Next month, Google will attempt to reinvent the personal computer as little more than a browser and a screen and a keyboard. On June 15, the first lightweight Chromebook laptops, which run the company’s Web-centric operating system, Chrome OS, will be available to buy from Samsung and Acer. Google hopes that every category of computer user—home users, businesses, and educational institutions—will buy in to a vision of computing that does away with locally installed software and instead accesses everything through a Web browser.
Google previewed Chrome OS late last year, and gave out notebooks designed to run the operating system in December 2010.
Samsung will sell a laptop with a 12.1-inch screen for $429 dollars, or $499 with built-in 3G wireless. Acer’s more lightweight 11.6-inch Chromebook will also be available in two versions, the cheapest being $349. See Google’s Web page about the Chromebooks.
Google’s product manager for Chrome OS, Sundar Pichai, announced the plans at the final day of the company’s annual I/O conference in San Francisco. Pichai suggested that the new Chromebooks will eliminate many of the headaches that users associate with personal computers. “Just to spend your time on the Web today,” Pichai said, “you have to deal with all of the legacy decisions made about operating systems in the last 30 years.” That means dealing with slow startup times, nagging software upgrades, and security problems, he said. “We wanted to distill [the PC] down to nothing but the Web.”
The two new computers being introduced next month will power on almost instantly, said Pichai, and offer a much smoother experience. “Every time you boot up, you’re up and running within eight seconds, and when you open the lid on a sleeping Chromebook, you’re connected to the Web faster than you can move your fingers to the keyboard.”
Throwing out large parts of the operating system also enables longer, cell-phone-like battery life that lasts all day, he said. Pichai even claimed that a Chromebook purchased next month will become more powerful over time. “Computers are normally great when you first install, but then performance degrades over time,” he said. “But because a Chromebook upgrades itself automatically, in a few months your Chromebook will be even faster.”
Chrome OS shares the code it uses to handle Web pages with Google’s Chrome browser, which is automatically updated to make it perform faster. Pichai showed a version of the popular phone and tablet game Angry Birds, which ran smoothly through the browser following recent improvements to Chrome’s handling of animations.