as a service," Pichai said.

Those subscription notebooks will be sold directly by Google, and will also be available on June 15, he said.

In addition to the Chrome notebooks, customers get a cloud-based management console for IT management and administration of users, devices and software, as well as access to support, warranties and machine replacements.

Google also launched an in-application payment system for Web applications sold through its Chrome Web Store, and said it will only take a 5 percent commission from those transactions.

"We believe that's a great thing for developers and a great thing for the Web," said Vikas Gupta, a product manager on the Google Payments Team.

Pichai also said that there are now about 160 million active users of the Chrome browser, more than double the number a year ago.

(Paul Krill from InfoWorld contributed to this story.)

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.