Computers running Google’s Chrome Operating system won’t ship to consumers until the second half of 2011, with netbooks slated to come from Samsung and Acer at that time.
Google is instead making unbranded, Chrome OS-based netbooks available to qualified users, developers, schools and businesses that want to test it and provide Google feedback on how the platform can be improved.
Google officials made the announcements, along with the launch of the Chrome Web Store, at an event in San Francisco Dec. 7. The news is consistent with Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s assertion last month that Chrome OS machines were months from launch.
Google Chrome OS is the search engine’s ambitious move to upend the traditional PC model cultivated by Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac computers for the last few decades.
Chrome OS is the base platform for the Chrome Web browser, which has more than 120 million users around the world.
Google hopes these users will run Web applications from its new Web store, which includes 500 applications from the likes of Amazon, Sports Illustrated and the New York Times at the launch today.
While traditional PC and Mac machines typically take minutes to boot up, Chrome OS machines boot in seconds, as Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, demonstrated on stage Dec. 7. Pichai also showed it can also put Chrome OS netbooks in standby mode and recover state within seconds instead of minutes.
While Pichai and his team did show off prototypes of Chrome OS netbooks, they were not built by Samsung or Acer, which will determine pricing for their machines closer to launch next year.
Pichai said Chrome OS netbooks will appear from those computer makers in mid-2011, or 6 to 8 months later than originally intended. Pichai said at the Chrome OS introduction event in November 2009 that polished machines would be ready for the 2010 holidays.
Chrome OS-based Cr-48 Netbooks Are Available
Google delayed the launch to improve the speed of the platform and add other tools and partners, he said. “Some of the features of Chrome OS require new hardware, but we didn’t want to sell pre-beta computers,” Pichai explained.
However, Pichai said Google is inviting select users to test Chrome OS-based netbooks, dubbed Cr-48, in a pilot program. This will begin in the U.S. and expand to other countries, pending certifications.
Cr-48, the machine Pichai tested on stage, is a black, barebones, device that boasts a 12.1-inch display and is powered by an Intel Atom processor, like most Windows netbooks today.
The device has a full-sized keyboard, a large, clickable touchpad, a Webcam for video chat, 8 hours of battery life and 8 hours of standby time.
Setting up a machine is as simple as signing in to a Website with credentials, and Chrome users’ apps, bookmarks and browser settings will instantly be ported to and synched with the machine.
Cr-48 sports both integrated dual-band WiFi and a 3G modem, thanks to a partnership with its Verizon Communications.
Thanks to the deal with Verizon, each machine will come with free data service of up to 100MB per month for two years. Consumers can add data, starting at $9.99 for daily passes, Pichai said. This service will be easy to activate.
U.S. Department of Defense, American Airlines, Google TV partner Logitech and Google Apps partner Appirio are among those in the business partner program using Cr-48 for their employees.
While Samsung and Acer are definitely on board for Chrome OS machines, Google said that more manufacturers will follow.
Google also hinted that because Chrome OS is designed to work on various screen sizes and form factors, partners could build “computing devices beyond notebooks,” such as tablets.