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12 May 2011, 13:28

Google's Chrome OS machines arrive

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Zoom The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.
Google has announced that Samsung and Acer will be making the first Chromebooks; instant-on, always-connected laptops that run the company's open sourced and Linux-based Chrome OS. As well as being available for purchase, Google is offering companies a subscription plan at $28 a month per user, which includes a Chromebook and online services, and a $20 a month subscription offering for educational users. UK pricing for subscriptions will be announced closer to the 15 June launch. The machines are enhanced production versions of the CR-48 notebook which Google gave away to interested parties late last year.

Google says the Chromebooks will be available to pre-order from 15 June, but Samsung says they will be available in the UK on 24 June. The Samsung machine, the "Series 5", comes in two models: a Wi-Fi only one for £349 and a Wi-Fi and 3G model for £399. The Series 5 includes an Intel N570 1.66 Ghz dual-core Atom processor, 2 GB of RAM and a 16 GB SSD, a 12-inch 1280x800 display, 2 USB ports, a SIM card slot and SD card reader, and weighs 3.2 pounds. The Acer machine is of a similar specification. The Acer Chromebook has a smaller screen (11.6-inch, 1366x768), is slightly lighter and has a shorter battery life; no details on UK availability or pricing for the Acer Chromebook is currently available.

Chromebooks will, under Chrome OS, only offer the user a web browser; there is no desktop or similar mechanism for accessing the system, all access is done via the browser. That said, Google have integrated a file manager into the browser to allow users to access the system's SSD and SD card for local file storage.

Zoom Samsung's Chromebook has a 12.1-inch display and optional built-in 3G connectivity.
It is currently unclear if the Chromebooks will have a "developer" switch on them as Google's CR-48 device did; the switch allowed users to install different operating systems or modified versions of Chrome OS on the device. Chromebooks are designed to use the TPM chips on the motherboard to perform a Verified Boot on the device and if it detects tampering, it will replace the installed operating system with a known good instance automatically; the developer switch on the CR-48 prevented that from happening.

The Chromebook form factor appears to be the only one supported by Google; previous reports that the company was working on a tablet format were contradicted at Google I/O when Sundar Pichai, Senior VP of Chrome said: "We are fully, 100 per cent focused on laptops. Most of the web usage – greater than 90 per cent – is on laptops. That's what we're working on today, and we have no other plans on any other form factors".


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