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Google's ARM-Based Samsung Chromebook Just $249

Google pitches third-generation Chromebook as affordable, hassle-free computing. The competition: Apple's MacBook Air and Windows 8 notebooks.

Thomas Claburn

October 18, 2012

3 Min Read

Google on Thursday announced an ARM-based Samsung Chromebook that will compete in the notebook market against Apple's MacBook Air and Windows 8 notebooks.

Taking a page from Apple's abandonment of model-based naming--the third generation iPad is known as "the new iPad"--Google and Samsung have settled on calling the device the "Samsung Chromebook," as if previous models didn't exist.

Priced at $249 and available on Monday, the third-generation Samsung Chromebook is 0.8 inches thick, weighs 2.5 pounds, and boasts a battery life of 6.5-plus hours. Its screen measures 11.6" diagonally. It's built around the Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (5250). The Chromebook Series 550, introduced earlier this year, sells for $449 and includes an Intel Celeron chip.

The Samsung Chromebook has dual-band Wi-Fi but not 3G networking hardware. It can run 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Unlike many portable computers, the Samsung Chromebook does not require a fan to cool its circuitry during computationally-intensive tasks, so your movie experience isn't marred by background noise from the notebook.

(update): The Verge reports that there is an unannounced version of the Samsung Chromebook that does support 3G and sells for $329.99.

"We worked hard to pack a lot of performance in," said Sundar Pichai, SVP of Chrome and apps at a media event held at Google's San Francisco office. "Because everything is hardware accelerated, it plays video very well."

[ Read Google Chrome OS, Take Two: New Software And Chromebooks. ]

Pichai pitched the new Chromebook not as a replacement for household PCs but as a complement to other devices. Toward that end, Google plans to bring its Chrome Remote Desktop software out of beta. The Chrome browser extension enables Chrome users to access and administer OS X or Windows computers remotely.

"What excites us most is how we see Chromebooks being used in day-to-day lives," said Pichai. "People use it as an additional computer at home."

A forthcoming TV ad, the company's first in support of its Chromebook hardware, reinforces the idea that the new Chromebook is a device for everyone. Google will pitch it as hassle-free computing rather than power computing, which is why Chromebooks have been adopted in over 1,000 schools to date. Schools seldom have the budget to afford to administer and maintain large numbers of PCs.

Pichai said that everyone--from those with limited budgets to multi-computer households--can benefit from using Chromebooks. "It's really complicated to own multiple Windows machines," he said.

With Windows RT devices entering the market at about $500 and the MacBook Air costing about $1,000, the $249 Samsung Chromebook is priced to compete.

Google's hardware partners Acer and Samsung launched their first Chromebooks in June 2011. Google has consistently declined to release sales figures. In November 2011, Taiwan-based Digitimes reported that Acer had sold only 5,000 units and that Samsung had sold even fewer.

In May 2012, Google and Samsung introduced the second generation of Chromebook hardware: the Chromebook Series 5. As before, Google didn't disclose sales figures but did announce a few corporate customers.

Pichai again declined to cite sales figures, but noted that awareness of Chromebooks outside of Silicon Valley and the press is minimal. Two of the 15 or so journalists attending the press event were using first-generation Samsung Chromebooks.

Google is working to increase exposure for its Chrome OS hardware. Next week, when the Samsung Chromebook is released, Google will be expanding its previously announced Best Buy kiosks from about 100 to more than 500. Google will be selling the devices through Amazon and other online retailers such as like TigerDirect, as well. In addition, it plans to offer them through Google Play, its own online store.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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