Google is taking to the skies to market notebook computers based on its Chrome Operating System, the lightweight platform designed to tout Web applications over local software.
The search engine has tapped Virgin America to let travelers on four different flight routes check out and use Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks paired with complimentary WiFi access free for the duration of their flight.
Google's marketing goes bigger than that. Folks who fly Virgin America from San Francisco, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth or Boston can "check out" a Series 5 Chromebook from a so-called "Chrome Zone" near their departure gate. (See picture at right and map here.)
Users will be able to log on immediately and begin using the Chromebook rental immediately with complimentary WiFi in the terminal and continue using it on the flight before dropping it off at the destination gate's Chrome Zone.
The beauty of the Series 5 is it has an 8.5-hour battery life, so the Chromebook should have any traveler covered for the duration of their flight, including layover time when they get off to connect.
Moreover, Google is including Chromebooks in the rooms of travelers booked to stay at the Ace Hotel New York, sort of like a complimentary bottle of water you see occasionally in travels.
Ace Hotel guests may then use the Series 5 anywhere, in or out of the hotel, with free WiFi and 3G connectivity.
Moreover, Google has written two Web apps for this little partnership: The Ace New York Field Guide, which "tips you off on the hottest spots in town, from cool clubs to unique boutiques," and Beat the Boot, a game where players must get the highest score possible in the 8 seconds it takes to boot a Chromebook.
The Virgin America and Ace Hotel Chromebook offers start July 1 (today) and run through Sept. 30.
This is really impressive forward-thinking marketing from Google, a company not exactly possessed with the marketing graces of Apple or other hip high-tech companies.
You can bet that if this experiment proves popular, Google will expand it ... sort of like pushing Google Offers all over the country versus Groupon and LivingSocial, albeit without competition.
Really, have you ever seen free Windows PCs or Macs on flights or hotels? No, they're too expensive and too personal. As a cloud-based commodity machine that lets users log on and grab their apps from anywhere, the Chromebook is a winner.