Google officials said at Google I/O that Chrome Operating System notebooks from Samsung and Acer would be available June 15 online from Amazon.com and Best Buy.
That’s still the case, but Google said it came in possession of a limited number of Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks, which I got to play with at a Samsung party in San Fran last month.
The Series 5 notebook boots in eight seconds and boasts a file system that supports documents and a media player for video and music, as well as integration with Picasa to let users manage their photos on Chrome computers.
Renowned for its largess to employees, Google could have given the Chromebooks to its employees.
Instead, the search engine smartly hewed to consumer loyalty and instead opted to sell them to people who signed up to be a part of the Cr-48 pilot program last December. Google offered the 3G models for $499 a pop.
Google did this exclusively through Gilt, a “members only” e-commerce Website that sells designer goods. Google told me:
“We were able to get our hands on some early Samsung Chromebooks before they go on sale June 15, so we wanted to find a way to make them available to our biggest Chrome enthusiasts. We teamed with Gilt Group to provide early access to our eager applicants of the Chromebook pilot program last year.“
The offer, which began and ended June 1, looked like so:
Google Chromebooks apparently went like hotcakes on Gilt because there are no more available. But how many Chromebooks was that exactly? What is a limited number to Google? 100? 1,000? 10,000?
While Google reported that “we’re happy with the sale,” it declined to answer that key question, which would allow me to better gauge the demand for these machines, at least 5,000 of which will begin shipping free to Google I/O attendees.
Given that Google targeted pilot program members, my guess is that this was an early adopter frenzy and isn’t fairly indicative of how Chromebooks will fly in the broader, more fickle and discerning consumer market.
I expect to get a Series 5 to test from Samsung next week. I will review it and do a slide show on it post-haste.