Google's Chrome notebook goes on sale

Google's Chrome notebook goes on sale

Google's Chrome notebook officially went on sale Wednesday as the web search giant hopes to lure users away from computers running full-fledged operating systems to lightweight machines that perform all their operations on the internet, dpa reported.

The Chromebooks, which aim to compete with rivals like Apple's iPad, are made by Samsung and Acer and range in price rom 350 dollars to 500 dollars in the US. Google said they also went on sale in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

"Chromebooks are built and optimized for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time," Google said in announcing the products. "You get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers."

While the Chromebooks feature webcams and USB ports, they both lack hard drives, envisaging a model in which users will do all their computing online. Users store their files in the cloud using Google's free online software like Picasa for photos, Gmail for email and Google Docs for word processing spread sheets and slide shows.

The computer is activated by using the Google log-in. This means that documents, bookmarks and other preferences remain identical on whatever Chromebook one uses, as well as in different Chrome browsers used on other computers.

The bare-bones structure allows the notebooks to boast an impressive eight hours-plus of battery time, start-up time of less than 10 seconds, and minimal risk of viruses and malware.

But the web-based design also means that the notebooks are basically useless if there is no internet connection and that it's impossible to run programs like Skype or Photoshop that need to be installed on a hard rive.

Printing is also a problem and can only be performed by using a printer that has been configured to work with Google's Cloud Print service.

Reviewers have given the concept mixed reactions, noting that the drawbacks of a web-only interface preclude using the device as a primary computer, especially since it costs about the same as a new laptop running Windows 7.

"Once Google finishes filling in the gaps the Chromebooks will offer an intriguing option for people who like the concept of living in the cloud and the perks that accompany that lifestyle," commented JR Raphael, Computerworld's long-term reviewer of the Google notebooks.

"Chromebooks won't be right for everyone, but for some users, they'll be a welcome change from the tethered-down and often bloated world of traditional PCs."

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