Dell has launched its first-ever Chromebook that is targeted to school students and educators, and company officials said it will release additional models in the future for consumers, small businesses and other markets.
The new Dell Chromebook 11 devices will include fourth-generation Intel Celeron 2955U processors, 11.6-inch screens, up to 10 hours of battery life and a 16GB embedded solid-state drive, according to Dell. The machines will be available in two models, one with 4GB of internal DDR3 RAM, and the other with 2GB of RAM. Boot-up time for each machine is about 8.4 seconds, according to the company.
The 11.6-inch displays have a maximum resolution of 1366 by 768 and run on Intel HD graphics chips. Also included are a front-facing 720p Webcam, 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, two USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth 4.0 and a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port. The machines are less than 1 inch high, weigh about 2.9 pounds each and have battery life of up to 10 hours.
Also included in the education versions is the Dell Wyse PocketCloud application, which gives students and teachers who will use the devices access to content and applications across a “personal cloud” of devices, according to Dell. Users will be able to access, edit, save and share their digital assets such as presentations, documents, photos and videos regardless of where the original documents are located, according to the company.
PocketCloud works across mobile devices, tablets, PCs, laptops and Chromebooks and is tightly integrated with the Google ecosystem, including Google Apps. The PocketCloud app will be available for download in the Google Chrome Web Store in January 2014, according to Dell.
The Dell Chromebook 11 in 4GB configuration will be available in January 2014, while the 2GB version will be available during the first quarter of 2014, both at prices below $300. They will be available in the United States and Great Britain.
Bryan Phillips, CTO of the Hoover City Schools, outside Birmingham, Ala., told eWEEK in a telephone interview that his school district will eventually be buying thousands of Dell Chromebook 11 devices for students and teachers to replace some 5,000 Apple iPads that are nearing the end of their service lives. The district presently also has about 3,500 Samsung Chromebooks.
“This device is a little more robust, a little [more durable] and it’s still at that price point we want it to be at,” Phillips said of the Dell Chromebook 11. “I’ve had a demo unit for a few weeks. We’re very excited about it.”
The plan is to slowly move all students in the third to 12th grades to Chromebooks over the next three years, according to Phillips. The iPads being used by some 5,000 seniors presently were purchased in 2012. “They’re getting to the end of life anyway because the kids are rough on them,” he said.
The school district has about 13,800 students and every student from third to 12th grade, which includes about 10,500 of the total student body, gets their own machine from the district for use while they are in school, said Phillips. “It goes home with you. It goes everywhere you go.”
Teachers and staff also get them, he said. All the existing devices used by the district will be replaced within three years.
Dell Unveils New Chromebook Aimed at Schools and Education
“Google makes it so much easier for us,” such as Google Apps storing the students’ work in the cloud automatically. “I don’t have to worry about storage and things along those lines.”
The district has been using Samsung Chromebooks for about one year.
“The original Chromebooks we weren’t really sold on because you couldn’t work with them offline,” said Phillips, but that has since been changed, which makes them more versatile and easier to use.
Several other new Chromebooks have also been released in recent months from other vendors. Earlier in December, Google unveiled the new Acer C720P Chromebook, which has a multi-touch screen and retails for $299.
In October, Google unveiled the new $279 HP Chromebook 11, which weighs just over two pounds. The HP machine also included a micro-USB charger that can also recharge a user’s Android phone or tablet. The HP 11 is being sold through Best Buy, Amazon, Google Play and HP Shopping in the United States, and through Currys, PC World and many other retailers in the United Kingdom.
In June, Google expanded its network of dealers for its Chromebooks by beginning to sell them through Walmart and Staples stores, raising the number of outlets for the devices to some 6,600 stores. The move added Walmart and Staples stores to the existing Chromebook retail outlets through Best Buy and Amazon.com. Consumers are also able to purchase the machines via Staples online, while business users will be able to buy them through the Staples Advantage B2B program. More retailers are also expected to be added in the coming months, including select Office Depot, OfficeMax, Fry’s and TigerDirect stores.
Similar expansions are also happening in the 10 other markets worldwide where Chromebooks are sold, including 116 Tesco stores in the United Kingdom and Mediamarket and Saturn stores in the Netherlands, FNAC stores in France and Elgiganten stores in Sweden. In Australia, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman stores will soon be carrying Chromebooks as well.
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. Chromebooks allow users to do their work online with less need for on-machine storage for large applications and files.
In May, Google began testing Chromebook-equipped store kiosks to make it easier for businesses to help their customers and employees check merchandise stock, place orders or get more information while shopping or working. The kiosks use something Google calls “Managed Public Sessions” to allow employee and customer use of the devices without the need for logging in.