First Chromebooks to arrive in June

Google’s Chrome OS is finally set to land, with “Chromebooks” from Samsung and Acer arriving on 15 June.

The Samsung Chromebook will feature a 12.1in screen, weigh 1.48kg, feature an Intel Atom dual-core processor and two USB ports. It will boast 8.5 hours of battery life. The Wi-Fi only version will cost $429 in the US and the 3G version will cost $499.

Acer’s version will feature a 11.6in LED-backlit screen, weigh 1.34kg and offer 6.5 hours of battery life. Like the Samsung, it will also use an Atom dual-core processor and will start from $349.

The prices are no cheaper than conventional netbooks running full versions of Windows, perhaps disappointing potential buyers who expected the free, Linux-based OS to lower the overall cost.

The devices will go on sale on 15 June in the US and six other countries – the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

In the US, the devices will be available online from Amazon or BestBuy. Chromebooks bought with the optional 3G will come with an inclusive 100MB of data a month from Verizon in the US.

More secure than Windows?

Google said the system will be an improvement on standard PCs because the software will automatically update, keeping it secure and easier to manage.

“When you buy a PC, it’s great on the first day,” said Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management. “But as you install applications, it slowly starts degrading over time. Because we update Chromebooks automatically… we actually think we can make it better over time.”

The first devices are netbooks because “that’s where people use the web the most,” Pichai said, but stressed the Chrome OS could be used on other form factors.

Business users

Google is also pushing the same Samsung and Acer devices to businesses and schools. Organisations will get the Chromebook, a web-based console for management, support, warranty with full device replacement, and automatic hardware upgrades for $28 per month per user. Schools will pay $20.

For businesses that would prefer a desktop device to connect to a larger monitor, Google is working on a Chrome box, as well.

Google has already partnered with Citrix and VMware to ensure business software works on its Chromebooks. Google’s paid-for Apps for Business will apparently not be included in the subscription price.

Web store

Google also revealed its Chrome Web Store has seen 17 million application downloads, and will now be extended globally after going live in limited regions earlier this year.

Chrome will now offer in-app payments, and charge developers only 5% of the selling price – much less than Apple’s much criticised 30% fee. “We at Google felt we could do a little better,” said Vikas Gupta, product leader for payments.

Game-maker Rovio also revealed its popular Angry Birds game would land on Chrome, to let the developer take advanage of the “biggest platform out there, the web,” said CEO Peter Vesterbacka.

The game will also be available in offline mode, while Google’s own Gmail, Calendar and Docs will be available in offline versions from this summer.

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