Google has announced a major update of its Samsung Chromebook ‘cloud laptop’, chopping the price, upping the cloud storage on offer and overhauling the hardware spec.
Google just won’t give up on its Chromebook and perhaps, as with its best-selling Nexus 7 tablet, this time it is on to something.
Despite an underwhelming response after the launch of the first model in May 2011 – one reviewer described it as being as useful as a paperweight once disconnected from the Internet – the company came back this spring with an improved hardware and software mark 2, the Chromebook Series 5 550.
The latest attempt builds on that, swapping the Intel Celeron processor for the cheaper ARM-derived 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos 5 dual core, with 2GB of RAM, backed by a 16GB SSD drive for local storage.
The screen size remains 11.6 inches with a resolution of 1366 x 768. Buyers will also get one USB 3.0 port to complement two USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI. Weighing 1.1KG, the Chromebook is claimed to be good for 6.5 hours of use via its now dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Importantly, in addition to Google Dive’s 5GB of storage, the new package also features 100GB of online space for two years thanks to the Livedrive feature launched in August.
“When we introduced a few Chromebooks into the market, many of you early adopters joined us on this journey. For folks living entirely in the cloud, the Chromebook is now a primary computer,” said senior vice president for Chrome & Apps, Sundar Pichai in a blog.
Google’s argument remains that the rapid-booting (around 10 seconds) Chromebook is a better Internet platform for a family than a lumbering, complex Windows PC.
It can be shared more easily between different people, the system is automatically backed up to the cloud, and there is no security maintenance to worry about; security threats are extremely low.
The second computer theme has also resulted in a much lower price - $249 in the US, or £229 in the UK. At that price, it could kickstart the currently non-existent market for cloud systems in the same way that the Nexus 7 has cemented Android as a formidable tablet device.
The nervousness remains how well the Chromebook works as an offline device and how easily is integrates with other platforms such as Windows.
The company has regularly upgraded the software since the device’s 2011 launch, most notably with the Aura interface. Gmail and Calendar are now available offline while Google Docs can be viewed and edited (in their native file format) offline. Once in the Google world, a Chromebook makes particular sense for anyone owning an Android handset and happy with the apps on offer from Play.