msgbartop
All about Google Chrome & Google Chrome OS
msgbarbottom

16 Dec 12 James Love: Google’s New Chrome Operating System


Yesterday I received a Samsung laptop computer running Google’s Chrome OS. This is the new $249 Chromebook with an SSD drive, 2 gigs of RAM, an 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 pixels screen, and the 1.7 GHz Exynos 5200 processor. The laptop weighs 2.4 pounds and has a nice usable keyboard and a well implemented trackpad. There is also the option of a model with 2 years of 3G (limited) data from Verizon, for just $329. Both of the new Samsung models* are chronically sold out and hard to find (some resellers are getting $100 to $150 over the suggested retail price). While the Samsung hardware is surprisingly nice for the money, the real story is the new Google OS.

What Google has done with Chrome OS is to create a serious mass market operating system for desktop computers, from Linux. It is surprising that this has taken so long to happen, and also somewhat surprising that Google has positioned the OS as something for small screen computers mostly on the cloud, when the OS could easily be implemented (and maybe it will) for a wider range of devices and uses. The immediate impact will to make it hard to justify buying the 11.6 inch Mac Air, which starts at $999. But the OS is good enough to make much larger inroads into the desktop computing market. It is more than a thin client, with enough off-line functionality to make most users happy, and the early Chromebooks show that it is possible to have very tight integration between the Linux software and hardware.

I have been using several different desktop and laptop computers, mostly running the Ubuntu distribution of Linux, and also occasionally using a computer running the Apple OSX or Microsoft’s Windows. As much as I like Ubuntu, it seems unlikely to make serious inroads into the Apple or Microsoft desktop OS markets, at least for the foreseeable future. But the Chrome OS is unlike any other desktop Linux distribution. It makes the Apple OSX seem complicated, and anyone, and I mean anyone, can pick one up and use it right away.

I like having an 11.6 to 13 inch computer for travel, and its nice to have something that is light (a real “laptop”) and fits in the space for economy seats on an airplane or in the cramped space you have at a conference, and which has a good battery life. But I would also like to see this OS implemented in a 14 or 15 inch ultrabook hardware configuration, with a bit more hefty processor and more ram and diskspace. When that happens, both Apple and Microsoft will have to deal with some big changes in their business models.

* There some other hardware options from Samsung and Acer, including a new $199 laptop from Acer and a Samsung Chromebox, which requires external monitors and keyboard.


Follow James Love on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/jamie_love

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-love/googles-new-chrome-operat_b_2283349.html

Tags: , , , , ,

14 Jun 12 Chrome OS reviewed: The final verdict on Google’s cloud platform


Today, I’ll get my head out of the cloud.

I’ve spent the past two weeks, you see, using Google’s Chrome OS. I called it my Chrome OS experiment: I wanted to dive in head first and experience what it was like to live completely in Google’s cloud-centric world.

I used a combination of the new Samsung Chromebook (Series 5 550) and the new Samsung Chromebox for the bulk of my computing needs, both in the office and out. Day by day, I detailed different parts of my journey — ranging from my thoughts on the hardware to my impressions of Google’s reimagined software and what it’s really like to work with Chrome OS offline.

You can visit each of those chapters for my in-depth thoughts on the topics. Today, I wanted to put it all together to share some final conclusions after two weeks of life in the Chrome lane.

So grab your favorite beverage and buckle up: Our ride starts now.

Conclusion #1: Chrome OS has a come a long, long way.

From both a hardware and software perspective, it’s impossible to overstate just how much Google’s Chrome OS has evolved since its introduction 17 months ago.

Google Chrome OS Chromebook, Chromebox

The hardware — in both the new Chromebook and Chromebox — is finally powerful enough to support a compelling Chrome OS experience. Past generations of hardware, from the Cr-48 test notebook to the first-gen Samsung Series 5 Chromebook, were woefully underpowered and couldn’t keep up with multitasking-style use. As such, it was difficult to embrace them beyond specific and limited circumstances (for me, light traveling and casual around-the-house Web browsing).

The new machines allow us to experience Chrome OS the way it was meant to be experienced — no slowness, no lag, no more hardware limitations holding the software back.

And as for the software? Well…

Conclusion #2: Chrome OS has finally evolved into a true platform.

I’ve been intrigued by Chrome OS since its start, but in the early days, the software had an awful lot of pesky holes. On top of that, it was basically just a series of full-screen browser windows — nothing more — and that one-dimensional environment could feel rather restrictive and jarring to use.

Chrome OS File ManagerWith its newly revamped Chrome OS, Google has truly put the “OS” into the equation. Chrome OS sticks to its goal of being a browser-based, cloud-centric platform — but it now does it in a way that’s far more palatable and inviting to the user. Without abandoning its cloud-centric philosophy, the software also allows for a level of local file management and offline functionality — even simple remote access to Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs — taking away most of the platform’s former liabilities.

Conclusion #3: Chrome OS offers a lot of attractive advantages over traditional PC setups.

As I mentioned, I’ve liked Chrome OS for a long time — but between the hardware and software limitations, it’s always been a limited-use, supplementary kind of system for me. With the latest hardware and software upgrades, that’s no longer the case.

In the time I’ve been using the Chromebook and Chromebox, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how little I’ve missed my standard Windows 7 desktop setup. The Chrome OS systems power up in three to five seconds; once you type in your Google credentials, it’s literally another two to three seconds before you’re in a browser window, online and ready to roll. The minutes-long wait for my Windows laptop to boot up and be ready to use has never felt more archaic.

Startup speed aside, the Chrome OS systems make a lot of things about traditional computing environments feel outdated: the cumbersome setup and installation procedures; the annoying and time-consuming OS upgrades; the need to manually update applications over time; the need to use antivirus software (and the accompanying likelihood and potential consequences of infection); the reliance on complicated drivers; and the inevitable bogged-down, slowed-down effect that always seems to happen to PCs after you’ve had ‘em for a few months.

Chrome OS doesn’t have any of those hassles. It’s just about getting online and getting stuff done, plain and simple. Most of the annoyances that have long accompanied computer use are nowhere to be found.

And let me tell you: As someone who uses computers all day, that is a huge breath of fresh air. For schools and businesses, too, the implications are enormous.

Conclusion #4: Chrome OS still isn’t for everyone.

For all its positives, Chrome OS isn’t going to be the right setup for everyone. If you rely on a lot of resource-intensive local programs — or if you have specific desktop utilities you just adore — you may find Chrome OS frustrating to use. While there are plenty of cloud-based apps available for most purposes, the experience using them isn’t always as good or as complete as what you find on their PC-based equivalents.

For example, even as someone who relies heavily on the cloud these days, using Chrome OS makes me realize how much I prefer the desktop TweetDeck application over its Web-based counterpart (the old desktop TweetDeck app, that is — you know, from before Twitter bought and ruined it). Photoshop is another program where I feel a slight sense of loss; while cloud apps like Aviary do a decent job, they’re just less robust than what I’m used to, and they lack the hotkeys and shortcuts that save me tons of time in my traditional configuration.

For me, I’m finding the tradeoff to be largely worthwhile; I find myself willing to adapt to the cloud apps in exchange for what I gain from Chrome OS. (I also realize that if push comes to shove, I can use Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop feature to remotely utilize Windows-based programs — though outside of basic testing, it isn’t something I’ve done very often.) Depending on your needs and perspective, of course, your mileage may vary.

Chrome OS also requires you to rely primarily on cloud-stored data; if you aren’t comfortable keeping your info on the Web, with services like Gmail, Google Docs, and so forth, the cloud computing concept is definitely not for you.

Conclusion #5: The new Chrome OS devices are no-brainers for anyone using first-gen Chromebooks — and purchases well worth considering for anyone who lives in the cloud and wants a fast computer without the hassles.

No two ways about it: If you have a first-gen Chromebook, you’re going to love the new Chromebook model. It’s everything you like about your current system without the laggy tab-switching and performance limitations. (See this side-by-side comparison video that I posted on Google+ for an illustration.)

If you don’t have a Chrome OS system but do spend a lot of your time in the cloud, meanwhile — relying primarily on Web-based services and storing the bulk of your data online — the new Chrome OS devices are well worth considering.

A lot of people say stuff like: “If you want a system that just runs Chrome, why don’t you buy a Windows laptop and install the Chrome browser? Then it’s the same thing except you can actually run regular desktop programs, too.”

Let me tell you something: Those people are missing the point. Chrome OS isn’t about limiting what you can do; it’s about eliminating the hassles that come with traditional computing. It’s about providing a fast, simple, hassle-free system for people who spend most of their time using the Web and Web-based applications (which, let’s face it, is an increasing number of us in this day and age).

Samsung Chromebook Chrome OSThe big variable, then, is the price: The new Samsung Chromebooks cost $450 for the Wi-Fi version and $550 for a 3G-connected model (which includes 100MB a month of data, no contract required, and the option to get additional data on a pay-as-you-go basis). As I’ve said before, I think those prices are a bit high to attract widespread consumer interest — particularly when you consider the variety of full-fledged Windows notebooks and high-end tablets available in that same range.

That said, I don’t think those prices are rip-offs — far from it. I think you get a lot of value for that money: You get excellent hardware, a lifetime of seamless and automatic software updates, and freedom from costly software purchases (Microsoft Office, anyone?) — not to mention freedom from OS problems and potential tech support expenses down the road. When you consider the overall return on investment and total cost of ownership, it really isn’t a bad deal; it’s just not one that’s going to be immediately eye-catching or an easy sell for the average consumer.

If you’re on board with the cloud computing concept, though, I suspect the new Chromebook — or the $329 desktop-based Chromebox — will make you quite happy.

Some personal perspective

After two weeks of using Google’s evolved Chrome OS on the new Chromebook and Chromebox, personally, I’m sold. I have no doubt that I’ll replace my old first-gen Samsung Chromebook with the new model and use it heavily for portable computing, both around the house and out and about.

What about Android tablets? I still have one — and use it — but to be honest, I find myself reaching for the Chromebook more often lately. The larger screen, outstanding full-size keyboard, and top-notch desktop-like browsing experience just make it an ideal way for me to get online and get stuff done fast. My Chrome extensions give me instant on-screen access to things like my Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Voice accounts. The tablet has its strengths and advantages — that’s for damn sure — but for the bulk of what I do online these days, I’m finding the Chromebook to be a quicker and more effective option and a better all-around complement to my Android phone.

Based on my experiences with the new setup, I’m actually tempted to move even further and embrace Chrome OS as my primary desktop platform, too, by way of the Chromebox. As I mentioned, there are really only a couple of traditional OS programs I found myself missing during my Chrome OS experiment — and the pluses of the platform (including the lack of typical-OS hassles) seem to outweigh their absence. The missing dual-monitor extended-desktop functionality is my biggest sticking point right now; with the way I multitask during the day, I need a second monitor connected to my system. Once that feature arrives, I’m going to take a serious look at making a full desktop migration.

So, in summary: It’s been an interesting two weeks living in the cloud — enough so that I’m thinking about turning my vacation into a permanent residence.

Android Power TwitterDid you miss some parts of my journey? Not to worry: You can time-warp through the full adventure in the box below, all the way from day one through the very end. Chapter to chapter, you’ll find my detailed thoughts and impressions on every part of the Chrome OS experience.

But please: Remain seated with your seatbelt securely fastened. For no particular reason, really. I’ve just always wanted to say that. 

Article source: http://blogs.computerworld.com/cloud-computing/20517/chrome-os-reviewed-google-cloud-platform

Tags: , , , , ,

12 Jun 12 Samsung Chromebox: Chrome OS meets the desktop


When we think of Chrome OS, most of us think of the Chromebook — the custom laptop built to run Google’s cloud-centric platform. Now, though, the Chromebook has a new friend: the Chromebox, Google’s first attempt at bringing cloud computing into the world of desktop PCs.

The Chromebox, manufactured by Samsung and available for $329, is exactly what you’d expect: Chrome OS in a box. A small box, too: The Chromebox is a square 7.6 inches that sits just 1.3 inches tall. But inside that box sits a large amount of power.

Chromebox and Chrome OS: The need for speed

In case you haven’t been following along, I’ve been using Chrome OS for the bulk of my computing needs these past several days. It’s part of my two-week Chrome OS experiment; I wanted to immerse myself in Google’s latest hardware and software advances in order to get the full experience of what it’s like to use Chrome OS in the real world.

The Chromebox is an important part of that experience. While most users veer toward the portable Chrome OS configuration, the Chromebox is a natural step forward from there — for business and education users, for sure, but also for more casual Chrome OS converts who are ready to ditch their old operating systems and move completely into Google’s cloud-centric universe.

Like with the Chromebook, the first thing you notice about the Chromebox is how fast and simple it is to use. The Chromebox powers up in about four to five seconds; once you type in your Google credentials, it’s literally another second or two until you’re sitting in a browser window, online and ready to go — no cumbersome setup required. If you use Chrome (the browser) anywhere else, all of your bookmarks, settings, and extensions will automatically be synced and waiting for you. You’ll even see your most recent open tabs from other Chrome-connected devices — both PCs and Android phones/tablets.

The Chromebox runs on a dual-core 1.9GHz Intel Celeron processor along with 4GB of RAM, giving it more than enough horsepower to keep up with your tasks. The lag and sluggishness we saw with the first generation of Chrome OS devices is gone; the Chromebox is as snappy and speedy as the latest Chromebook, and even with dozens of tabs open, I didn’t encounter a single stutter or slowdown.

Chromebox connectivity

Samsung’s Chromebox has six (!) USB 2.0 ports — four on the back and two on the front — along with two DisplayPort++ connectors and a DVI output. It’s lacking a regular VGA monitor port, however, which could give you trouble if you’re using that type of cable — even with an adaptor. Chrome OS automatically detects and adjusts your screen resolution, and at this point, there’s no way to manually tweak that setting. When I tried connecting a monitor using a VGA cable with a VGA-to-DVI adaptor, the system failed to get the resolution right and gave me a blown-up, low-res display. When I switched to a straight DVI cable, everything worked correctly.

The Chromebox can connect to your TV via HDMI; you’ll just need the right cable to make it work. The device has no standard HDMI outport, so you’ll have to use either the DVI or DisplayPort connector to set things up.

One beef I have with the current Chrome OS display situation is the lack of support for a dual-monitor, extended-desktop configuration. Particularly on the desktop PC front, I like working with two monitors. The Chromebox can support multiple monitors, but right now, it only allows you to duplicate your display on the second monitor — which isn’t terribly useful. A Google rep tells me extended-desktop functionality is on the way, but there’s no definite time frame for its arrival just yet.

The Chromebox doesn’t come with any special accessories, so you’ll supply your own keyboard and mouse. (The system is Bluetooth 3.0 compatible, so you can go wireless if you want.) Google has confirmed to me that a Chrome OS-specific keyboard — known for its unique layout and stylewill be sold as a separate accessory, but there’s no word yet when it’ll become available.

With the desktop setup, though, having a Chrome OS-specific keyboard isn’t really necessary. Any regular keyboard works fine, and most of the Chrome OS-specific functions map over to the standard layout seamlessly: The F1 key acts as a “back” button, for example, while F4 toggles windows from full-screen to partial-screen mode.

The Chromebox experience

In general, I’ve found it quite pleasant to use Google’s Chromebox computer. Chrome OS translates nicely into the desktop environment, and for the most part, it’s been a novel and refreshing change from my typical Windows 7 desktop environment.

In the morning, for example, the Chromebox has me online in about 10 seconds flat; three or four minutes later, my Windows system is almost booted up and done loading its numerous drivers and background processes. Chrome OS does away with all the hassles of the traditional operating system, from drivers and complicated compatibility issues to cumbersome software updates and virus infection worries. And thanks to the nature of the system, it doesn’t get progressively slower and more bogged down over time. I don’t know about you, but that’s all very welcome news to me.

(For much more on the software side of the experience, see my in-depth look at the latest incarnation of Chrome OS.)

Android Power TwitterStill, the setup isn’t perfect — and it certainly isn’t for everyone. In the final chapter of my Chrome OS experiment, I’ll wrap up my two weeks living with Chrome OS and attempt to reach some final conclusions. I’ll bring together the good and the bad of both Google’s new hardware and evolved software and weigh it all out with the prices of the devices.

The Chrome OS experiment ends in two days. Until then, you can catch up on the rest of my journey in the box below:

Article source: http://blogs.computerworld.com/cloud-computing/20498/samsung-chromebox-chrome-os-desktop

Tags: , , , , ,

06 Jun 12 Trading Ubuntu for Chromebox Running Google Chrome OS


The VAR Guy is trading in his Ubuntu PC for a new Samsung Chromebox running Google Chrome OS. What motivated the move to a cloud-centric thin client? Here’s the explanation.

First, a little background. Google Chromebooks are web-centric notebooks that run Chrome OS (a super-slim operating system) and leverage cloud software like Google Apps. More recently, Google has partnered with Samsung to launch a Chromebox — a $329 thin desktop (plus mouse, keyboard and monitor costs) that resembles a Mac Mini.

The VAR Guy has run Ubuntu Linux since July 2007 (he also runs Mac OS X and Windows 7 on sister systems). Ubuntu has proven reliable and efficient for productivity apps. But The VAR Guy has been too lazy to upgrade from Ubuntu 7.04 or so. The thought of learning new user interfaces, potentially adjusting drivers and so on isn’t all that appealing to our resident blogger.

What Is A Chromebox?

On the other hand, the thought of Google “maintaining” Chromebox and Chrome OS with automated updates sounds appealing. Admittedly, CNet’s ChromeBox review raises some concerns. But The VAR Guy is willing to give Samsung’s Chromebox a try. The thin desktop features:

  • An Intel Core processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Built-in dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 6 USB 2.0 ports
  • Bluetooth 3.0 compatible
  • Kensington key lock compatible

The horsepower isn’t all that impressive. But the real power of Chromebox should come from the web… er, the cloud. The VAR Guy’s family will leverage Google Apps and other SaaS offerings, while Google essentially keeps the desktop up to date with automated software refreshes.

It sounds simple and compelling. But is it? The VAR Guy will offer continued updates once he boots up his first ChromeBox (in seven seconds) later this week…

And what will become of The VAR Guy’s PC running Ubuntu? Don’t worry. It will continue to hum along in The VAR Guy’s house, though not as a primary system.

Read More About This Topic

  • Related posts are coming soon

Article source: http://www.thevarguy.com/2012/06/05/trading-ubuntu-for-chromebox-running-google-chrome-os/

Tags: , , , , ,

06 Jun 12 Trading Ubuntu for Chromebox Running Google Chrome OS


The VAR Guy is trading in his Ubuntu PC for a new Samsung Chromebox running Google Chrome OS. What motivated the move to a cloud-centric thin client? Here’s the explanation.

First, a little background. Google Chromebooks are web-centric notebooks that run Chrome OS (a super-slim operating system) and leverage cloud software like Google Apps. More recently, Google has partnered with Samsung to launch a Chromebox — a $329 thin desktop (plus mouse, keyboard and monitor costs) that resembles a Mac Mini.

The VAR Guy has run Ubuntu Linux since July 2007 (he also runs Mac OS X and Windows 7 on sister systems). Ubuntu has proven reliable and efficient for productivity apps. But The VAR Guy has been too lazy to upgrade from Ubuntu 7.04 or so. The thought of learning new user interfaces, potentially adjusting drivers and so on isn’t all that appealing to our resident blogger.

What Is A Chromebox?

On the other hand, the thought of Google “maintaining” Chromebox and Chrome OS with automated updates sounds appealing. Admittedly, CNet’s ChromeBox review raises some concerns. But The VAR Guy is willing to give Samsung’s Chromebox a try. The thin desktop features:

  • An Intel Core processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Built-in dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 6 USB 2.0 ports
  • Bluetooth 3.0 compatible
  • Kensington key lock compatible

The horsepower isn’t all that impressive. But the real power of Chromebox should come from the web… er, the cloud. The VAR Guy’s family will leverage Google Apps and other SaaS offerings, while Google essentially keeps the desktop up to date with automated software refreshes.

It sounds simple and compelling. But is it? The VAR Guy will offer continued updates once he boots up his first ChromeBox (in seven seconds) later this week…

And what will become of The VAR Guy’s PC running Ubuntu? Don’t worry. It will continue to hum along in The VAR Guy’s house, though not as a primary system.

Read More About This Topic

  • Related posts are coming soon

Article source: http://www.thevarguy.com/2012/06/05/trading-ubuntu-for-chromebox-running-google-chrome-os/

Tags: , , , , ,

05 Jun 12 Chrome OS Faces Obstacles in Merging with Android


Over the course of the last several months there have been whispers, some subtle, some not so much, regarding a merger of Android and Chrome, both of the powerhouse Google franchise.  Sundar Pichai, the Senior Vice President at Chrome, has admitted as much, telling CNET  “that his product and that other Google operating system, Android, may some day merge.” Yet, there are many things that would need to happen before a merger could successfully occur.

But, it does look to slowly be occurring with the addition of the Chrome browser as a member of the WebKit browser engine product last summer, and the announcement that Chrome for Android will be released in beta form in a matter of weeks.  That the Android browser finally shares enough code with the Chrome browser diminishes some of the compatibility issues between the two, making the transition more seamless.  Regardless, there are still some problems that must be overcome, outside of the failure of Google’s first attempt at the Chrome OS.

Issues with Chrome OS

Chrome, relatively speaking, is much younger than Android, which Google purchased while Chrome was built in-house.  During the introduction of the new Samsung Chromebook and Chromebox, Google’s vice president of engineering, Linus Upson, said that Google is not working on a Chrome OS tablet.

“We have our hands full in delivering a wonderful experience on desktop and laptop and the Android team have their hands full bringing a great experience on phone and tablet, but the two teams are working together even more closely” said Upson, hinting at a convergences between Chrome and Android operating systems.  Yet, melding together the tablet and the phone is not an easy prospect.  One problem, other than the newness of Chrome OS, that Google must address is the mobile/PC integration which both Apple and Microsoft had to develop two separate operating systems for.

Yet, the payoff for Google, to integrate Chrome into Android, should payoff in spades.  The Chrome browser is either the number one or two most used browser in the world, with the race between Internet Explorer and Chrome growing tighter everyday.  This deeper market integration will, eventually, make it easier for Google to bring its Chrome OS into the mainstream.

The push for mainstream Chrome OS

A lot of this discussion has occurred in the last week since the announcement of the Samsung Chromebox and Chrombook.  The Chromebook, a laptop, comes with significant drawbacks — the biggest being its need to always be online, along with what the editors at CNET call the “general limitations of the Chrome OS,” which make it difficult to recommend.  A potential customer could get a higher quality, more useful laptop for a similar, if not cheaper, price than the $449 Series 5 550 Chromebook that will be offered.

The Chromebox, which comes in at a reasonable $329, is a desktop unit that bears a close resemblance to Apple’s Mac Mini.  For users who spend a good deal of time working on Google’s Cloud, these devices are a sound investment.  Regardless, according to Stephen Shankland of CNET, the Chromebox and Chromebook are still slower than traditional PCs.

Shankland also notes that users should not write off the Chromebook or Chromebox just yet, saying, “the Web is becoming more powerful as a foundation for apps, those apps are taking advantage of the new power, and Chrome OS draws on that broad and deep movement,” and that while Google has been known to “unceremoniously dump some dud projects, Chrome OS looks to me like one of the ones in which Google is investing for the long haul.”

In a recent LA Times article it is written that Google is promoting the computers by claiming that “its line of Web-base computers will not have a ‘messy desktop’ or ‘rolling hills of green.’” The Chromebook and Chromebox are already available on Amazon, and in the coming weeks will be available at Best Buy stores across the nation.  According to Amazon’s website, the Chromebox is currently ranked second in computers and accessories, desktop and the Chromebook is ranked 19th in computer and accessories, laptops, potentially hinting to strong sales figures and a future for the Chrome OS.

In the same vein:

Article source: http://siliconangle.com/blog/2012/06/04/chrome-os-faces-obstacles-in-merging-with-android/

Tags: , , , , ,

30 May 12 Google Chrome OS, Take Two: New Software And Chromebooks


New Chromebook
(click image for larger view)

In conjunction with a Chrome OS update that incorporates a more traditional desktop user interface, Google and its hardware partner Samsung on Tuesday plan to introduce two Chrome OS devices, the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550 and the Samsung Chromebox 3.

The Series 5 550 is an improved Chrome OS notebook. The Chromebox, first mentioned at CES in January and revealed through a TigerDirect online store listing on Friday, is a small desktop Chrome OS computer that requires a separate keyboard, mouse, and display.

“We’re focused a lot on speed because that was one of the things we were not very happy with last year,” said Caesar Sengupta, director of Chrome OS at Google, in a phone interview.

The Series 5 550 ($449/$549 w/3G) features an Intel Core processor, a step up in terms of processing power from the Intel Atom chips in last year’s models. It’s 2.5 times faster on the v8 benchmark than the old Series 5, according to Sengupta.

With a 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800 display, the Series 5 550 weighs 3.3 lbs. and boasts 6 hours of battery life, or 6.5 days in standby mode. It includes 4 GB of RAM, built-in dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Gigabit Ethernet, and a 3G modem option. There’s an HD camera, two USB 2.0 ports, a 4-in-1 memory card slot, and a DisplayPort++ connector that can accommodate HDMI, DVI, or VGA monitors.

[ How big are the stakes for Google? Read Google's Chromebook Gamble. ]

The Series 3 Chromebox ($329) is a small computer akin to the Mac Mini. It scores 3.5x faster than last year’s Chromebook on the v8 benchmark and sports six USB 2.0 ports, 2 DisplayPort++ connectors, DVI single link output, and support for Bluetooth 3.0. Both the Chromebox and Series 5 550 Chromebook now support hardware accelerated graphics, which makes Web page scrolling much quicker and makes the Chrome OS devices more suitable for Web-based games.

The new hardware will be running the latest version of Chrome OS, R19, which offers a much more traditional desktop user interface. Previously, the Chrome browser was locked in place and could not be moved to reveal a desktop below it. Version R19 restores the desktop metaphor by allowing browser windows to be moved and by adding a new app launch and the ability to customize desktop images. It also includes the ability to view Office files, stored locally or on Google Drive. So much for talk that computer users no longer need files.

This shift to a more familiar interface will soon be accompanied by Google Drive integration. Now available through the Chrome OS beta channel, Sengupta says this feature will reach general release in June, around the time of Google IO, the company’s annual developer conference. Google Drive will effectively be the file system for Google’s hardware. It will run offline and online and sync files across other computers, like Macs and PCs, so that the user’s files can be accessed across multiple devices.

In addition, Google plans to release a beta version of Chrome Remote Desktop, which will allow users of Google’s Chrome browser to access remote OS X or Windows computers from any device with Chrome installed.

Sengupta also said that offline editing will be coming to Google Docs in a matter of weeks. He said the feature is presently being tested internally at Google and will be rolled out as soon as it’s ready.

A year ago, Google, Samsung, and Acer launched the first hardware running Chrome OS in an effort to improve the computing experience. While these Chromebooks were available through online retailers, they didn’t sell very much to consumers.

Sengupta didn’t offer specifics about Chromebook usage metrics but made it clear that Google didn’t expect cloud-based computing to become the norm immediately. “Our goal is a fairly long-term one,” he said. “We’re trying to change the world of computing.”

Google plans to expand its Chromebook marketing outreach: In June, expect to start seeing Chrome Zones in select Best Buy stores, where potential customers can test Chrome OS hardware.

But the Chromebook value proposition–easier, more affordable computer management and administration–wasn’t really tailored to appeal to consumers; it was designed to ease the suffering of IT managers by automating chores like system patching.

“We think there’s a lot of promise for Chrome OS in businesses,” said Rajen Sheth, group product manager for Chrome for Business. “We’ve seen a lot of interest in retail for systems in stores, or call centers.”

How much interest? Not enough to disclose sales figures, but enough to have a few noteworthy business customers lined up to test a new way of working. Retailer Dillard’s intends to deploy hundreds of Chromeboxes in about half of its 304 U.S. stores. Education company Kaplan, in conjunction with call center company Genesys, intends to move its New York City call center to online real-time communication protocol WebRTC and Chromeboxes. Mollen Clinics expects to use 4,500 Chromebooks in its mobile immunization clinics in Wal-Mart and Sam’s Clubs locations. And the California State Library intends to distribute 1,000 Chromebooks to libraries around the state for patrons to borrow.

Sheth says that the updated version of Chrome OS and the new Chrome hardware solve a lot of issues that businesses had with the first release. He cites the ability to view Office files and Google Drive integration as examples of changes that will make Chrome OS more palatable to businesses.

The updated hardware also comes with improved features for administrators, such as auto-update controls, auto-enrollment, open-network configuration and additional reporting features.

“When the user get the Chromebooks and logs in, that device knows it’s part of the organization and will automatically configure itself,” said Sheth, adding that this should make Chrome OS devices even more compelling to organizations concerned about total cost of ownership.

“Our biggest goal with the new management functionality is to make it so you can grab a Chromebook of a delivery truck and hand it to a user without the involvement of IT,” said Sheth. “With a PC, that’s not possible. It has to be imaged.”

Perhaps the most compelling feature for businesses is a new pricing model. Google initially offered Chromebooks to businesses under a subscription model. That’s no longer being offered.

“The major feedback we heard from businesses is that they want to be able to purchase once and be done with it,” said Sheth.

The new plan works as follows: After purchasing the hardware, businesses and schools can buy lifetime management and support for $150 and $30, respectively.

The second coming of Chrome OS might just be enough to turn Google’s experiment into a real market. But if not, there’s always next year. “We’re deeply committed to this,” said Sengupta. “It’s a step in the journey.”

At this year’s InformationWeek 500 Conference C-level execs will gather to discuss how they’re rewriting the old IT rulebook and accelerating business execution. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif., Sept. 9-11.

05/29/2012: Corrected education pricing.

Article source: http://www.informationweek.com/news/hardware/desktop/240000980

Tags: , , , , ,