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2/21/2013
11:48 AM
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Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel

Google Chromebooks, once sold as secondary computers, seek a spot in the limelight by challenging Apple on design and features.

Google on Thursday introduced a Google-branded high-resolution Chrome OS portable computer with a touchscreen, a shift that blurs the boundaries between keyboard-oriented laptops and touch-oriented tablets and between the company's mobile Android operating system and its Web-centric Chrome OS.

Fulfilling a prediction made late last year, Sundar Pichai, SVP of Chrome and apps, demonstrated the Chromebook Pixel, the first Chrome OS device aimed at power users, at a media event in San Francisco on Thursday.

Pichai described the Pixel as both as a fully engineered product and a reference device to show Google's hardware partners how a Chrome OS touchscreen device can work.

[ Looking to own cutting-edge Google tech? Read Google Seeks Glass Explorers. ]

The Chromebook Pixel features an Intel Core i5 processor and a 239 ppi screen. Pichai said the screen was "the highest resolution screen that's ever been shipped on a laptop." For the sake of comparison, the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display has a pixel density of 220 ppi.

Pichai also highlighted the device's speed. "It's an incredibly fast experience," he said. "In my personal experience, this is the fastest laptop I've used."

At 3.35 pounds, the Chromebook Pixel is about a pound heavier than Apple's MacBook Air, which appears to be the Pixel's primary competition, at least in terms of price. Despite its heft, the Pixel is a beautifully designed device, one that includes several custom-designed components. Pichai insists the Pixel compares favorably with Apple's ultraportable notebook.

"I think it will stand up very, very well against a Macbook Air," said Pichai. "... What you're getting from our hardware is in many ways far superior."

Google has partnered with Verizon to provide an LTE wireless connectivity option. It is providing Pixel buyers with 1 TB of Google Drive storage at no cost for three years. That much storage normally would cost about $600 annually.

The Wi-Fi version (32 GB) of the Chromebook Pixel is available for $1,299. It can be ordered through the Google Play store, with shipping scheduled in about one week. The LTE version (64 GB) costs $1,499. It is also available for order through Google Play, with shipping planned for April. On Friday, Best Buy will begin taking Chromebook Pixel orders.

Chrome Books

To make the prospect of living in the cloud more appealing, Google is planning in three months to integrate Quickoffice (acquired by Google last year) into a future version of its Chrome browser and Chrome OS using its Native Client technology. This will allow Word and Excel documents to be opened and edited natively in Google Apps rather than converted to the Google Apps format. As a result, the Pixel should appeal to businesses that rely on Microsoft Office.

Google is also planning to release in its Chrome Web Store a Google+ Photos app that supports automatic photo uploading from SD cards.

Armed with a touchscreen, Chromebooks may be ready to transition from the role of understudy to star.

In October, Pichai described Chromebooks as a complement to existing PCs. And Google supported that sidekick role through its Chrome Remote Desktop software, a Chrome browser extension that lets Chrome OS users access and administer OS X or Windows computers from afar.

But the touch-oriented Pixel presents a challenge to personal computers running OS X, Linux or Windows, as well as tablets running Android. It aspires to be a primary computing device for those who want to "live in the cloud," as Pichai puts it.

Google first launched Chrome OS laptops with partners Acer and Samsung in mid-2011. Rather than trying to offer devices that were more powerful than leading PCs at the time, Google and its partners offered devices that were more affordable, more manageable and more secure.

Initially, Chromebooks sold poorly, but following the launch of second-generation devices in May 2012 and third-generation devices in October 2012, including an ARM-based Chromebook from Samsung, demand appeared to rise. Pichai noted that Samsung's recent model Chromebook has remained atop Amazon.com's laptop bestseller list for the entire 125-day period it has been available.

Some of the credit for rising Chromebook demand should go to Google for expanding the number of Chromebook kiosks at Best Buy stores. But Acer and Samsung played a part too by making Chromebook laptops more appealing.

Late last month, Acer said that Chromebooks accounted for between 5% to 10% of the company's U.S. computer shipments since the company released its C7 Chromebook in November. Based on IDC's Q4 2012 PC sales figures, it appears Acer sold somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 Chromebooks in the U.S.

Google to date has not released any official Chrome sales figures; two weeks ago, however, the company said that more than 2,000 schools are using Chromebooks, twice as many as were doing so three months earlier.

But the arrival of new Chromebook hardware partners is perhaps more revealing than sales figures. HP recently introduced its Pavilion Chromebook and Lenovo is about to release a ruggedized Chromebook for the education market. In addition, channel vendor CDW said earlier this month that it would begin selling Chromebooks to businesses and schools.

"We think this is a real game changer in terms of how people can start living in the cloud," said Pichai.

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FritzNelson
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FritzNelson,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2013 | 1:05:33 AM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
I've always liked the idea behind the Chromebook, but I'm starting to get skeptical: more costly, more frills, in a market that hasn't seen much growth (and that's being charitable), and a product that hasn't had success.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
2/22/2013 | 4:52:05 PM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
Agreed. It's interesting that HP's Chromebook plan was interpreted more as a ding against Microsoft than a win for Google. I'm still intrigued by the concept, though. That Acer is taking a leading Chromebook role is noteworthy also. Dell and HP got a lot of bad press for their respective PC struggles but Acer, whose CEO has been very critical of Windows 8, really got killed last year.

Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
2/22/2013 | 7:00:03 PM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
A great package, perhaps a half pound on the heavy side, but an advance in the mission of the notebook: live in the cloud. Charlie Babcock, InformationWeek
DWilson.IA
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DWilson.IA,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2013 | 9:09:05 PM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
I know cloud storage is the in thing, but I think it would be a very good idea to include USB3 and 2 ports, as well as an SD card slot in the new ultra portable chrome book. Not having an SD card slot would be a purchase killer for me. I'm not ready to fully tie myself to cloud storage, or always plugging in a USB drive. An SD card slot that locked in the card so it did not stick out, would cement the purchase. That would let me and other wary cloud storage people step into cloud storage at our own pace.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/22/2013 | 11:37:22 PM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
Don't discount technology as a fashion statement. Better to have a product that appeals to a limited number of power users than to ignore that segment entirely. Google looks to be readying its own retail stores soon and the Pixel has the visual appeal to stand out in window display cases.
Canamjay
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Canamjay,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/23/2013 | 1:44:04 AM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
Get skype and you gotta customer.. c'mon, MSFT can't be that bad when you beg!!?
Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Strategist
2/23/2013 | 3:44:21 AM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
I don't know guys. This unit actually makes me feel pretty good about my Surface Pro.
pblanc108
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pblanc108,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/23/2013 | 2:55:08 PM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
I don't know why anyone who want or buy this thing. It has so many limitations and can't run the majority of excellent software on the market. Further, one is locked into everything Google. Google's software cannot match the likes of Microsoft office, word, excel, access, etc.
We recently upgraded to Windows 8 touch screens- including the dell one 27 and the Microsoft surface pro. Win 8 is fast fluid and powerful. The machines boot up in 9 seconds and the new OS is rock steady reliable. The surface pro is unbelievable and is so fast and powerful that we no longer need to travel with our bulky laptops. And, it can run all of the wonderful software available today. With all the incredible windows 8 computers available and the gorgeous Apple Mac Pro, who would want the google. Larry page and Sergey brin did not invent anything- they copied their backward search idea from Mr. Li(Baidu), they bought their way into android and teir self driving car was invented by others in 1977. Google is simply an ad company earning 98% of their revenue from selling good old fashioned ads. What have they created or pioneered?.
With googles chrome book, which by the way, crashes constantly, there are security once runs as one must have all sensitive documents reside in their cloud. Nothing is resident on a secure, in machine hard drive. And to be locked into everything google by buying their machines is not for many people. I'll stick with the gorgeous and powerful win8, the genius surface pro, the Mac book and the incredible ipad4. This chrome book is dead on arrival and according to several sources, no preorders have occurred. With so many reliable and powerful choices already before us, why bother with this limited, lack luster, low ability device.
pblanc108
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pblanc108,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/23/2013 | 3:01:18 PM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
We have been using the Surface Pro since it was released. It is a beautiful machine with extraordinary build quality. It is unbelievably fast and is as portable as my iPad. I have found the Pro to be a true laptop replacement and a true joy to take anywhere and everywhere. I have not used my laptop since I bought the Surface. It is n extraordinary device. For power, beauty, productivity, portability and a wonderful user experience, I can't see buying anything else. The surface pro is he tablet of the future that is available today
Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Strategist
2/23/2013 | 3:13:31 PM
re: Google Launches Touchscreen Chromebook Called Pixel
I'm with you on this one. I've had mine since February 11 and love its versatility and power. NetFlix and Skype run superbly on the unit. I'm actually hoping that new versions will come out when the Haswell chips are released. My wife would be more than happy to inherit my i5 model.
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