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Google is mum on how many Chromebooks have been sold since launching the cloud-based computers with laptop-makers Acer and Samsung nearly a year ago. But the machines haven’t exactly gone mainstream. IDC research director Tom Mainelli reckons fewer than 220,000 Chromebooks have shipped.
However, Google is about to crank up the volume for Chrome hardware and the cloud-based operating system. Tuesday, the search giant unveiled two models for Chrome, both from Samsung, both with Intel Core processors. There’s the next version of the Chromebook itself, $449 with Wi-Fi only or $549 for a version that adds built-in 3G cellular. Then there’s the $329, small, rectangular Chromebox that reminds you of Apple’s Mac Mini in that you’ll have to supply your own mouse, monitor and keyboard.
The machines incorporate the eighth significant update to Chrome software since launch. Such regular updates are a key feature of Chrome that promises to keep the computers fresh and secure without you having to manually install anti-virus software or anything else. So even folks who purchased a Chromebook last year should benefit. Those initial Chromebooks were only peddled online. But beginning next month, Google will start selling the computers in select physical Best Buy stores.
The first Chromebooks were appealing, with a good battery life. But there was at least one critical – some would say fatal – flaw: The computers are largely crippled when you’re without access to the Internet. Sure, we’re migrating to a cloud-based era of computing, but folks are still accustomed to installing software and storing stuff internally.
The latest Chrome computers, like their predecessors, are built for the cloud. You pretty much rely on Web apps, though Google has tried to make the computers more usable when you’re offline. In all, Google says, there are tens of thousands of apps in the Chrome Web Store, hundreds that work offline.
As before, set-up is simple. You choose your language and network for connecting online, and enter your Google (Gmail) credentials, and you’re pretty much good to go.
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