Google shows off new Chrome laptops, launches Chrome Web store
In another salvo in its heated rivalry with Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc., Google Inc. on Tuesday unveiled the first batch of its highly anticipated computers powered by its Chrome operating system but delayed their debut until mid-2011 as engineers work out the kinks.
Google had previously said the Chrome operating system would be ready by the end of this year.
Google is recruiting consumers and a handful of businesses including American Airlines and Kraft to test a "very limited" number of the laptops which run on the company's 2-year-old Chrome Web browser. In exchange, they will provide feedback to Google on the performance of the laptops.
The first Chrome laptops with 12.1-inch display screens will be manufactured by Acer Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Google executives would not say how much they will cost. Other manufacturers are also building devices that run the Chrome operating system, they said.
Marketed as "nothing but the Web," the new laptops will come with free wireless connectivity, allowing users to send and receive up to 100 megabytes of wireless data a month, through a partnership that Google is working on with Verizon. Other Verizon wireless data plans will be available starting at $9.99 per month, Google executives said.
The laptops, which Google said are designed to be simple and fast, boot up in seconds.
Google is pushing the concept of Web computing in which consumers use online applications rather than downloading software to their computers. Web computing is a challenge to Microsoft's lucrative Office franchise.
"With Chrome OS, we finally have a viable third choice," in addition to Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Macintosh operating systems, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at a launch event Tuesday in San Francisco.
Unlike Windows or Macintosh, the Chrome laptops will run on the Internet rather than running an operating system on the hard drive.
Google also launched an updated version of its online applications market called the Chrome Web store that offers about 500 games, news and other applications, some of which are free and others which are available for a fee. Electronic Arts demonstrated a game that will go on sale in the store Tuesday and Amazon.com demonstrated an e-commerce application.
Apple recently said it would open a store for its Macintosh computers in an effort to repeat the success of the store that sells applications for the iPhone.
Google is pushing adoption of its Chrome Web browser, which has grown to 120 million users from 70 million in May. It is still the No. 3 browser behind Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox, according to Net Applications.
The Google blog post is here.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: Google Chrome logo. Photo credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press