Google will soon launch a 12.85-inch, touch-screen-operated Chromebook computer that will carry the Google brand and be available for sale by the end of 2012, according to a report from DigiTimes.com and the Chinese-language Commercial Times.
The devices will be built by Taiwan-based Compal Electronics, while the touch panels will be supplied by Wintek, according to Commercial Times. The details of the pending new machines came from Asian supply chain makers who are ramping up to provide components for the devices.
"Taiwan-based makers have begun shipping components for the notebook and Compal will start shipments as soon as the end of 2012," according to DigiTimes.com.
Chromebooks and their desktop brethren Chromeboxes run Google's Chrome operating system and feature a wide range of preinstalled, cloud-based Google services and products, including Google Docs and Google Calendar.
Google and its partner vendors who have built Chromebooks so far, including Samsung and Asus, have been pushing Chromebooks as Internet-connected devices that can be cheaper, faster and more nimble than traditional laptops and notebooks. Chromebooks allow users to do their work online with less need for on-machine storage for large applications and files. One shortcoming, though, is that users need good connectivity to use their machines and offline work can be a challenge, according to critics and reviewers.
At the same time, the machines can be inexpensive and well-featured devices that allow users to accomplish a wide range of tasks without the bloat and mass of a traditional laptop or notebook machine.
Consumers, however, aren't jumping aboard the Chromebook bandwagon in huge numbers, based on sales so far. In fact, Chromebooks have been released by several makers over the last year and haven't stuck with consumers, causing some vendors to retreat or try again with new machines that offer expanded features.
Mark Levitt, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, recently called the Chromebook "a unique animal" that's focused on Google Apps and Google cloud computing for its users.
In September, Google began touting a new Chromebook rental operation that rents the machines to business users starting at $30 per month on a no-contract basis to show off the possibilities of the machines and try to grow its user base. The idea aims to help companies learn how Chromebooks can help their workers and add flexibility to their IT deployments without investing large sums of cash on new hardware and software.
Business and government users are already trying out some innovative things using Chromebooks, according to Google. Transportation company QDI is giving Chromebooks to operational managers in truck depots to coordinate driver loads, while the School of Rock, a music school with more than 90 locations, has adopted Chromebooks to cut costs, administrative overhead, security and reliability issues. Meanwhile, the library system in Palo Alto, Calif., began a new program in which patrons can check out Chromebooks for a week, just like a library book.
Chromebooks, which are still generally slow in being adopted by consumers, are also being used in schools around the United States. Hundreds of schools in 41 of the 52 states are providing the devices for their students, including nearly 27,000 students in school districts in Iowa, Illinois and South Carolina.