Google offers a peek at its Chrome laptop. Hint: It's an NC

Google's Cr-48 laptop promises a new way to do Web-based computing, but will the enterprise bite?

Google gave the world a first look at its new Chrome OS laptop Tuesday and according to CEO Eric Schmidt it's very much like the Network Computer devices that he was pitching while chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems 13 years ago.

Only this time around, the idea will actually catch on, Schmidt said.

The difference, Schmidt said, is that the Web-based development tools used to build programs for Chrome OS have had had years to mature. "Our instincts were right... but we didn't have the tools," he said of the computer industry's failure to make lightweight computers that could compete with Microsoft Windows in the enterprise.

Google thinks that Web applications are finally ready to displace Microsoft's hegemony and businesses will buy computers that can't run programs such as Word or Excel.

"I think there's every reason to believe that when you go back and you look at history, not only is this the right time to build these products, but because they work and they work at scale, they'll be very successful," Schmidt said.

Google didn't say if or when it was going to start selling its own lightweight laptops. But the company did offer a sneak peak at a completely black, unbranded notebook, running the Chrome OS, that it's shipping out to developers and a limited number of lucky consumers.

Dubbed the Cr-48, the laptop has a 12.1 inch display, a regular-sized keyboard, and a battery that will last for eight hours.

Like the Network Computer (NC), the Cr-48 is designed to run software over the network. But instead of Java -- which proved to be clunky and hard to develop on the NC -- Chrome OS developers can use the same Web development tools they've been working with for years. Google's system boots up in 60 seconds; after it goes to sleep, it can resume operations nearly instantly; it encrypts all data automatically; and it uses a piece of encryption hardware called a trusted computing module to digitally sign components of the operating system and check them for tampering.

And like today's smartphones, Chrome OS systems are designed to be always connected. Thanks to a deal with U.S. carrier Verizon, Chrome OS notebook users will get two years worth of free 3G wireless connectivity. Their free usage will be capped at 100 MB per month, but Verizon will offer plans for more bandwith-intensive users.

"Why do I think this strategy is going to work well?" Schmdit asked. "A lot, because of mobile computing."

Increasingly, mobile devices such as the BlackBerry and the iPhone are becoming critical business tools.

Google had been hoping to announce its first Chrome OS laptops by years end, but that deadline has slipped. Intel-based systems from Samsung and Acer will ship by mid-2011, Google now says.

Google also announced a new Web store for Chrome browser users and updates to its browser software at Tuesday's event.

Despite heavy promotion by enterprise vendors such as Sun and Oracle, the NC never managed to win the hearts of enterprise software developers. Google seems to understand that it will take some work to win those people over with Chrome OS computers that can't run popular Windows programs. It has already started pilot programs with enterprises such as American Airlines, Cardinal Health, Intercontinental Hotels, the U.S. Department of Defense and others.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GoogleLinuxoperating systemssoftwarehardware systemslaptopsnon-Windows

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?